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Publix is known today for being the supermarket where shopping is a pleasure. But where did a grocery store dedicated to being the premier quality food retailer in the world come from? 

It is all thanks to our founder, George Jenkins (affectionately known as Mr. George). His vision and ideals are the foundation of this company. 

Childhood in Georgia
George Jenkins was one of eight children born into the Jenkins family in Harris City, Georgia. Born on Sept. 29, 1907, to George W. Jenkins Sr. and Annie S. Nelson Jenkins, he was known from a young age to be a go-getter. 

Many may be surprised to learn that the grocery business was a part of our founder’s life long before he dreamed of Publix. Mr. George’s father owned a general store in their small town. George started helping around the store at an early age, tending to customers with anything they might have needed. Of course, general stores in the early 1900s were very different from the Publix’s we see today, but Mr. George was heard numerous times referring to lessons he learned from working in his father’s store, such as work ethic and customer service. 

Moving to Atlanta
In the 1920s, the boll weevil (a beetle that feeds on cotton buds) hit Harris City’s crops with force. The economic situation in the small town forced Mr. Jenkins Sr. to close shop and move the family to Atlanta, where he started another small grocery store. 

Mr. George was 16 at the time and had developed interests that did not involve the family business. He was looking to find his own calling. Mr. George had a dream of attending Georgia Tech to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. With this dream at the forefront of his mind, he worked many different jobs to save money. Among them, he worked for a real estate firm — a job that played a key role in his move to Florida. 

Coming to Florida
The real estate company fueled the Florida-boom fever in Publix founder. George Jenkins skipped the chance to make the money needed to put himself through school and instead hitched a ride to Florida with an acquaintance. 

Mr. George was dropped off in the middle of Ybor City, Florida, with nothing more than a change of clothes and $9 in his pocket. 

Luckily, he was able to get in contact with a friend in the area and was invited to spend the week with him and his wife. The plan was to soon hitchhike back to Atlanta since his Florida real estate dream had turned out to be a bust. But, days before leaving Florida, he met the owner of a few Piggly Wiggly food stores in town. George Jenkins was persuaded to stay and work for him to make the money he needed for school before heading back. So, in June of 1925, the Publix founder started as a broom pusher and store clerk — a journey that, little did he know, would lead him to start his very own supermarket. 

Even though Mr. George was exposed to the grocery business early in life, it was not until later that he realized it would be his life’s work. It cannot be said that his early involvement in the grocery business inspired him to open the store we know today as Publix. But it is true that he learned much from his experiences and because of them made critical choices in the way the company is run today.