Publix’s long history is sure to be overflowing with treasured memories and historical artifacts. But one such item was sought-after because of its personal impact to Publix founder George Jenkins.
In his days working in his father’s general store in Harris City, Georgia, Jenkins remembered the old safe his father would use to keep his business earnings secure. A beautiful gray and gold color, the safe was where Mr. Jenkins Sr. would store his business earnings, due to a lack of nearby banks in the 1900s.
In the early 1920s, the boll weevil destroyed the Harris City economy, and Mr. Jenkins Sr. went bankrupt. The family moved from Harris City to Atlanta, and the building — including the safe — was sold to a new owner, who operated a small store. In 1970, the worn-down store was vacated.
In 2014, Publix historians traveled to Harris City in search of the old general store. It belonged to another Harris City descendent, Charles Brady James II, whose father grew up with the Publix founder. James gave Publix permission to take the safe back to Lakeland so its story could be told for generations to come.
Historians got to work removing the safe, using only chains, plywood, a cable winch and hand tools to lift it onto the back of a truck.
The safe finally made it the 400-mile drive to Lakeland, Florida, corporate home to Publix. It weighed 4,200 pounds on an industrial scale and was in need of much repair. The door had a broken hinge, the dial was missing and it was rusted beyond recognition. A team of Publix associates put their talents to work dismantling, cleaning and refurbishing it, revealing the original colors and design.
The refurbished safe was unveiled on April 7, 2015, and now resides in the Publix corporate office in Lakeland.