Tuesday, September 24, 2013

May I Have a Pecan Log Please?

Each summer, we travel to Georgia to the beach with family. Enjoying a tradition from my wife's side of the family, we are all able to leave the real world behind and take in the sun and sand.

This year and in keeping with our tradition of walking each morning, something my wife and I try to do as it provides a small break from the kids, we headed out and up the street towards the beach.

It was really early this particular morning and my wife suggested we take a walk on the beach. We hit the sand and began walking as the sun rose slowly above the ocean and the gulls swarmed looking for their breakfast.

Within the distance, I saw what looked like a man sitting in a chair with his trusty dog by his side. As we got closer, I noticed he was much older and was smoking a cigar almost down to the nub so he must have been out there for a while. I told my wife that any man who would get out on the beach this early in the morning smoking a cigar had to be someone I should meet immediately.

We approached the man and while my wife paid attention to the dog, "Tyler, Texas" blurted out of the man's mouth and I was a little taken aback. He pointed at my shirt and I realized that I had worn a Stanley's Barbecue shirt on our walk which had Tyler, Texas on the front.

"I spent half my life in Tyler, Texas." said the old man. "You folks sure are odd about your liquor. When I was there back in the old days, you had to have a club membership for each place you wanted to get a drink. I'll bet I had a hundred memberships in my pocket at any given time."

As he pulled on the cigar, I asked, "What were you doing in Tyler?"

"I was in the construction business. I built Stuckey's up and down the interstate. Of course, that's when the interstates were all brand new so my job was to evaluate land and then build the buildings. I spent a lot of time in Tyler as it was in a good central location. And it was a nice town except the liquor thing."

In Tyler's defense, I quickly told him that we could now buy beer and wine in stores as the law just passed a few months ago. Not sure that this was much of a defense as he began to chuckle at my statement.

The wife glanced my way telling me it was time to get back to our walk. I stuck out my hand and said, "Well it was nice to meet you. My name is Edwin Holt."

"Well it was nice to meet you as well Edwin." said the old man. "My name is Bill Stuckey."

Walking away, I whispered to my wife, "No freakin' way."

This would begin the conversation down my childhood memory lane as Stuckey's was a big deal on any road trip with my mother. Pecan logs were like gold as well as all the other candy they offered.

Stuckey's began in Eastman, Georgia back in the 30's. Williamson S. Stuckey, Sr. had such a successful pecan harvest from his family's orchard that he offered a portion of his bounty for sale in a lean-to roadside shed. Florida-bound tourists traveling the two-lane Georgia 23 blacktop snapped up the flavorful pecans instantly, as gifts for friends and family and as succulent souvenirs of the agricultural south.

As the business continued to flourish, Mrs. Stuckey took to her kitchen and created a variety of homemade pecan candies. The rest, of course, is history.

In 1937, a new building went up in which candy became king. The crowning glory in a profusion of nut-based confections was the now-famous Pecan Log Roll in a size for every appetite and every budget. Restaurant service was added, other fancy foods were stocked, and a souvenir section was installed to cover every whim from rubber snakes to sea-shell ashtrays. Gasoline pumps were a logical addition - all of it tied together with the signature teal blue roof. Stuckey's had come to life, and a new era of roadside travel service was born.

Stuckey's are few and far between these days due to a corporate buy-out that happened back in the 70's. Now, with a Stuckey back at the helm and over 200 franchised locations on the interstate highways spanning 19 states from Pennsylvania to Florida in the east and to Arizona in the west, they're alive and thriving.

Peace out brothers and sisters. And remember, great brands are made from hard work and that great entrepreneurial spirit. Oh...and Pecan Logs!