The Life of George Jenkins Jr.: Founder of Publix Super Markets

On September 29 in the year 1907, one of the most innovative retailers in the world was born in Georgia, United States of America. His name was George Washington Jenkins Jr., the founder of Publix Super markets.

George Jenkins Jr.
George Jenkins Jr. (Credit:

George Jenkins Jr. was one of eight children of a small town general merchandize store-owner. As a boy, he showed enthusiasm working in the family grocery. He attended Georgia Tech but did not finish any degree. Instead he travelled to Florida when he learned of a land boom there. He found work as a clerk in a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. After only two months, he was promoted as a manager of a small branch of the 14-store chain. Later, he was appointed to manage the largest branch of the chain.

In 1930, George Jenkins Jr. left Piggly Wiggly after being refused of a meeting with the new owners of the chain. With an initial capital of $1,300, he opened his own grocery beside the Piggly Wiggly store he managed. He called his store Publix. Later, the Piggly Wiggly store closed but Publix became profitable and after five years, another branch was opened. In 1940, he built a spacious store in an orange groove, the first supermarket in Florida and was referred to as a “food palace”. Subsequently, he acquired a chain of 19 existing stores owned by Lakeland Grocery Company.

Among the innovations introduced by George was the electric eye door, fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning, open-air dairy cases, a paved parking lot, electronic scanners, automated bank tellers inside the store, and the use of debit cards. He was also a pioneer in calling employees as associates and giving them stocks which entitled them to profit sharing every quarter.

George Jenkins Jr. died of stroke in 1989 at the age of 88. Today, the supermarket he founded has more than 1,000 stores with more than 190,000 employees and annual sales of more than $38 billion.



  1. When new buildings went up, he would visit each one and check to make certain everything was up to code and not done cheaply. He was a church-going, family man who had strong principles.

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