25 Things To Know Before Shopping At Publix

Publix has been a supermarket "where shopping is a pleasure" since 1930. If you've ever visited this Deep South supermarket chain, you understand what all the fuss is about. The employees are friendly, the store is clean, and the food is great. Founder George Jenkins set out to make his supermarket stand out above other grocery stores. Early stores wowed customers with air conditioning, automatic doors, soothing music, and an innovative layout, bringing in customers from miles around. 

Jenkins spent his life making Publix into a store that made both customers and employees happy, outshining the competition. Publix says its employees "bleed green" with loyalty — a reference to the company's trademark color (via Fortune). Today's stores are well-stocked with high-quality food, often offering products other local small-town supermarkets may not have. It has plenty of fresh deli items available for parties or to prevent having to cook if you're not in the mood. Some stores are even piloting in-store cooking classes, take-home meal kits, DMV kiosks, and telehealth services.

1. It's a Florida native

If you've never heard of Publix, that might be because you live in a region of the United States that doesn't have it. If you have, chances are you either live in or have visited Florida, where Publix originated, or other states in the South where it has stores: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 

It all started when George Jenkins, the founder of the chain, incorporated and opened his first grocery store in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1930. He opened a second store in 1935, and in 1940 put a down payment on a full-sized supermarket. After that, he continued to expand the company, buying up small grocery stores and re-opening them under the Publix brand. Part of the success was likely due to the innovations he installed in stores, like air conditioning, fluorescent lights, and frozen food cases. The rest is history as he grew the company to a $34 billion dollar enterprise with over 1,100 stores — not bad for a guy who started out as a store clerk at Piggly Wiggly.

2. It got its name from a theater chain

Have you ever wondered about the name Publix and where it came from? As it turns out, many people have, as George Jenkins told the story in a speech that was later published as "The Publix Story." There's a surprising story behind the Publix name: "The name 'Publix' was borrowed from a chain of theaters which was operating throughout Florida at the time," he said. "Most of them were closing up, and I liked the sound of the name so I just took it for my store." We're not sure that just stealing the name of another company would fly with today's rules and regulations, but it did then. And it obviously was a good choice as the grocery chain is thriving today.

As for the fate of the Paramount-owned Publix Theaters, which operated theaters in large cities across the country, it went bankrupt by 1935 due to the stock market crash of 1929. Unable to pay its mortgages, it was purchased by other theaters that were able to weather the economic storm. Perhaps that's why it just let the name go.

3. It's the largest employee-owned company in the world

Publix is the largest employee-owned company in the world, and not just by a small margin. At number one, Publix clocks in with 23,000 employees, which is astronomically higher than the number two spot, WinCo Foods which has about 20,000 employees. It's not likely that anyone will surpass it anytime soon. 

So what benefits do workers at an employee-owned company like Publix earn? The big one is that each employee receives quarterly stock dividends at no cost to them, meaning they don't have to buy in — it's automatic. Combine that with the fact that Publix is making record-breaking profits, and that makes for a nice stock payday. 

4. The founding family is worth billions

Publix Supermarkets are good at raking in the dough. Supermarket News says Publix made $48 billion in sales in 2021, up a full 7% from 2020. And these impressive numbers don't just give the employees a nice stock payout four times a year. In fact, Publix has made the Jenkins family billionaires several times over

Founder George Jenkins' daughter, Carol Jenkins Barnett, is worth over $2.5 billion, and her brother Howard M. Jenkins is officially worth over one billion, too. And the Jenkins family isn't even the majority shareholder of the company, as they only hold about 20% — the other 80% belongs to the employees, who are the controlling shareholders. That shows just how valuable and high-performing Publix stock is.

5. The CEO started as a clerk

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to advancing up the company ladder at Publix. It promotes almost exclusively from within the company, so once you're in the door you have a myriad of options in front of you over time. And you can apparently work your way into a variety of lucrative, sometimes high-powered positions. For example, if you work as a store manager for 20 years, you might earn between $100,000 to $130,00 per year, have $300,000 in stock, and have received $30,000 in dividends. 

