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The 1990 Publix annual theme was appropriately “The Decade of Destiny.” Publix positioned itself to become a U.S. regional chain, no longer limited to the boundaries of one state. Plans were announced for an Atlanta division, and construction began on our first store in Georgia. It was a momentous event when the doors of the Savannah Publix opened on Nov. 20, 1991. By the end of the decade, Publix would have 100 stores in Georgia.

For associates, it was time for a wardrobe change. The iconic green uniforms were updated with fresh, new colors of coral and tyrolean green (a fancy word for teal). The ladies had teal vests with coral bow ties, and the men wore coral polo shirts. The stores also adopted this new color scheme as part of their interior décor.

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07_Post1_History1990s_image 3If you were in south Florida in August 1992, you probably remember Hurricane Andrew. This massive category 5 storm hit the Miami area leaving ruins in its path. Publix lost three stores, and more than 650 associates lost their homes. The Cutler Ridge area looked like a war zone, with no distinguishable landmarks remaining. While managing our own losses and recovery, Publix was also trying to support the communities impacted. We shipped more than 400,000 pounds of ice and more than 100,000 gallons of water to south Dade County for hurricane relief efforts.

But even a hurricane couldn’t keep Publix from growing. The following  year we added 25 stores, including our first store in South Carolina. On Oct. 5, 1995, Publix opened the doors to its 500th store, located in Miami. Dade County Commissioner Art Teele proclaimed Oct. 5 “Publix Day.” The following year Publix added another state to its map with the opening of a new store in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama, in 1996.

Publix President Mark Hollis presents the commemorative “gold key” to Store Manager David Cox.

Publix President Mark Hollis presents the commemorative “gold key” to Store Manager David Cox.

During this decade, Publix began offering Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, snacks like chips, pretzels and salsa joined the growing line of Publix private label items and our bakeries introduced gourmet cookies. To make meal prep even more convenient, we rolled out a program called Deli Quick Takes — salads, sides and sauces in resealable containers. Another new item was sushi.

07_Post1_History1990s_image 5There was a new member of the Publix family who made his appearance in 1992:  Plato the Publixaurus, a friendly green and teal dinosaur. Over the years, Plato has made hundreds of appearances at store openings and community events, bringing smiles to young and old alike. He loves having pictures taken with his fans!

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Along with the rest of the world, Publix was preparing for the year 2000. One of the top concerns for every business was the Millennium Bug, or “Y2K.” Most of the world’s computer programs represented years with only the final two digits (e.g. “99” instead of 1999), making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. Companies across the world were working hard to fix their computers before Jan. 1, 2000, and Publix was no exception. Our teams worked night and day to make sure that all our systems were ready for the new decade.

Through this decade of new products, new technologies, new stores and changing trends, one thing didn’t change: the dedication to customer service from smiling Publix associates. But those smiles turned to tears on April 8, 1996, when we lost our beloved founder George Jenkins. Our customers and communities mourned the loss with us. It was now up to Publix people to carry on his legacy, and we’ve continued to do that through the lessons he taught us. One of his most important lessons was service to others, so it was perhaps no coincidence that Publix would receive the 1996 Spirit of America Award from United Way the year of his passing. Of course, community giving was just one of the things he taught us. To keep his legacy alive, we summarized his philosophies into lessons focused on supporting our mission.

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As the “decade of destiny” was ending, Publix had grown to 614 stores and 120,000 associates. A decade would bring more growth, new products, new customer services and a new state. Stay tuned to find out what state Publix entered next.

Jennifer B.

Written by

Jennifer B. has been with Publix since 1980, when she started working part time in high school. She has held positions of Assistant Director of public relations and Director of media relations, but her current role as the Company Historian is the highlight of her career. She loves sharing Publix trivia, telling stories about Mr. George and solving Publix’s history mysteries. In her life outside of Publix, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her husband and catering to the whims of their cat Jackson, who is master of all he surveys.

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