vintage Publix exterior sign

At the young age of 22, George Jenkins was the manager of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Winter Haven, Fla. Although many would say this was quite an accomplishment for his age, Mr. George was not satisfied—he had something bigger in mind. He had dreams of a store that was so beautiful, shopping would truly be a pleasure. So he quit his job, took his savings and in 1930 opened his very own business—Publix Food Store.

Philosophies That  Mattered

George Jenkins learned a lot from his life experiences. Those lessons led to many of the philosophies that he established in his business— philosophies that are still practiced today at Publix. Together, they form some of the reasons our stores are such a great place to work and shop.

  • Staying connected:  Mr. George made rounds to each of his stores and spent time with his associates. He also established an open door policy to ensure that he made himself available to any associate that wanted to talk to him— both continue to be a standard with upper management today.
  • Keeping the store clean : Our founder knew it was important to make the store a comfortable place to shop. This included keeping the store clean for our customers to enjoy. We continue to keep this value at the forefront of our business.
  • Offering quality products: Mr. George went out of his way to find the best quality products for his customers. Today we continue in the mission to be the premier quality food retailer in the world.
  • Sharing ownership: From the very beginning, George Jenkins wanted every associate to own a piece of the company. He set up a plan so that everyone who worked in the store would own shares of the company. This philosophy transcends to today, making us the largest employee owned grocery chain in the United States.
  • Living the Publix Guarantee: You have probably heard of our policy that states: “We will never knowingly disappoint you. If for any reason your purchase does not give you complete satisfaction, the full purchase price will be cheerfully refunded immediately upon request.” This promise is not new to our company,  it has been around since the first store that our founder opened.
  • Giving back: Mr. George  was once asked how much would he be worth if he hadn’t given so much away. “Probably nothing,” he answered. Our founder instilled in us the value we have today of being a part of the community and helping wherever we can.

Publix Food Store

The first store Mr. George opened was in downtown Winter Haven, Fla. The idea for the name came from a chain of theaters that Mr. George was fond of. He liked the name so he decided to open his own store under the corporation “Publix Food Stores, Inc.” Doors opened on Saturday, September 6, 1930.

His little store turned out to be very successful. By 1935 he was opening a second location on the opposite side of town. Pleasing the customer was the name of the game—and Mr. George constantly looked for ways to improve upon it.

Publix Super Market

Although his Publix Food Store was ahead of the competition, Mr. George still had bigger dreams. He traveled the country in search of ideas on how to improve his store. He wanted customers to have an experience like none other.08_08_History_CH_Image2

In 1940, he was ready to build his dream store. He closed his two stores, combined all the best qualities of those and other existing supermarkets, and tweaked them in the customers’ best interest. His supermarket was so advanced, much of the equipment (like open dairy cases) had to be designed to his specifications. A special feature that attracted customers from all over was the first ever electric eye door in a grocery store. This was inspired by Penn Station in New York City. Mr. George was so excited that customers would no longer have to push the door open while holding their purchases, instead the doors would automatically open in front of them—a piece that although costly, proved to be a huge success. Another element that was new to markets in Florida was the air conditioning that kept the store cool. Overall, Publix was the complete supermarket!

Mr. George’s vision went through many phases—starting as a small self-serve food store and transforming into the larger Publix Super Market of 1940. Although it brought challenges, it proved to be worth it. Back then, with all its new features, his store was the talk of the town. Little did others know, it was only the beginning of giving the name “Publix” a distinctive meaning in the food business.

Stay tuned to learn more about how Publix Super Markets has transformed through the years.

Did you miss our first Publix history post? Check out “Who is Mr. George?” here.


Catalina H.

Written by

Catalina H. became a Publix associate in 2012 and has thought of it as a home away from home ever since. When choosing what to write about, she thinks about her own life and what she wants to know more about – that way she can learn something new, too! Although her favorite Publix brand product is the Bakery Carrot Cake, you’ll probably find her snacking on peppers and drinking lots of water when writing her blogs. Outside of work, Catalina enjoys fitness, reading, crafting, and exploring new things (do you see a theme here?).

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