But it doesn't stop there. The person in charge of bakery strategy started out decorating cakes. One of the distribution center managers started out unloading railcars. And retired Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw, despite the fact that he is Publix founder George Jenkins' grandson, started his tenure at the grocery giant as a clerk in Lake Wales, Florida. As for current Publix CEO Todd Jones, who took over the company reins in 2017? Not only did he start as a store clerk in New Smyrna Beach, FL, but he's also the first CEO who's not related to the Jenkins family. Looks like the American Dream is still alive at Publix.

6. Walmart isn't a threat

Walmart has a reputation for destroying small businesses by moving into their territory and offering the same goods for a (usually significantly) cheaper price. So when Walmart began aggressively targeting the Publix market in Florida after eviscerating the competition in most other regions of the South, you would think that Publix would be doomed, or at least outwardly nervous. But it wasn't, and with good reason: Walmart can't seem to take it down, even years later. 

What's its secret? In a nutshell, customer service. Whereas some grocers might hire 250 employees for one store, Publix in some cases hires around 400 employees to ensure that shoppers got a full-service shopping experience. This means you never have to bag your own groceries, nor do you have to roll the cart to your vehicle — they do that for you if you prefer. If you ask an employee who's stocking shelves where you can find another item, chances are they will stop what they're doing and walk you over to it, even if it's all the way across the store. You just can't get that kind of attention at Walmart.

7. It's a good place to work

83% of Publix employees say it's a great place to work, compared to 57% in a typical company. Employees say the best parts of working for Publix are the people, benefits, and stock payouts.

It's employee-owned, for one, so workers get stock payouts. Publix has made Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For every year since its inception in 1998, with its rank on the list going up and down most years. It offers medical benefits, tuition reimbursement, and a company-matched retirement plan, even to its part-time employees. Employees have regular reviews and raises. Plus, there's career longevity — the average Publix store manager has worked there for approximately 25 years, and some associates have been there for 30 years or more. They have a voluntary turnover rate of 5%, which is astounding given that the industry standard is a whopping 65%. And since it promotes from within, once you have your foot in the door you're set for life. 

8. But Publix has not always been good on LGBT issues

In spite of the many good things about Publix, it doesn't have the most sterling history of dealing with LGBT+ issues. For example, back in 2013, Human Rights Campaign gave Publix a zero rating for LGBT+ friendliness. Also in 2013, Equality Florida, a gay and lesbian rights group, told the Miami New Times that they had received a number of complaints from employees about LGBT+ discrimination at Publix. CEO Nadine Smith said that, "What they have described is a company that is insular and slow to move," when it comes to LGBT+ rights. Previously, in 2012, Publix was ordered by Broward County's Human Rights Board to pay $100,000 to a cake decorator who said he had been fired from the grocer for being gay. And while that decision was overturned, it fits the narrative that Publix seems to have created for itself.

Fortunately, Publix seems to be getting more tolerant in more recent years. In January 2015, Publix finally extended benefits to the same-sex partners of LGBT+ employees, which was a big step in the right direction.

9. It makes bread on-site every day

Many groceries sell bread, but Publix is one of the last big supermarkets out there that makes fresh bread on-site every day. And you don't just get one option, as it makes all kinds of breads from sandwich bread that's just right for a good Cuban sandwich to French bread that's just right for onion soup. The bakery also makes a variety of other products, like doughnuts, muffins, and cakes. 

This is why the Publix bakery is the go-to for locals who can special order custom birthday cakes or just grab one at the last minute for a workplace celebration. And while you're not going to score elegant Italian cannolis or a perfect rum cake there, you can certainly rely on it to be of consistent, above-average quality. 

10. You can weigh yourself

Many (though not all) Publix locations have a scale in the front of the store should you want to weigh yourself before heading into the market. And it's not a cheap scale by any stretch of the imagination, which is why you won't find one in every single store — the chain is expanding too fast for that. Still, most locations will have a Toledo brand scale, which is famous for being accurate, in the entryway so you can check your weight before you head in to shop for groceries. 

