George W. Jenkins, the late founder of Publix Super Markets Inc., was born Sept. 29, 1907. Growing up in Harris, GA, he worked in his father’s general store. In 1925, he headed to Tampa, FL at the age of 17 with hopes of making his fortune in the Florida real estate boom. Instead, he took a job as a stock clerk in a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. After only a couple of months, he was promoted to manager and was later transferred to manage the chain’s largest store in Winter Haven, a position he held from 1926 to 1930. It was that year that he resigned from Piggly Wiggly to start his own grocery store.
On Sept. 6, 1930, George Jenkins opened his first store, called Publix Food Store, in Winter Haven. In 1935, he opened a second location across town. He closed these first two stores to open his dream store, the first Publix Super Market, on Nov. 8, 1940. A “food palace” of marble, glass and stucco, this store included innovations such as air conditioning, fluorescent lighting, electric eye doors and terrazzo floors. In 1945, he acquired a warehouse and 19 All American stores from the Lakeland Grocery Company. He began replacing these small stores with larger supermarkets. He continued his never-ending expansion, bringing the Publix standard of clean stores, friendly service and quality merchandise to customers throughout Florida.