A Story by Stephanie Stuckey
However, my grandfather didn’t do it alone.
You know how they always say, “Behind every successful man, there’s a woman”? Well, that saying could have been born right in our family.
One day, Sylvester was sitting in his lean-to waiting for customers to start showing up. Looking around at all of those pecans and wondering what else he could do with them besides sell them by the sackful, he suddenly got an idea: He would turn some of them into candy and start selling them out of his little shack, too! He immediately closed up his shop, ran back to the house real quick, pulled my grandmother, Ethel, out of her weekly bridge game, and asked her to whip up some pecan pralines.
Though she’d never made candy before in her life, Ethel gave it her best shot, and what a shot it was! Soon, she and her sisters, Hazel and Pearl, were making other pecan candies, like pecan divinity and fudge, and delivering them three or four miles to the little shack there on the side of the road. Sylvester also changed his sign that read “Pecans for Sale,” adding “Fresh Homemade Candy, Made Today!” underneath. Soon the candy started outselling the pecans themselves and Aunt Hazel, Aunt Pearl, and Ethel were sometimes making three or four trips a day out to that little shack.
That year, they made enough money to build the first Stuckey’s store right there in Eastman. And that little lean-to? Well, my grandfather, being the ever-frugal businessman that he was, sold that lean-to to a farmer who used the very first Stuckey’s as a hen house.
Ethel and her sisters still made the candy, though they were now making it right there in the store itself, and as the business was expanding, so was Ethel’s pecan candy repertoire. One day, as she was experimenting with a recipe that called for white molasses, powdered sugar, and roasted pecans, she mixed some maraschino cherries into the nougat and rolled it in caramel and roasted pecans, and the world-famous Stuckey’s pecan log roll was born.
The Eastman store became so successful after that first year that a second store was opened in Unadilla, Georgia, on Highway 41, which, like Highway 23, was another famous Florida tourist route.
Photo Credit: Stuckey's Corp
Stay tuned for Part 4 - The Growing Years.