Note: StuckOnStuckeys wishes to acknowledge with thanks the pictures and personal recollections on this page. They were furnished by Dave Bywaters of Arizona, former Director of Operations for Nickerson Farms, Inc. Thanks, Dave!

The Nickerson Farms story starts in Eldon, Missouri in the late 1950s. I.J. Nickerson had built the first Stuckey's west of the Mississippi River there in 1957 but had differences of opinion with W.S. Stuckey on store format issues. After failing to resolve these issues, Mr. Nickerson decided to strike out on his own, which he could do since his store was a franchise operation and not a company owned store (perhaps learning from this, he never franchised the Nickerson Farms stores but always kept them company owned). One of the key differences between the two concepts was that Mr. Nickerson wanted a full service restaurant serving everything from burgers to steaks, while Mr. Stuckey favored a fast food type of atmosphere. In order to allow for a full service restaurant in a former Stuckey's store, Nickerson gutted out the manager's living quarters in the rear part of the building and converted that space to the restaurant.
(Above) - Mr. Bywaters as store manager under the gas pump hut at his store in Blackwell, Oklahoma circa 1966. Check out that classic on premises sign in the background!
(Above) - Inside the gift shop area with the beehive in the background.
A prototype for succeeding stores was then developed. Each had 8 gas pumps with a full time attendant arranged under a big "hut" that was an outbuilding separate from the main structure. Like Stuckey's a free box of honey brittle candy was given away with each 10 gallon or more purchase. There were gift shops approximately the same size as a Stuckey's, and each carried highly similiar lines of merchandise. The really different thing was that each store featured a plexiglass bee hive created in the shape of an old straw hive. There was a colony of bees with an means of entry and exit to the outside. The stores featured 24 varities of honey which were displayed around the hive; also carried were a line of jams and jellies, and a wide variety of candies, all of which carried the Nickerson Farms brand label.
The main difference between Nickerson and Stuckey's was in the type of dining offered. Nickerson Farms had 100 seat restaurants with full menus. The restaurants offered all meals, starting at 6 or 7 AM until 8 or 9 PM, usually 365 days a year. Food was primarily prepared in their own kitchens, and ranged from hamburgers to steak. The prime offering was fried chicken, which was floured with Nickerson's own secret recipe. The dining rooms were paneled in dark paneling and all of the upholstery was done in dark red naugahyde. The building was carpeted throughout.
(Above) - The 100 seater restaurant area is more like a modern day Cracker Barrel than a Stuckey's.
(Above) - Parking lot view of the store in Blackwell, Oklahoma circa 1966. Mr. Bywater's brand new '66 Mustang at the pumps!
The buildings were made to imitate tudor styling with exposed wood against a plaster exterior; they also had a very tall high pitched roof covered with bright red aluminum shingles. The big red roof was a great way to let people know where you were. Nickerson's like Stuckey's employed the use of a large number of road side signs to advertise. Usually there were 24 signs on either side of the store beginning at 20-30 miles away. After Lady Bird's sign law Nickerson's, like everyone else, went to huge signs sitting further away from the road; the number of signs was reduced to usually 6 or so on each side. All of the stores, eventually around 65, were company owned. Each location was operated by a manager-assistant manager team, usually supervising around 30 employees. The stores were divided into regional groupings under the direction of a district supervisor. They in turn were under the control of the home office which was located at varying times in Eldon, MO; Omaha, NE; Independence, MO; and finally Arlington Heights, IL.
The heyday of Nickerson's was the period 1966 to 1978; it finally closed in 1980. There were for a while, a few stores still operating in Missouri under private ownership. The company changed hands three times during its short life. I. J. Nickerson operated the chain from its conception to 1969, he then sold to two investors out of Omaha, who oversaw it going into bankruptcy in 1970. They retained control of a few stores which did not sell Skelly gas. The majority of the stores then were operated by TAE Corp., out of Independence and then Arlington Heights. TAE also established a similar chain of 5 stores with Standard Oil, under the American Farmers Table brand name. It was largely a duplicate of Nickerson's except for the buildings being designed to look more like American Barns.
(Above) - Another view of the gift shop area.

Click Here to return to "Competitors and Spinoffs" page