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At the young age of 22, Publix founder George Jenkins was the manager of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Winter Haven, Florida  

Although many would say this was quite an accomplishment for his age, Mr. George was not satisfied — he had something bigger in mind. He had dreams of a store that was so beautiful, shopping would truly be a pleasure. So, he quit his job, took his savings and in 1930 opened his very own business — Publix Food Store. 

Philosophies that mattered
George Jenkins learned a lot from his life experiences. Those lessons led to many of the philosophies he established in his business — philosophies that are still practiced today at Publix. Together, they form some of the main reasons the company’s stores are such great places to work and shop. 

  • Staying connected: Mr. George made rounds in each of his stores and spent time with his associates. He also established an open-door policy to ensure that he made himself available to any associate who wanted to talk to him. Both practices continue to be a standard with upper management today. 
  • Keeping the store clean: Mr. George knew it was important to make the store a comfortable place to shop. This included keeping the store clean. The company continues to keep this value at the forefront of its business. 
  • Offering quality products: Mr. George went out of his way to find the best quality products for his customers. Today, Publix continues in the mission to be the premier quality food retailer in the world. 
  • Sharing ownership: From the very beginning, George Jenkins wanted every associate to own a piece of the company. He set up a plan so that everyone who worked in the store would own shares of the company. This philosophy extends to today, making Publix the largest employee-owned company in the United States. 
  • Living the Publix Guarantee: The company’s return policy states: “We will never knowingly disappoint you. If for any reason your purchase does not give you complete satisfaction, the full purchase price will be cheerfully refunded immediately upon request.” This promise has been around since the first store founder George Jenkins opened. 
  • Giving back: Mr. George was once asked how much he would be worth if he hadn’t given so much away. “Probably nothing,” he answered. Mr. George instilled in his associates the value of being a part of the community and helping wherever possible. 

Publix Food Store
The first store Mr. George opened was in downtown Winter Haven, Florida. The idea for the name came from a chain of theaters Mr. George was fond of. He liked the name, so he decided to open his own store with the corporate name Publix Food Stores, Inc. Doors opened on Saturday, Sept. 6, 1930. 

His little store turned out to be very successful. By 1935, Mr. George was opening a second location on the opposite side of town. Pleasing the customer was the name of the game — and Mr. George constantly looked for ways to improve upon it. 

Publix Super Market
Although his Publix Food Store was ahead of the competition, Mr. George still had bigger dreams. He traveled the country in search of ideas on how to improve his store. He wanted customers to have an experience like no other. 

In 1940, he was ready to build his dream store. He closed his two existing stores, combining all their best qualities and those of other existing supermarkets, and tweaked them in the customers’ best interest. His supermarket was so advanced, much of the equipment (like open dairy cases) had to be designed to his specifications. A special feature that attracted customers from all over was the first ever electric eye door in a grocery store. This innovation was inspired by Penn Station in New York City. Mr. George was so excited that customers would no longer have to push the door open while holding their purchases — instead the doors would automatically open in front of them. This new technology was costly, but proved to be a huge success. Another element new to markets in Florida was the air conditioning that kept the store cool. Overall, Publix was the complete supermarket! 

Mr. George’s vision went through many phases, starting as a small self-serve food store and transforming into the larger Publix Super Market of 1940. Although realizing his vision brought challenges, it proved to be worth it. Back then, with all its new features, his store was the talk of the town. It was only the beginning of giving the name “Publix” a distinctive meaning in the food business.