The whole thing started back in 1930 when George Jenkins outfitted the first Publix in Winter Haven with a scale so customers could check their weight for free — a service you would usually have had to pay for at that time. And even though you can score a bathroom scale for pretty cheap these days, the Publix scale continues to be a popular amenity.

11. It's been criticized regarding farm workers

Publix has faced some backlash in the form of protests, along with fast food giant Wendy's, due to issues regarding the treatment of farm workers. Specifically, protesters objected to the grocer's refusal to join with other large corporations like Trader Joe's, McDonald's, and Walmart in paying one more penny per pound of tomatoes to increase the wages of farm workers. Additionally, the coalition between Florida farm workers and Florida tomato growers asked corporations to only purchase from growers who actively protect their workers from sexual harassment and forced labor. 

So why hasn't Publix gotten on board? Publix Spokesperson Brian West told the Tampa Bay Times, "It's very simple for us: They're asking us to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes for the workers and we're asking them to put it in the price of their product."  For West, then, it's not the responsibility of Publix to pay farm workers' wages. He continued, "If you're not satisfied with your pay you don't go to the customer and talk about it, you talk to your boss, the people who pay your wage." Still, supporters of the initiative, which has demonstrably helped farm workers, hope that Publix will change its mind. 

12. Publix is the embodiment of its motto

Back when George Jenkins opened Publix, his ambition was to create the best supermarket. Everything he did was over the top and better than his competitors, whether it was having a modern store with automatic doors, good food at excellent prices, or having the best employees. Thus, Publix's first slogan was "Florida's Finest Food Stores." By the 1940s, you could find this motto on everything from its store signs and grocery bags to its corporate trucks.

Publix first spread outside Florida in 1991, opening a store in Savannah, Georgia. Throughout the 1990s, it expanded into South Carolina and Alabama as well. Publix currently has over 1300 stores in six states besides Florida. Obviously, with the store's expansion into more Deep South states, it couldn't keep a motto that was only relevant in Florida. So, the company chose a new slogan: "where shopping is a pleasure."

If you've ever shopped in Publix, you'll understand why its new motto works because the experience is nothing but pleasant. Publix has become more popular over the years for many reasons. It offers more high-quality food choices than the competing food chains in many locations. You'll encounter notoriously happy and helpful employees who will even help you take your groceries to your car. The store is known for the foods made in-store, like its excellent desserts, deli items, fried chicken, sushi, and pub subs. Plus, Publix is always pleasantly clean, unlike some other local supermarkets.

13. You can find Publix in seven states

For over 60 years, the only place you could find a Publix store was in Florida. To grow, Publix needed to expand beyond state lines. With a strong business model that had worked well in Florida, it knew it would succeed elsewhere.

In 1991, Publix supermarkets started popping up all over the Deep South. The first one outside Florida was about 100 miles across the Florida state line in Savannah, Georgia. In 1993, Publix opened a store in a Charleston, South Carolina, suburb called Mount Pleasant. Publix founder, George Jenkins, died in April of 1996, but the company continued his legacy of advancement and expansion. Three months after his death in 1996, the company opened its first Alabama supermarket in a suburb of Huntsville called Owens Cross Roads.

In the early 2000s, Tennessee became part of the Publix family. Two cities in the Nashville area, Franklin and Hermitage, opened stores in 2002. Regional Director Phil Rosson said, "We face the uniqueness of entering a market without a strong brand awareness — people may not know much about Publix, if anything." However, it never takes long for Publix to prove itself and become a local favorite.

Two more states welcomed the chain in the 2010s. A store opened in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2014. Then, in 2017, a store opened in the Richmond, Virginia, suburb of Glen Allen. Publix is now in seven states, and it's likely to continue crossing borders in the future.

