Summerton is losing an icon. Jan Solver, manager of Stuckey’s for the last 20 years, will retire by the end of the year and will move back to Oklahoma to be near her family.
The Stuckey’s stores began in the 1940s, rapidly spreading across the U.S. In the 1960s, Stuckey’s and Pet, Inc., merged, with W.S. Stuckey, Sr., staying on as president over the Stuckey’s stores. After his death in 1977, the stores began to decline. Bill Stuckey, Jr., doggedly pursued buying the Stuckey’s company back from Pet, and in 1985, he succeeded. By this time, however, Pet had shrunk the Stuckey’s empire from over 350 locations to 80.
Stuckey’s goal became revamping the store image, bringing it back to its former glory. According to Solver, his favorite store was the one in Summerton, the longest-lasting store in the chain. Originally built on Highway 15 in the 1950s, the store moved to its current location at Exit 108 when the interstate was built.
Solver came from a background of jewelry sales, and her husband, Rob, sold clothing. They began managing a Stuckey’s location in Oklahoma in 1971, later managing a store in Texas. Husband and wife teams were commonly hired to manage, with the wife running the snack bar and the husband running the store and the gas pumps.
Stuckey’s built a name as a traveler’s novelty store, with a wide array of candy and gift items, as well as hot food and gas. Many now house Dairy Queen locations, although some still have a generic snack bar with sandwiches.
In 1998, Stuckey asked the Solvers to move to Summerton for one year to help get the store back on its feet. They went to work upgrading, hiring and training quality staff and putting a better image on the failing store. Solver’s husband added a large section of military gifts, as the Summerton location quite often had military travelers.
“My husband and I loved South Carolina. We lived down by the lake and fished and boated,” said Solver. They never went back to Oklahoma.
The store now sees at least 5,000 travelers per week. According to Solver, 95 percent of travelers who stop for gas come inside and purchase a gift item or candy, and 85 percent also purchase food at the Dairy Queen.
“I enjoy it,” said Solver. “I like meeting people from different parts of the world, and everybody is pretty nice.” Solver states her favorite items to sell are the Melissa and Doug toys, as they are safe and high quality toys for children.
The couple always hired from the local community, employing over 20 part-time and one full-time assistant manager, Delilah Mitchell.
“I love Miss Jan to death,” said Mitchell. “She’s just a good person. She’s like family to me.”
Solver’s husband passed away in December after 47 years of marriage. She plans to retire by the end of the year and move back to Oklahoma to be a full-time grandmother. Outside Stuckey’s, Solver doesn’t have much time for hobbies, but she goes to eat with friends. After retirement, she will once again have time for crafts.
Her favorite thing about Stuckey’s was working for Bill Stuckey. “They have been so good to me,” said Solver. “And meeting people. I love it. It’s going to be hard to leave.”