Pecan pies, divinity candy, roasted and salted, or just plain – pecans are ubiquitous in the south. Whether you call them pea-CANs or pea-CAHNs is likely down to where you grew up as the pronunciation was passed down through the generations. When I was young, we never bought pecans that had already been shelled – not when my parents had free child labor readily available in the form of my siblings and me. I remember that there was a pecan tree where we rode our bikes, and we could take as many pecans as we could carry. I was really bummed when that tree was struck by lightning, bringing our free pecans to an end.
We learned how to crack pecans by putting two nuts in your palm and applying pressure with both hands then picking out the meat and leaving the shell. If you’ve ever mistakenly left even a tiny bit of the inner shell, the bitter taste served as a reminder to be more careful next time. I recall that we had a bowl of unshelled nuts with a nutcracker and picks to aid in getting to the good stuff. The bowl had some sort of fake bark on the outside. You know it’s from another time when it’s labeled vintage and you can buy it on eBay for almost $70!
Shelling pecans manually may never come back in vogue but there are some things from the past that are worth the labor to bring them back. Good old Americana in the form of family road trips seems to be making a bit of a comeback. I know that seems like a far-flung idea what with gas knocking on the door of $5/gallon, but I believe that the pandemic has awakened a desire to return to earlier family experiences. If there is one way for families to reconnect, it’s a road trip. If you can survive days 1-3, there is a tipping point where you start to communicate with each other. But brace yourself – the early days can be a grind and have you questioning what sort of crazy decision started this mess.
Thinking about those endless drives to see roadside attractions and national areas of interest reminds me of some of the roadway giants – Howard Johnson’s, Holiday Inn, and Stuckey’s. Among the many things I looked forward to were the Stuckey’s pecan logs. Light fluffy nougat dipped in caramel and rolled in pecans, the Stuckey’s pecan log was too much of everything – delicious, sweet, and sticky perfection.
Stuckey’s motto – Relax. Refresh. Refuel. – signaled their role as a precursor to the modern convenience store. The Stuckey’s story began in 1937 with a roadside stand and a family-owned pecan grove but its brand heyday was definitely in the 60s & 70s with 370 stores in 40 states, which makes sense because that was pretty much the peak of the family road trip.
Over time, the stores went into decline, and the family business was sold. Eventually, the brand was diluted and its future was grim. Enter Stephanie Stuckey, an environmental lawyer who decided to revive the brand and her grandfather’s vision. It is an uphill battle by any measure, but if it can be done – this dynamo will make it happen. If you aren’t connected to Stephanie on LinkedIn or following her on social media, stop right now and do it. You know she’s got something going for her if the massive views on TikTok are any indication.
Stuckey’s comeback story is a master class in the power of one person, the importance of candor-filled storytelling, and social media done right. Whatever obstacles you face – grit, humor, honesty, integrity, respect, and authenticity will go a long way to improving your lot. So, I’m not going to rewrite Stephanie’s story when she tells it so elegantly. She says, “I invested in storytelling, and I invested in beautiful design.” She believes that spending strategic dollars on design is the most important aspect of branding. AND she is hanging onto the company sacred cow – that pecan log roll. Smart thinking.
I would kick myself if I failed to mention that Stephanie Stuckey has a standing invitation to be a guest on our podcast “Collective Conversations” any time. I would consider it a high honor to hear her story firsthand. So, if any of you know Stephanie – please connect us!
Do you have a Stuckey’s story? Or a brand revival story? Share them with us here or on our social media. We all learn from each other.
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