Purchase of Wrens operation puts Stuckey’s back in candy-making business
WRENS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Stuckey’s, the onetime iconic roadside chain known for its teal roofs and pecan rolls, is back in the business of making its own candy.
The change was announced Thursday with the purchase of a family-owned Wrens operation that includes Atwell Pecan Co., Thames Pecan Co. and The Orchards Gourmet.
It will be the first time for Stuckey’s to own and operate its own pecan and candy plant since it became part of Pet Dairy Corp. in 1964.
The company was bought back by the Stuckey family in 1984, although the locations had dwindled from 350 to just a handful.
Often found along highways in the days before convenience stores, they were an amalgam of gas station, rest stop, restaurant and souvenir shop, often heralded by strings of billboards urging drivers to “EXIT NOW” for inexpensive breakfasts, famous candies and tchotchkes that often reflected the locale.
The asset deal in Jefferson County includes land, buildings, inventory and existing businesses, expanding Stuckey’s operations to include an almost 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that employs about 100 people year-round.
It will allow Eastman-based Stuckey’s to shell, roast and package pecans and make its own candy line, improving margins so the company can be competitive in grocery and alternate channels.
Although the company has made a comeback to dozens of locations through franchising, other sales channels like direct-to-consumer marketing have become increasingly important.
“Stuckey’s and the Atwell brands are family-owned businesses that have worked together for decades,” CEO Stephanie Stuckey said in a statement. “In fact, my grandfather’s billboard company made the large sign for highway traffic at the Atwell building, and my father bought pecans from Atwell for our log rolls.”
More important, she said, are the values and culture the family companies share.
Atwell Pecan Co. was founded in 1935, and the shelling plant expanded in 1989 to include Thames Pecan Co., which wholesales pecans and other nuts under the Azalea Brand label. In addition to pecans, the two companies market almonds, walnuts, cashews and mixed nuts.
In 2007, the business expanded to include candy making and marketing through The Orchards.
R.G. Lamar, a leader in the pecan industry, will be responsible for the management of the newly acquired manufacturing facilities. Jerry Dowdy will remain involved in Atwell as a consultant and adviser.
“We’ll remain true to Atwell’s origins as we grow it as part of the Stuckey’s brand,” Stuckey said.
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