Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Publix Panache

Publix, founded by George Jenkins in 1930, has been a supermarket trendsetter from its earliest years. Instead of a low-price approach, Jenkins emphasized high-style, opulent surroundings and a high level of service in the company’s stores. This strategy resulted in great success and fueled explosive growth for the chain through the second half of the 20th century. Publix was responsible for many store amenities that are de rigueur (ok, I’ll stop with the French vocabulary) in supermarkets today, including air conditioning and automatic electric-eye doors, which were both introduced in the early 40’s. Content for many years to service the booming Florida market alone, Publix did not venture into other states until 1992. The chain now has stores in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina as well.

The “winged” appearance of Publix store facades was introduced in the mid-50’s and was continued as a design feature on stores well into the 1960’s. Terrazzo floors were the standard as opposed to linoleum or vinyl. Some of the most striking features of the early 60’s stores were the elaborate, ten foot tall wall mosaics featured near many Publix store entrances. In his 1980 history of Publix entitled “Fifty Years of Pleasure”, Pat Watters quoted from a 60’s Look magazine article which described the purpose of the mosaics – to imply that Publix stores were “temples of plenty dedicated to the Goddess Housewife”.

The accompanying photos are of the Coral Ridge Shopping Center Publix (located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and were taken in 1962 when the store first opened, three years after Publix’s entry into the Miami market. Both the store and shopping center exist today, albeit in remodeled form, the store perhaps even more so than the mall itself. Malls of America has a great postcard from the shopping center’s early years here. The Publix store can be seen to the left.


  1. I have seen this blog linked from many different blogs I read and am surprised at the lack of comments.

    Oh Publix: where shopping truly is a pleasure. Where the prices were reasonable and the produce always fresh, when quality generally trumped price, and finally where turquoise and terrazzo ruled the day.

    Publix also featured one wall that was filled with an index of products, colored (of course) turquoise and pink.

    I miss those stores. Quite a few remain unadultered (one in Tallahassee still has the wall index I mentioned before). If you would like photos, please let me know and I can see if I can scrounge some up on my next way through.

  2. Thanks - Hopefully your comments will break the ice!

    I'd love to see some photos and will gladly post them!

  3. Wow. I grew up in Lauderdale. This is the Publix of my childhood. I remember watching the letters flash on and off in different patterns.

    Thank you. You have no idea... I'm actually getting all teary looking at these pictures.

    They just don'tmake them like the used to.

  4. You're welcome, and thanks so much for your heartfelt comments. It's amazing how much seemingly "routine" things mean to us when we look back and realize how much they've changed.

  5. Like or not, you gotta LOVE that oh so 1950s color scheme!

  6. I would love to see pictures of the old publix or any that are still around. Try and get good pics of the old flourecent tube lighting if any Publix still has them. There is a publix in my town, one of the last to be replaced with a new one. It's right now in the process of being torn down, as the new one is already buit right next to it...What a shame and they are destroying a piece of history. This one still has/had the old flourecent tube lighting (two bulb lights with the metal triangle in the middle) I have pictures of them that I took with my Razor phone. The pics are not that great as the brightness of the lights bleed. if anyone wants them e-mail me

    If anyone has pics of old publix stores, I would love to see them...I have a few if anyone wants me to send them...

  7. I remember one with the wings on Edgewater Drive in Orlando. Maybe it's still there?

  8. Honey P. - Last I know, it's still there. That one's a real throwback!

  9. Thank you so much for these Publix images. My father was a produce manager at Publix for twenty three years and my first job was as a bagger between my junior and senior years of high school. My grandfather worked for Flowers bread and it seems that much of my childhood was spent around grocery stores, aside from needing the food they sold, that is! The Publix of my childhood was near Ft. Lauderdale, on Sunrise Blvd and Sunset Strip in neighboring Sunrise, Florida. That location had the best and biggest light display.

    Love the blog!

  10. Dexter (cool name, btw) - Thanks, and glad it brings back some good memories for you! Publix has always been a true class act, and seemed to inspire great dedication in those who worked for them.

    I took a quick look at your classic Hollywood site. Great stuff!

  11. Wow… it is strange to feel emotional about a grocery store but these comments bring back some great memories. I worked at Publix in Ft. Lauderdale (the old one on 17th st) my senior year in high school (78-79). What a great group of people.

    My mother shopped at the Publix on Davie Blvd and I can remember the wings, isle directory and Eckerds next to every Publix back in the day.