ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Stuckey’s was called “the forerunner of the modern convenience store” in a 1995 article in the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal, but the c-store chain that dotted highways across the South and Southwest in the ’50s and ’60s slowly whittled away from a peak of 368 locations to just 13 free-standing original stores in 10 states sporting their signature sloped roofs.
However, Stephanie Stuckey, the founder’s granddaughter, is launching a comeback. The “pecan log roll heiress” invested $500,000 to purchase the remainder of the company.
“There are way too many exits on the interstate highway system to think we can dominate the highways. We’re going to be small, curated, unique and special,” Stuckey told the Washington Post.
Her plan to revive the company includes winning over a new generation of customers by embracing the company’s roots, so she broadcasts her travels and the company on social media, plus podcasts and blogs.
“She’s the queen of social media,” Brad Moore, 56, told the Post, who runs a Stuckey’s Facebook page. “They’re doing their best to keep their name out there.”
Stuckey is hoping that the nostalgia that Stuckey’s evokes will hook in a new customer base. For Moore, that’s certainly true. Stuckey’s reminds him of road trips with his family when he and his sister would see the billboards and start counting down the miles.
“It makes me think of my parents,” he said. “All of a sudden, it’s 1974 again, and I can see my mother smoking her cigarette. I can see my father pumping the gas. It’s nostalgia, the power of memories.”
Stuckey wants to not only revive Stuckey’s but revive the road trip. Her plan is to create a community passionate about road trips via storytelling.
“That’s the key to our revival: bringing back the road trip and selling our branded pecan snacks and candies that we now make ourselves in our newly acquired manufacturing plant. C-stores are a core business category for us, so we view other interstate retail operations as potential customers, not competition,” Stuckey told NACS Magazine. “Eighty percent of our revenue comes from the sale of products, but we still qualify as a c-store company, although we’re unique in this space, as we also have manufacturing and distribution capacity,” she said.
“We’re a scrappy comeback brand with limited resources. I’m trying to connect with others who want to be part of our comeback story. I have certain themes, hospitality, road trips, family and nostalgia that I try to always touch upon,” Stuckey said.
Stuckey feels that selling the brand’s famous pecan log rolls is a way to bring people together.
“Look at In-N-Out Burger. Their customers are rabid devotees. They’re not just buying hamburgers; they’re buying into a culture. I want the same experience for Stuckey’s. That’s my long-term vision. To be part of a community of road trippers who share our love for the unique experience of exploring the back roads of America.”
The Gas Station Gourmet talked with Stuckey in a recent column in NACS Magazine. Learn more about the Gas Station Gourmet and his love for telling small c-stores’ stories.