LAKELAND, Fla. - Maintaining a grocery store as a place where shopping is a pleasure is a regular motto for the beloved Florida business Publix. Keeping the customer and associates top of mind during the pandemic is a whole other story.
With 1,200 stores, 225,000 associates, and countless customers, Publix CEO Todd Jones said he is pleased with how the Lakeland-based chain has handled the unprecedented year.
"You step back from it, and you start thinking about the customer, the community, the associates," he explained to FOX 13. "Really trying to understand what we needed to do to make sure the comfort level was what they needed it to be. It's worked well."
For Jones, sitting down and talking is not his favorite thing to do. He says he would much rather be out on the store floor talking to employees and customers.
CEO Todd Jones searches for any cracked eggs as a customer checks out of Publix. (FOX 13 News)
Through those conversations, he understands the value behind helping people through the pandemic.
"We like to say it's the "A's" and "C's" before the "P's," he said describing the associates, customers and the process.
Another thing that Publix has done throughout the pandemic is take care of its providers and customers in need. The Publix Farmers and Families Initiative has bought food from farmers and donated it to Feeding America food banks.
So far, they've donated 12 million pounds of produce and 550,000 gallons of milk.
RELATED: The birth of a Publix
For Jones, his story is unique. He came up through the ranks at Publix, starting as a front-service associate -- a grocery bagger. To this day, he sticks to his roots, visiting the stores and bagging groceries.
This year, Publix turns 90 years old, and continues to not only give, but thrive.
According to Jones, it all goes back to the vision of the founder, George Jenkins. He is the first non-Jenkins to hold the CEO title.
His favorite story about "Mr. George" involves a meeting with some young managers.
Jenkins said, "I want you to write a phone number down for me. That's my office number. If there's ever a time that you don't have time for an associate or customer, I'd appreciate it if you could give me a call, so I can come take care of them for you."