14. How Publix weathered the Great Depression

Although many companies faltered during the Great Depression, young George Jenkins decided it was the perfect time to get his start. He walked away from a stable job to open the first Publix store in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1930 (the second year of the Great Depression). He had an initial advantage from starting out after other stores had failed, but he also continuously looked for ways to be better than the competition.

In the Depression era, food was sometimes difficult to find, so many stores had empty shelves. Because of local food shortages, Jenkins decided to travel around the country to find products he could send back to Florida to stock his store shelves. During his travels, he also collected ideas he could use to run his small grocery store better.

Jenkins had acquired an orange grove during the first decade he owned his store. In 1940, the penultimate year of the Great Depression, Jenkins mortgaged his orange grove to make a down payment on his dream supermarket. His marble, glass, and stucco food palace had innovations no one had ever experienced in a grocery store previously. Shoppers walked in through automatic doors into an air-conditioned supermarket with fluorescent lights, eight-foot-wide aisles, and music. Customers could buy frozen food and dairy from specialized cases, fresh donuts, and fresh flowers. It was such a marvel that customers traveled long distances to shop there.

15. The first Publix pharmacy opened in the late '80s

Grocery Dive says that grocery stores with pharmacies have a competitive advantage because they boost customer loyalty, turn the store into a health destination, and attract new customers. The average customer who fills a prescription in a grocery store pharmacy spends $43 within the store itself. In larger chains like Publix, pharmacy sales account for 6-9% of store revenue.

Since pharmacies drive more revenue to a store through so many means, it's no wonder Publix decided to add pharmacies to its stores. In 1986, the same year Publix opened its 300th store, it opened its first pharmacy. As the chain opened pharmacies within stores, it changed the storefront name to Publix Food & Pharmacy.

In 2019, Publix opened in-store, walk-in telehealth rooms in some South Carolina and Florida locations, allowing customers to connect with online telehealth doctors who can prescribe medication that customers can then purchase through the Publix pharmacy. ​​The fees are competitive with doctor's office co-pays. Plus, it allows Publix to become a one-stop location for both healthcare and pharmaceuticals. 

Publix Pharmacy offers a variety of offerings that continue to set it apart from other pharmacies. These services include pet medication, $5 prescription delivery, Sync Your Refills, and compounded medications.

16. You once could get free prescriptions at Publix but not anymore

For a while, Publix offered some medications at no cost to its customers. By 2020, it had filled 100 million free prescriptions for its customers, access to medicines some customers couldn't otherwise afford. According to Wink News, the free prescriptions were for generic versions of antibiotics and drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to The Ledger, Publix released the following statement to customers in March of 2022: "While we are no longer offering medications for free, many will still be available at Publix Pharmacy at little to no out-of-pocket cost with most insurance plans." By June of 2022, Publix pharmacies no longer offered free medications to customers.

However, Publix also announced that "Maintenance medications, including Metformin, Lisinopril, and Amlodipine, will be eligible for $7.50 for a 90-day supply and Amoxicillin will be $7.50 for a 14-day supply" (via CBS News). So, even if you don't have insurance, it's still possible to get these medications for a low price.

17. Publix Liquors is now available in 300+ locations

Publix opened its first Publix Liquors store in 2003. Now you can find Publix Liquors in over 300 locations. You don't have to make a separate stop on your way home from the grocery store to buy liquor while your food gets hot in your car. You'll find liquor, wine, and beer in the liquor area, along with soft drinks, mixers, and alcohol-related accessories. So, there's no need to go elsewhere if you want mixers or forget a corkscrew when picking up a bottle of wine for a romantic picnic.

You actually save money at Publix Liquors when you buy in bulk through the Publix Liquors Discount Program, which can offset the cost of liquor taxes a bit. When you purchase at least eight bottles of liquor, you will get a 10% discount on the purchase price. Keep in mind that this discount only applies to non-sale purchases of liquor bottles in 750-milliliter, 1.0-liter, and 1.75-liter bottles.

