WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) - Florida’s staple grocery store has now been around for 88 years.
On September 6, 1930, its founder, George W. Jenkins opened the first store in Winter Haven, originally called “Publix Food Store.” Today, there are more than 1,100 locations in Polk County, and beyond Florida.
Jenkins wasn’t born in Florida. He grew up in Harris, Georgia and had an early start in gaining store experience by working in his father’s general store. In 1925, he headed to Tampa, Florida at the age of 17 as the state experienced a real estate boom.
The teenager accepted a job as a stock clerk in a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Jenkins was promoted to a manager position two months later and transferred to manage the chain’s largest store in Winter Haven. Young Jenkins worked there for four years before resigning to open his own grocery store.
Publix Food Store Opens
The first store was originally called “Publix Food Store.” Five years later, Jenkins opened a second location within Winter Haven. However, he closed the first two stores to open, “Publix Super Market,” On November 8, 1940.
There were upgrades, such as air conditioning and fluorescent lighting. It was the start of the supermarkets Floridians know and appreciate decades later.
By 1945, Jenkins owned a warehouse and acquired 19 “All American” stores from the Lakeland Grocery Company, replacing them with the larger Publix supermarkets. The expansion didn’t stop there.
The store’s green lettering plastered across buildings and friendly customer service is expected nowadays and has been a philosophy since its inception. The Publix sub itself is a native meal for Floridians and was named as the best sandwich in America.
Whether you leave a Publix store with an unofficial state sandwich, or an employee accompanies you on your stroll back to the parking lot with bags of groceries, the beloved supermarket’s expectations and quality haven’t aged a day.