Mr. George — a hard-working visionary
From the opening of his first store in 1930, Publix founder George Jenkins kept improving his business. These improvements not only impacted Publix, but they also impacted the entire food industry, earning him national recognition.
Mr. George once said, “You don’t learn much sitting behind a desk.”
He made many idea-seeking trips to bring back products and services to his growing Florida chain. On one such trip, he saw that a grocery store in Texas was making ready-to-sell hamburger patties. They simply cut the lid off a can and used it as a press to make the shape of a patty. Mr. George brought this idea back and began testing it. Soon after, Publix stores were stocked with prepackaged hamburger patties.
On a trip to St. Louis, he saw one of the nation’s first shopping centers, Hampton Village Shopping Center. In those times, our grocery competitors were reluctant to be in a shopping center due to the high rent expense. It was then that Mr. George made his decision to take a leap and pay the high rent in the first Florida shopping center, which was built in 1952 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Two years later, Publix built its very own shopping center. Mr. George acquired five acres of land in Largo, Florida, and when he was unable to persuade developers to build the center, he sold stock to raise the capital, and built the shopping center himself!
In the early 1970s, Publix was one of the leaders in using the Universal Product Code (UPC) system, which later led to item scanning. Publix wasn’t the first to install UPC scanners at the registers, but it was one of the few chains to adopt it early on. By 1979, Publix had the third-largest number of stores using scanning of any chain.
Another early innovation was on-site manufacturing of fresh products. The first was the Publix bakery plant in Lakeland, Florida, which opened in 1972.
In 1980, Publix began manufacturing milk, cultured products and the company’s famous Publix ice cream. Mr. George and Publix’s then-president Joe Blanton were on hand for the official opening of the dairy plant.
An honored industry leader
During his career, Mr. George gave his time and talents to many national industry associations. His accomplishments earned him recognition such as the Grocer of the Year Award from the Retail Grocers Association and the Free Enterpriser of the Year Award from the Florida Council on Economic Education. In 1978, the Food Marketing Institute presented him with their highest honor, the Sydney Rabb Award for excellence in serving the consumer, the community and the industry. One of the most meaningful to him was the Horatio Alger Award, attained only by those select few who best exemplify the belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles.
A community leader
The stories of Mr. George’s compassion and personal giving are legendary. He loved the idea of community-based giving and was a great supporter of United Way. In 1966, he established the George W. Jenkins Foundation, personally funding it with his own Publix stock so it would grow as the company did. He knew the foundation would be able to continue giving long after he was gone. In 1996, the name was changed to Publix Super Markets Charities. Today, one of the highest honors a Publix associate can receive is the Mr. George Community Service Award. This recognition is given to those associates who best demonstrate his passion for community service.
“The company belongs to you. You’ve made it. You will keep it alive.” — George Jenkins
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|Mr. George and leadership standing in front of a plaque.||Download*|
|Mr. George standing on the steps of an airplane||Download*|
|The very first Publix owned shopping center, built in Largo, Florida.||Download*|
|Mr. George and Joe Blanton at the first Publix Bakery Plant||Download*|
|Mr. George receiving the Horatio Alger award.||Download*|
|Mr. George with a group of teens||Download*|
|Mr. George smiling||Download*|