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As we continue our story of Publix founder George Jenkins, it’s easy to see that he was dedicated to his customers, his employees and his community. (If you missed our part one or part two, be sure to check those out!)

From the opening of his first store in 1930,  he kept improving his business. These improvements not only impacted Publix, but they also impacted the entire food industry, earning him national recognition.

A Visionary

Mr. George once said, “You don’t learn much sitting behind a desk.”JB_History_Mr. George_Body1

He made many idea-seeking trips to bring products and services to his growing Florida chain. On one such trip, he saw that a grocery store in Texas was making ready-to-sell hamburger patties. They simply cut the lid off a can and used it as a press to make the shape of a patty. Mr. George brought this idea back and began testing it. Soon after, Publix stores were stocked with pre-packaged hamburger patties.

On a trip to St. Louis, he saw one of the nation’s first shopping centers, Hampton Village Shopping Center. In those times our grocery competitors were reluctant to be in a shopping center due to the high rent expense. It was then that Mr. George made his decision to take a leap and pay the high rent in the first Florida shopping center built in 1952 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Two years later, Publix built its very own shopping center. Mr. George acquired five acres of land in Largo, Florida, and when he was unable to persuade developers to build the center, he sold stock to raise the capital, and Publix built the shopping center himself!

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In the early 1970s, Publix was one of the leaders in using the Universal Product Code (UPC) system, which later led to item scanning. Publix wasn’t the first to install UPC scanners at the registers, but it was one of the few chains to adopt it early on. By 1979, Publix had the third largest number of stores using scanning of any chain.JB_History_Mr. George_Body3

Another early innovation was on-site manufacturing of fresh products. The first was the Publix Bakery Plant in Lakeland, which opened in 1972.

In 1980, Publix began manufacturing milk, cultured products and our famous Publix ice cream. Mr. George and Publix’s then-president Joe Blanton were on hand for the official opening of the Dairy Plant.

An Honored Industry Leader

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During his career, Mr. George gave his time and talents to many national industry associations. His accomplishments earned him recognition such as the Grocer of the Year Award from the Retail Grocers Association and the Free Enterpriser of the Year Award from the Florida Council on Economic Education. In 1978, the Food Marketing Institute presented him with their highest honor, the Sydney Rabb Award for excellence in serving the consumer, the community and the industry. One of the most meaningful to him was the Horatio Alger Award, attained only by those select few who best exemplify the belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles.

A Community Leader

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The stories of Mr. George’s compassion and personal giving are legendary. He loved the idea of community-based giving and was a great supporter of United Way. In 1966, he established the George W. Jenkins Foundation, personally funding it with his own Publix stock so it would grow as the company did. He knew the foundation would be able to continue giving long after he was gone. In 1996, the name was changed to Publix Super Markets Charities. Today, one of the highest honors a Publix associate can receive is the Mr. George Community Service Award. This recognition is given to those associates who best demonstrate his passion for community service.

We all mourned his passing in 1996, but his words inspire the Publix family to carry on his legacy.

“The company belongs to you. You’ve made it. You will keep it alive.”

— George Jenkins


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Do you have a memory of Mr. George?  We’d love to hear your story.

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.

2 Comments on “Who is Mr. George – Part III

  1. Jim Sullivan

    How lucky we are in the state of Florida to have Mr. George begin and grow his business in our state. He was an incredible family man, businessman, and community leader. Mr. George’s legacy has changed the lives of so many for the better and they in turn have learned to “pay it forward!” Sure would like to see a statue of Mr. Jenkins in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building (soon)!

    1. Jennifer B.Jennifer B.

      Jim, thanks for your feedback! It’s amazing to think about how many people have been impacted by the legacy of Mr. George. The awesome thing about it is that we can all live these philosophies and make a difference in the lives of others around us. Keep reading our blog for more inspirational stories about Mr. George!

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