The days and times Publix Liquors is open will correspond with the liquor laws in your state. You may not be able to buy liquor every day or time you enter an open Publix, so plan accordingly.

18. You can take cooking classes with Publix's Apron Cooking School

Publix has a cooking school you probably never knew about called Publix Aprons Cooking School. The majority of these casual-level cooking schools are in Florida Publix supermarkets. However, some locations in Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia are also giving them a try. No matter your cooking skill level, you can find a class that's perfect for you. Some classes are for demonstration only, while others are hands-on. You can sign up for couples cooking classes, classes for kids in various age groups, or cooking classes for the entire family. Aprons Cooking School has workshops to learn how to make specialty items like pasta or bread. Or, if you have something specific in mind for yourself or a group, private cooking classes are also a possibility. Even if your city's Publix doesn't have a cooking class or your state doesn't have a Publix, you can still give one of the Apron Cooking School virtual cooking classes a try.

There are two ways to find out what classes the Publix Apron Cooking School near you is offering each month. You can click on your city's name on the Publix Apron Cooking School website to view its calendar of events, or, if you have a Club Publix account, you can find a calendar in the My Cooking School section.

19. You might be able to renew your car registration at a Publix

Standing in line for car registration renewal at the DMV is an item you can mark off your list of dreaded yearly tasks if you are lucky enough to live in Florida and have a Florida MV Express kiosk in your local Publix. According to Wink News, there's no need to queue up in a long line at the DMV when you can use your credit card at a kiosk in Publix to renew your car registration in under two minutes. While there's a 2.3% transaction fee for using the kiosk, many people find this nominal feel worth the time and headache it saves them compared to trying to take care of registration the old-fashioned way. Not only can you renew your personal car, truck, or motorcycle registration, but you can also renew registration for your utility trailer or camper trailer. However, the kiosk is not available for autonomous vehicles, boats, mobile homes, or government vehicles.

Unfortunately, not all registration renewals are possible at the kiosk. For example, you will have to go to the DMV in person if you need a new license plate or have insurance, license, or toll suspensions. You will also need to go to the DMV in person if you must provide a Florida Certificate of Insurance or IRS Heavy Use Tax 2290 form (via Q105).

20. You can rep your love of the store with Publix merch

The Publix Company Store sells a little bit of everything for you or the Publix lover in your life. If you love Publix, hang up an "I love Publix" sign to let the world know. You can use your Publix messenger bag, lunch tote bag, tumbler, mug, key tags, pen, and notebook at work or school to rep your love every day. Then, wear your bright green Publix slides to the pool, and bring a Publix rugby blanket to your next rugby match.

Do you have a Publix lover in your life? Throw a Publix party for them with Publix food and Publix-branded napkins, plates, bottle openers, and party hats. Don't forget to get all your party food from the Publix deli. You can even wear Publix-branded clothing next time you go to Publix to make people think you work there. If you're a real Publix fan, you're there enough that people probably already think you work there anyway.

21. You can use Presto! ATMs at Publix stores

If you need access to the money in your checking or savings account, you can find Presto! ATMs inside your Publix store. If your bank, credit union, or other financial institution is a member of the Presto! Network, you'll be happy to learn that Presto! won't charge you any fees to access your money. You can find out if the Publix near you has a Presto! ATM or if your institution is in-network using tools on the Publix website. If your institution isn't a Presto! member, you'll have to pay $2.95 to use the machine.

While you can remove money from your account with a Presto! ATM, it's not possible to make an account deposit. There's also a $600 per-transaction limit. However, you can start a new transaction to withdraw more, up to the limit your bank or other financial institution has set. You can rest assured that Presto! ATMs at Publix use anti-skimming technology that ensures unauthorized devices a thief might try to attach to the machine won't be able to read or transmit your card data.

22. You don't have to buy more than you need

Publix understands that no two families or groups are the same, so it makes its party platters highly customizable for your special event. For example, if your Publix Deli Pizza Roll-up Platter serves 28, there's no need to buy two platters (enough for 56 people) to feed 35 people. Instead, let the deli know you need a platter that serves 35, and it can make a platter for 35 instead of 28. It's simply a matter of the deli doing a little math, adding or subtracting items, and charging you a little more or less to meet your actual needs.

