vintage Publix store

Publix is known today for being the supermarket where shopping is a pleasure. But where did a grocery store dedicated to being the premier quality food retailer in the world come from? It is all thanks to our founder, George Jenkins (affectionately known as Mr. George).  His vision and ideals are the foundation of this company and today we’ll learn a little about the journey he traveled to get to this destination.

Childhood in Georgia

George Jenkins was one of eight children born into the Jenkins family in Harris City, Ga. Born on08_03_CH_Post2_History_Image 2
Sept. 29, 1907 to George W. Jenkins, Sr. and Annie Snelson Jenkins, he was known from a young age to be a go-getter.

Many may be surprised to learn that the grocery business was a part of our founder’s life long before Publix was dreamed of. Mr. George’s father owned a general store in their small town. George started helping around the store at an early age, tending to customers with anything they might have needed. Of course, general stores in the early 1900s were very different from the Publix’s we see today, but Mr. George was heard numerous times admitting to lessons he learned from working in his father’s store, such as work ethic and customer service.

Moving to Atlanta

In the 1920s, the boll weevil (a beetle that feeds on cotton buds) hit Harris City, Georgia’s crops with force. The economic situation in the small town forced Mr. Jenkins, Sr. to close shop and move the family to Atlanta, where he started a small grocery store.

Mr. George was 16 at the time and had developed interests that did not involve the family business. He was looking to find his own calling. Our founder had a dream of attending Georgia Tech to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. With this dream at the forefront of his mind, he worked many different jobs to save money. Amongst them, he worked for a real estate firm— a job that played a key role in his move to Florida.

Coming to Florida

The real estate company fueled the Florida-boom fever in our founder. George Jenkins jumped at the chance to make the money needed to put himself through school and hitched a ride to Florida with an acquaintance.

Mr. George was dropped off in the middle of Ybor City with nothing more than a change of clothes and $9 in his pocket.

Luckily, he was able to get in contact with a friend in the area and was invited to spend the week with him and his wife. The plan was to soon hitchhike back to Atlanta since his Florida real estate dream had turned out to be a bust. But, days before leaving, he met the owner of
a few 08_03_CH_Post2_History_Image 3Piggly Wiggly food stores in town. George Jenkins was persuaded to stay and work for him to make the money he needed for school before heading back. So, in June of 1925, our founder started as a broom pusher and store clerk— a journey that, little did he know, would lead him to start his very own supermarket.

Even though Mr. George was exposed to the grocery business early in life, it was not until later that he realized it would be his life’s work.  It cannot be said that his early involvement in the grocery business inspired him to open the store we know today as Publix. But, it is true that he learned much from his experiences and because of them made critical choices in the way the company is run today. Stay tuned for more of the journey George Jenkins traveled to get where we are today – Publix Super Markets.


Do you have any fun childhood memories involving Mr. George? Share them with us below!

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?).

11 Comments on “Who is Mr. George?

  1. Pingback: Publix History — How We Came To Be | The Publix Checkout

  2. Paula Pasos

    Congratulations on a great article! Love the photo of young Mr. George holding his hat! Can’t wait to read more about his journey. When will the next part be posted?

    1. Catalina H.Catalina H.

      Glad you like the photography! Stay tuned, we don’t have specific dates yet but they will be posted in the coming weeks/months. :)

    1. Catalina H.Catalina H.

      Thank you for stopping by! There is so much history behind where we are today. I love finding out more every time I get to write these stories!

  3. Mercedes Dominguez

    I always enjoy the stories about Mr. George, and often wish I could have met him. Thank you for this story of a wonderful human being whose legacy will never die.

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