The Remarkable Publix Super Markets
Publix Super Markets has been a remarkable company since its first store was opened. Much of the credit goes to founder George W. Jenkins. While others saw the Great Depression as terrible times Jenkins saw it as an opportunity. He opened the first Publix store in Winter Haven, Florida. He did not open the store out of desperation for income. He actually walked away from a stable job to start it.
The store set a new standard for cleanliness and good looks. Yet there was also another standard initiated by Mr. Jenkins that would endure and endear the company to its employees. He introduced profit-sharing and employee ownership.
Through Mr. Jenkins’ effort Publix did something different in 1940. First it took the effort of Mr. Jenkins to mortgage an orange grove he acquired during the depression for a down payment on the store he dreamed of, the first supermarket in Florida. It featured marble and glass. There were fluorescent lighting, air conditioning, and electric-eye doors. There were frozen food cases, piped-in music, and eight-foot-wide aisle. This was a truly innovative undertaking for a grocery store operation.
Due to wartime shortages in 1945 expansion through construction of more stores could not work out. Publix instead bought a chain of 19 small American grocery stores. The chain continued its growth and in 1980 in connection with its 50th year of existence Publix introduced check-out scanning statewide. This was in keeping with the company’s philosophy of being at the forefront of applicable technological innovations.
Today Publix continues with its remarkable ways. It is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the U.S. Publix is one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chain in the country. The company has 1,054 supermarkets in the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Retail sales totaled $27 billion in 2011 and the company had more than 152,500 employees.
Perhaps as a testament to its pioneering ways of employee-ownership, Publix has been on the list of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” since 1998 up to the most recent year, 2012.