LAKELAND, Fla. - An office from 1968 doesn't have any computers, but this one holds the memories and style of one of Florida's most noted business leaders. His name was George Jenkins, but people knew him as Mr. George, founder of Publix Supermarkets.
Jenkins would be 111 years old on Saturday. He passed away in 1996, but now his office is preserved to instill his values into generations of new Publix executives.
"As a tribute to him, we re-created his office to look like it looked when he originally came into this room around 1968," said Publix executive Jennifer Bush, who has been with the company for 38 years.
To rebuild the office, Bush was armed with photographs that showed various awards, furnishings and photographs. She worked with the Jenkins family and searched warehouses and storage rooms. She found a treasure trove of Mr. George’s relics from the office that had been put away after he died.
"He had a special place in everybody's heart," said Bud Ruth, a retired Publix vice president.
One of Jenkins' favorite sayings is on a plaque on his 1968 desk. It says "Begin: The Rest Is Easy."
Ruth says Jenkins had an open-door policy, and many employees came to this same office over the years to talk.
Retired Publix VP Ed Shivers said Jenkins always believed in his philosophy that good customer service would lead to growth, even when people doubted him.
"They'd say 'Mr. George you'll never have a hundred stores; 50 is a lot.' A short time later, we had a hundred stores," he said.
The restored office is in the company's old Lakeland headquarters and is not open to the public. Rather, Bush says, the office is for "VIP" rising executives to learn the fundamental values and company culture created by Jenkins.