The Parable of Stuckey’s: A Story of Church?

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Despite the fact that one of my most traumatic childhood episodes happened in a New Mexico Stuckey’s, I have always been in the thrall of the teal blue roofs that promise Mexican blankets, cheap sandwiches, and lots of pecan-themed candies. 

The trauma came as a result of Stuckey’s time-honored practice of placing fragile novelty knick-knacks within the reach of small children. So when my 4-year-old hands reached for the onyx burro, it slipped to the floor and broke. When you break it, you buy it. We bought it and the glued-together figurine still sits on a shelf in my parents’ home.

In the 60s, Stuckey’s was an almost mandatory stop for Southern long-haul travelers, somewhat in the way that Buc-ee’s has become for Texans today. It was a relief from the boredom of the road, a bright patch of silliness, and home to a whole lotta sugar. I loved it.

mo516The 60s were the heyday for Stuckey’s. After that, the corporation went into a long period of decline. Stores closed. The company tried to rebrand. Stuckey’s became part of truck stops. Stuckey’s pecan logs appeared in places that had no other connection to Stuckey’s.  Soon, if you stumbled across Stuckey’s it was accidental. The place that you couldn’t avoid had become the place you couldn’t find.

So imagine my delight when I moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 2005 and discovered a real-live, old-time model. Sloped roof. Pecan divinity. A short-order grill and a soda fountain. Questionable T-shirts 3 for $10. And it was all called Stuckey’s, unadulterated by the era of rebranding.

I still stop by Stuckey’s sometimes as I travel the Shore. I get the familiar wave of nostalgia as I enter the door. I eat grilled cheese sandwiches at the formica booths under the fluorescent lights, just like young Alex did. 

But I understand why people don’t stop here much anymore. Most of them, especially those younger than I, don’t have the memories I do. They don’t know what it meant. They don’t understand what it’s cultural significance is and why it might be relevant. What wonders and joy they might discover here.

Even though they surely attract fewer customers these days, Stuckey’s hang on in places with long memories and little competition. They bring comfort to long-lived travelers like me. And those of us who stop by would never want them to change. But I wonder what Stuckey’s will be like ten years down the road.

[sigh]

I’m sorry. I digressed. You were asking me about churches?

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