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1966 Horatio Alger Award Winner

George W. Jenkins*

Founder & Chairman Emeritus
Publix Supermarkets, Inc.

"Customers are important and deserve care and attention."

In 1925, at the end of his freshman year at Georgia Tech, George Jenkins set off for a vacation in Florida. There, he met the owner of 14 Piggly Wiggly grocery stores. Because of his experience in stores, Jenkins was offered a job. Starting as a clerk, he found a number of ways to impress the boss and was soon made store manager. He had expected to go back to college, but after this quick success, he decided to stay another year. That decision led to ownership of 290 of his own supermarkets, with more than 37,000 employees and sales of more than $3 billion.

When Jenkins began managing his first Piggly Wiggly in St. Petersburg, its gross sales were $1,300 a week. Eight months later, they were $6,000. Single and ambitious, Jenkins spent time keeping his store cleaner and better stocked than his competition. He was reassigned to Piggly Wiggly's largest store, in Winter Haven. He continued there for four years, until the chain was sold. He then made another decision. With $2,500- raised by forming Publix Food Stores, Inc., and selling stock to supplement his own savings of $1,300-he opened the first Publix store next door to the Piggly Wiggly he had managed in Winter Haven.

Jenkins did not invent the supermarket, but he did take the ragged edges off the raw concept. In 1940, he put together $70,000 of financing for what his bankers called "George's marble, glass, and stucco food palace." When the first Publix Super Market opened, it had fluorescent lights, air conditioning, custom refrigeration cases, wide aisles, and an electric-eye door. Waiting until the end of the war to build more stores, Jenkins opened five stores on the same day in 1945. Publix's personnel policies have been given a significant amount of credit for the success of the chain, where full-time workers share in the company profits.

* Deceased