Publix will even break packages down smaller to provide the size you need. Don't need a full package of a bakery treat? The bakery can divide the contents of the package to allow you to buy exactly how many you need instead of the whole container. When you don't have to buy a whole package, there won't be as many temptations lying around when you only wanted a little treat.

23. Customers love Pub Subs

One reason people love Publix is that it has around 30 types of subs available for purchase from its deli. These subs, which fans lovingly call "Pub Subs," feature everything from cold cuts and meat salads to chicken tenders. Publix subs are highly customizable. You can choose to get a half or whole sub with your choice of bread, a spinach base, or a lettuce base. Choose your cheese type, add vegetable toppings, and request your favorite condiments. Adding extras like bacon, guacamole, hummus, or avocado is possible for a $1 upcharge. Asking for your Pub Sub to be pressed or toasted is also an option.

Publix says its most popular Pub Sub is the Publix Chicken Tender Sub. There are also a few subs that are only available for a limited time each year. For example, ones with cranberry relish are only available between Thanksgiving and Christmas (via Reddit).

Pub sub fan u/Thai_ice_Tea says on Reddit that "it's really the bread and combination of boars head meats that make it so good. And the chicken tenderloins ... come from Perdue Farms." Reddit's u/Blutrumpeter says, "They are worth more than a Subway footlong because they shove a ton of toppings and way more meat than normal. Boar's Head meat is no joke so if you're snobby about your meat then Publix subs are definitely the way to go."

24. You can take advantage of Publix Aprons Meal Kits

While Publix has been offering its version of meal kits in stores for around 20 years, the store has recently created a more evolved version. Publix Aprons Meal Kits easily compete with all the meal delivery services that have popped up in the last few years (via Tampa Bay Times). These meal kits were available at just a couple of stores in 2017, but within a few years, more stores began to offer them.

The idea behind Publix Aprons Meal Kits is that they are "Deliciously chef-inspired. Simply home-cooked." In-store chefs create each meal, the store assembles all the ingredients and provides prep (like chopping vegetables), and you take the kit home to cook. The recipe and cooking instructions are on the back of the packaging label. The only ingredients and prep items Publix doesn't include are pantry staples like zip-lock bags, olive oil, salt, and pepper. So far, its most popular meal kit is the Aprons Chicken and Dumpling Slow Cooker Meal Kit.

Visit the Publix Aprons Meal Kits website to find out if there are meal kits available in your local store. If they are, you can find them in the meat department. If you can't find them in your local store, keep looking; they will be available in more stores soon.

25. Some Publix stores sold hurricane cakes

Grocery stores prepare for hurricanes by closing based on weather conditions. However, Publix has helped hurricane preppers ease their anxiety by making hurricane cakes and large decorated hurricane cookies. "Sometimes we need decorated emotion support cakes!" says @amandaaKP on Twitter. According to Senior Lifestyle Editor Terri Peters of Yahoo!, eating a hurricane cookie cake while watching hurricane news has been a tradition since moving to Florida. Hurricane cookie cakes have an image of the state of Florida and the eye of the storm, while regular cookie cakes usually have a rainbow-colored hurricane eye swirling at the top. Traditionally, the cakes say, "Go away, Dorian" (or whatever name the current hurricane has).

However, in 2022, as Hurricane Ian threatened, there were no hurricane cakes or cookie cakes to be found in Publix bakeries. Some bakeries initially said they could provide a private order, but it seems that Publix corporate began cracking down even on those. Publix says, "Our associates make every effort to support our customers during weather events. Oftentimes, this includes finding ways to delight them with their favorite Publix items as they prepare for uncertainty. For these requests, in particular, it is our company policy to not produce bakery cakes that would make light of a natural disaster." So it's no longer possible to find hurricane cakes at Publix.