It’s hard to believe, but 2020 marks the 90th anniversary of Publix. Over the past 90 years, we’ve experienced tremendous growth, and as we look back over our company’s history, we’re excited for what the future holds. What started as a small food store in 1930 has expanded into seven states and more than 1,200 stores in operation. Here’s a quick glance back at our first nine decades.

1930s – Where It All Began

On Sept. 6, 1930, George Jenkins opened the first Publix location, known then as Publix Food Store, in Winter Haven, Florida. Today, that brick and mortar building is still standing and is occupied by a restaurant called Tempo 1930. By 1935, Mr. George opened his second location on the opposite side of Winter Haven.

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1940s – Publix Super Market is Born

In 1940, Mr. George expanded Publix Food Store into the super market of his dreams, located in Winter Haven, Florida. Publix Super Market was born and has continued growing ever since. His dream store followed an art deco design and was known as a “state-of-the-art food palace of marble, glass and stucco.” By the end of the decade, we had 20 locations.

Fun fact! The night before the store opened, after all the final preparations were made, Mr. George locked the door, walked across the street and sat down on the steps of the First Baptist Church. At 2 a.m., gazing up at his new store, he said to himself, “There will never be another one as pretty as that. This is the finest food store that can be built!”

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1950s – Publix Begins Selling Private Label Items

The art deco store designs of the ‘40s carried into the ‘50s, but with the new decade came the introduction of Publix branded items to our shelves. By the end of the decade, our stores spanned across the state of Florida with 55 locations and nearly 3,000 associates. This decade also led to a new 125,000 square foot warehouse and office complex in Lakeland, Florida.

One of the most notable stores from the 1950s was our Southgate Shopping Center in Lakeland, Florida, which is still a Publix today. The store was so iconic that it was featured in the movie “Edward Scissorhands.” When the store opened, the team drove a Fiat through the aisles in the store to demonstrate how wide they were!

Learn more about Publix in the 1950s!

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1960s – 100 Stores and Counting

In this decade, the design of our stores changed from the art deco architecture of the 1950s to a winged design created by famed Florida architect Donovan Dean. Centered in the wings are neon lights that blinked downward. At night, the lights look like a flowing waterfall. This decade helped us reach a milestone of 100 stores. By the end of the decade, we had 150 stores, nearly 8,000 associates and our first distribution facility – in Miami.

We also added the Delicatessen department and the Danish Bakery in the ‘60s.

Learn more about Publix in the 1960s.

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1970s – Advancement with Technology

The design for our stores changed from the classic wings and neon lights to feature a squared “P” with Publix spelled out in the 1970s. In 1972, a new bakery plant was built in Lakeland, and three years later our stores welcomed a new department called the Photo Lab. In the late 1970s, keypunch registers were being replaced with computerized scanners. Publix was the first grocery chain to have scanning at the register in all stores. By the end of this decade, we had 231 stores and 26,000 associates.

If you’re from Lakeland, Florida, you’re probably familiar with our Lake Miriam Square location, but what you might not know is that this store was originally a Publix subsidiary called Food World that started in the 1970s. These locations had a very different look compared to our traditional locations and were known as discount stores. By the end of the decade, there were 23 Food World stores in Central Florida. Our Lake Miriam Square location transitioned into a Publix in 1985 and remains operational today.

Learn more about Publix in the 1970s.

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1980s – Our 50th Anniversary

The store designs of the 1970s carried into the 1980s. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 1980, and in 1981 we opened our dairy plant and began processing cultured products from Publix milk to ice cream. In 1986 we introduced the first Publix Pharmacy, which opened at our Altamonte Springs, Florida, location and opened our 300th store in Tampa, Florida. By the end of 1989, we had 367 stores and 62,000 associates.

In 1982, we rolled out our Presto! ATM network. Store #0164 in Hollywood, Florida, was the first store to have the ATM installed, and Mr. George made the first transaction.

Learn more about Publix in the 1980s.

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1990s – Carrying on Mr. George’s Legacy

The 1990s brought some aesthetic changes to the Publix team and locations. Uniforms and the interiors of stores were updated to feature coral and teal green. In 1992, our friend and mascot Plato the Publixaurus joined the Publix family. On April 8, 1996, the Publix team said goodbye to Mr. George when he passed away at the age of 89. Even with the loss of our founder, the Publix team was never more dedicated to carrying on his legacy and keeping his philosophies alive within the company.

We welcomed new states into the Publix family in the 1990s. We opened our first store across state lines in Savannah, Georgia, in 1991, then expanded into South Carolina and Alabama throughout the decade.  By 1995, we opened our 500th store, which was located in Miami, Florida, and by the end of the ‘90s, we had 614 stores and over 120,000 associates.

Learn more about Publix in the 1990s.

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2000s – A New Millennium

The 2000s were years of growth for our brand. If you’re a fan of Publix Aprons, you might be interested to know Aprons kiosks began rolling out in 2000, and the first cooking school opened in 2001 in Tampa, Florida. We also opened the first Publix Liquors in 2003.

We celebrated our 75th anniversary in 2005 and opened our 1,000th store in 2009 in St. Augustine, Florida.  By the end of the decade, we had 1,014 stores and more than 140,000 associates.

Learn more about Publix in the 2000s.

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2010s – New Concepts Lead to Additional Growth

Our brand grew again with the addition of GreenWise Market, which opened in 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. These new concept stores focus on specialty, natural and organic items.

Today, we have more than 1,200 Publix locations in seven states from the Florida Keys to Glen Allen, Virginia, and over 220,000 associates. We look forward to what the future holds for our company.

Happy 90th Anniversary Publix! Where shopping is a pleasure.

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Jackie J.

Written by

Jackie J. became a Publix associate in 2017 after deciding to take her love of food to the next level. She began working with the Social Media team at that time and she immediately fell in love with life at Publix. In her spare time, she bakes to relax and creates yummy morsels for friends and family to munch on. When she isn’t working, you can probably find her playing with her cat and dog (Nila and Oreo), at a theme park or watching a Harry Potter Movie Marathon.

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