For over 90 years, Publix has grown by leaps and bounds into one of the biggest supermarket companies in the country. What started as a small food store in 1930 has expanded into seven states and more than 1,200 stores in operation. How did Publix get here?
1930s — Where It All Began
On Sept. 6, 1930, George Jenkins opened the first Publix location, known then as Publix Food Store, in Winter Haven, Florida. Today, that brick-and-mortar building is still standing, occupied by a restaurant called Tempo 1930. By 1935, Jenkins opened his second location on the opposite side of Winter Haven.
1940s — Publix Super Market Is Born
In 1940, Jenkins expanded Publix Food Store into the supermarket of his dreams, located in Winter Haven, Florida. Publix Super Market was born. Jenkins’ dream store followed an art deco design and was known as a “state-of-the-art food palace of marble, glass and stucco.” By the end of the decade, there were 20 locations.
1950s — Publix Begins Selling Private Label Items
The art deco store designs of the ‘40s carried into the ‘50s. With the new decade came the introduction of Publix-branded items. By the end of the decade, Publix stores spanned the state of Florida with 55 locations and nearly 3,000 associates. A new 125,000-square-foot warehouse and office complex opened in Lakeland, Florida.
One of the most notable stores from the 1950s was located at the Southgate Shopping Center in Lakeland, which is still a Publix today. The store was so iconic that it was featured in the movie “Edward Scissorhands.”
1960s — 100 Stores and Counting
In this decade, the design of Publix stores changed from the art deco architecture of the 1950s to a winged design created by famed Florida architect Donovan Dean. Centered in the wings were neon lights that blinked downward. At night, the lights look like a flowing waterfall. Publix hit a milestone of 100 stores, reaching a total of 150 by the end of the decade, with 8,000 associates. The company also added the Delicatessen department and the Danish Bakery in the ‘60s, in addition to opening its first distribution facility, in Miami.
1970s — Advancements in Technology
In the 1970s, the design for stores changed from the classic wings and neon lights to feature a squared “P” with the word “Publix” spelled out. In 1972, the company built a new bakery plant in Lakeland. Three years later, stores welcomed a new department called the Photo Lab. Publix was the first grocery chain to have scanning at its registers in all stores, replacing the keypunch registers in the late 1970s. By the end of the decade, Publix had 231 stores and 26,000 associates.
The Lake Miriam Square location in Lakeland originally was a Publix subsidiary, known as Food World in the 1970s. With only 23 locations in central Florida by the end of the decade, the Food World stores had a different look from other Publix locations and were known as discount stores. In 1985, the Lake Miriam Square Food World transitioned into a Publix and remains operational today.
1980s — Our 50th Anniversary
Publix celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1980, and opened its 300th store in Tampa, Florida. Publix opened a new dairy plant in 1981 and the first Publix Pharmacy in 1986. By the end of 1989, the company had 367 stores and 62,000 associates.
In 1982, the first Presto! ATM network opened at a Publix in Hollywood, Florida, with founder George Jenkins making the first transaction.
1990s — Carrying on Mr. George’s Legacy
Uniforms and store interiors changed in the 1990s, featuring the colors coral and teal. In 1992, mascot Plato the Publixaurus joined the Publix family.
The company took great strides by expanding outside Florida, opening its first Publix across state lines in Savannah, Georgia in 1991.
On April 8, 1996, founder George Jenkins passed away at the age of 89. However, the Publix team was never more dedicated to carrying on his legacy and keeping his philosophies alive within the company.
By the end of the decade, Publix had expanded into South Carolina and Alabama. By the end of the century, the company had opened its 500th store, located in Miami, and had 614 stores and over 120,000 associates.
2000s — A New Millennium
The 2000s were years of growth for Publix, which rolled out the first Aprons kiosks in 2000, and the first cooking school in 2001. The first Publix Liquors opened in 2003.
Publix celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2005, and opened its 1,000th store, located in St. Augustine, Florida. By the end of the decade, the company had 1,014 stores and more than 140,000 associates.
2010s — New Concepts Lead to Additional Growth
Publix’s GreenWise Market opened its first location in 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida, specializing in natural and organic items.
Today, there are more than 1,200 Publix locations in seven states from the Florida Keys to Glen Allen, Virginia, and over 220,000 associates. The company continues to expand into the future.