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Miller Zell Speaker Series: Refreshing a Legacy Brand

In 1937, W.S. “Sylvester” Stuckey, Sr. founded Stuckey’s as a roadside pecan stand in Eastman, GA., courtesy of a $35 loan. By the early 1970s, there were 368 Stuckey’s stores in more than 30 states, where it attracted vacationing families and travelers seeking a break from road trip adventures.

“Every traveler is a friend,” the founder often said.

But by 2019, Stuckey’s was in a tailspin, a brand and business that had lost its way.

“It was just a hot mess,” Stephanie Stuckey told Miller Zell’s Jenna Herb on Herb’s recent podcast.


Therein lies a tale, which Stuckey will tell during her presentation at Miller Zell on May 4 as part of our ongoing Speaker Series.

That hot mess? She bought it. So a woman who’d been a lawyer, law professor and politician became a family business owner in an atypical way.

“I did not want our legacy to be a bunch of boarded up former Stuckey’s on the side of the road,” she said. “I thought our story doesn’t end this way.”

One big problem. How do you refresh a brand that inspires nostalgia among older generations but offers little else of relevance within the current marketplace?

For Stuckey, it’s about understanding your brand’s essence and presenting that to customers in the best possible way. (Learn from her live May 4th!)

“You’re not selling a product, you’re selling an emotional connection to a brand,” she said.

Stuckey focused on refreshing the business plan and leaned into the new world of marketing and branding, particularly on social media. In just two years, her LinkedIn profile grew from 1,000 followers to 117,389 (as of April 12).

And sales are “skyrocketing,” she said. In fact, the biggest present issue is managing demand, as she maneuvers to dramatically expand production.

She’s also telling her story in a book that will be released next year. It won’t just be a nuts-and-bolts business story either.

“Anyone who has had a family business can relate to that emotional connection that you have that goes beyond business and finances,” she said.

She’s not even afraid to spoil the ending.

Stuckey concluded, “Look at this amazing comeback brand!”