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These Vintage Photos Prove Publix Has Always Been Awesome

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Publix archives

When a grocery chain reaches collectible bumper sticker status, you know they've got a good thing going.

Publix, of course, has had a good thing going for a really long time. If you live in the Southeast -- or know people from the region who can't stop talking about how much they miss it -- you know that Publix deli subs are the stuff of legends, associates are the most courteous in the business, and you just haven't lived until you've walked its wide aisles, scored some BOGOs, and carried home that crunchy fried chicken.

Publix now boasts 1,077 stores stretching from Florida into North Carolina, gobbling up business accolades and viral love along the way. But as these vintage photos from the company and state archives show, even an empire starts small. This is what Publix looked like, way back when:

  • Publix archives
    George Jenkins opened his first Publix "food store" in Winter Haven, Florida, during the Great Depression in 1930. According to the company, gross annual sales hit $120,000 by 1934.
  • Publix archives
    Jenkins opened his "dream store" in 1940, mortgaging an orange grove to make the down payment. It was the first grocery store to have "electric eye" doors, drawing visitors from miles around.
  • Publix archives
    This is what the 1940 store looked like inside, with the wide aisles that would become a Publix signature. In addition to its fancy electric doors, the store featured new innovations like in-store music, fluorescent lights, flower and donut shops, and -- this is huge! -- air conditioning.
  • Jack Spotswood/State Archives of Florida
    The produce section of the 1940 "dream store" was lit by large windows.
  • Publix archives
    Nice ties, guys: employees pose before a store opening in the 1940s.
  • Publix archives
    In 1951, the company says, its 24 stores grossed more than $18 million. The same year it built its first warehouse complex in Lakeland, Florida, from which trucks like this one delivered products.
  • Charles Barron/State Archives of Florida
    Here's a pile of fresh produce at a Publix market warehouse in 1959.
  • Publix archives
    As you can spot in this photo, "Where shopping is a pleasure" had already been adopted as the Publix slogan by 1954. It was thought up by a former bag boy and remains the company's tagline to this day.
  • Publix archives
    The water tower outside Publix's industrial headquarters, seen here in 1981, is a bakery cake. Of course.
  • Publix archives
    Originally, Publix's "Danish Bakeries" were separate from the rest of the store. The first bakery opened in 1957; the photo above is a bakery in the 1960s.
  • Publix archives
    Check out this cash register from the 1950s.
  • Publix archives
    This exterior, known as the "Phoenix" because of its wings, became the popular design for additional Publix stores in the 1950s and 60s. This is store #26 in Clearwater, Florida, in 1954.
  • Publix archives
    Just two chill bros who changed Florida forever: George Jenkins, right, chats with Walt Disney in 1947.
  • Publix archives
    These ladies are ready for a store opening in the 1950s.
  • Publix archives
    Also in the 1950s: an associate (check out that arm patch!) keeps Band-Aids in stock.
  • Publix archives
    A whole barbecue chicken was $1.59 in the 1960s.
  • Joseph Janney Steinmetz/State Archives of Florida
    You could fit a truck through the aisles of this Publix in Sarasota in May, 1958.
  • Publix archives
    This store display from 1960 did its cheerful best to sell make-at-home pizza mixes for 34 cents.
  • Publix archives
    Everything in its right place: this is a pristine store interior from the 1960s.

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