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The 1980s was filled with celebrations commemorating the golden anniversary that marked 50 years of making shopping a pleasure. Every Publix associate was given a gold coin engraved with Mr. George’s image, and the “50 Years” logo was used on signs, product packages and even lapel pins.

As much as Publix had already achieved during its first five decades, the company would make even bigger strides during the next 10 years. Here are some of the highlights:

  • In 1980, the Publix dairy plant opened and began processing milk, water, flavored drinks and everyone’s favorite — Publix ice cream! The first flavors were vanilla, chocolate, Neapolitan, strawberry, fudge royal and strawberry royal.
  • In 1982, we began installing ATMs in our stores. The first store to receive an ATM was in Hollywood, Florida. Mr. George was honored to be the first to make a transaction. Another technological advancement happened in 1984. We began testing Presto!, our point-of-sale electronic funds transfer system. This gave customers a more convenient form of payment at the register.
  • In 1984, we built a deli plant to produce sliced meats, smoked turkeys, potato salad, cole slaw and desserts like gelatin and puddings.
  • In 1986, the first Publix Pharmacy opened in an Altamonte Springs, Florida, store. The new store format was called Publix Food & Pharmacy. In the same year we celebrated opening our 300th store in Tampa, Florida.

To support the growing number of stores, Publix expanded its distribution facilities in Lakeland, Jacksonville and Miami. In addition to the distribution facility expansions, the company also added a frozen food warehouse in Miami, distribution centers in Sarasota, Florida, and Deerfield Beach, Florida, and a dairy plant in Deerfield Beach. By the end of the 1980s, we changed the remaining three Food Worlds to Publix stores.

Despite changing times, new products and advances in technology, it was always important to hold on to the founding philosophies established by George Jenkins in 1930. The Publix philosophy of taking care of our best asset, our people, earned Publix inclusion in the 1984 book, “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” by Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz. Making shopping a pleasure earned Publix the Golden Shopping Cart Award from the National Alliance of Supermarket Shoppers. This recognition as the best supermarket was based on customer value, clean stores and courteous associates, all of which are still paramount to our business today. Two of the 1980s associate theme pins focused on these important philosophies: People Our Priority (POP) and Customers are Really Terrific (CART).

Mr. George was the role model for helping others and giving back to the community — another Publix philosophy. In 1980, the Boy Scouts of America presented him with a life-sized statue of a Boy Scout by renowned sculptor Robert Tait McKenzie. Mr. George also became a founding member of the United Way of Central Florida Leadership Giving Association. He was the first million-dollar roundtable member in the southeastern United States, and in 1987 he received the Alexis de Tocqueville award from United Way.

There was much to celebrate during the 1980s, but there was also sadness shared by the Publix family when President Joe Blanton passed away in 1984. Mr. Joe, as he was affectionately known, had been with Publix since 1945, when George Jenkins purchased the All American Food Stores, including one that Joe was working in. Joe’s contributions to the growth and success of Publix were tremendous. In fact, it was his idea to get into the ice cream-making business.

More sad news came in 1989, when Mr. George suffered a stroke. Although his speech and mobility were significantly impacted, nothing stopped him from staying connected with his customers and associates, and he continued to make store visits on a regular basis.