Our network

Why do they call it that? Publix and Winter Haven | Community Spirit

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Why do they call it that? Publix and Winter Haven
Why do they call it that? Publix and Winter Haven

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the first Publix supermarket opening in Winter Haven. How did the supermarket get its interesting name? And how did food inspire an original, very different, name for Winter Haven?

Why do they call it Publix?

George Jenkins opened the first Publix in a storefront that's still standing across from a park in Winter Haven in 1930.

Ten years later, he closed down that store and opened something brand new. When I say brand new -- I mean something the world had never seen.

Jenkins referred to it as a "food palace," according to Shannon Patten, a spokeswoman for the Publix chain, which is now based in Lakeland.

"This Publix was a state-of-the-art grocery store, and it had innovations that had never been seen before," Patten explained. "Electronic-eye doors, air conditioning, piped-in music, and aisles so wide, that you could actually fit a car on them."

Patten says everyone knew the founder as "Mr. George," and he shared more than just a resemblance to his real-life friend Walt Disney.

Both found success by blending amazing new technology with the most old-fashioned customer service.

"Customers were so important to Mr. George, and he always told everybody that he wanted our customers to be treated like kings and queens," Patten said.

That quirky Publix name? Thank a failing movie theater chain called Paramount-Publix. At one point, the chain owned spectacular movie halls all over the country.

"It had closed down," Patten said. "And Mr. George just always liked the name Publix. So, he took it, and it stuck."

Publix is now one of the largest businesses in the entire Tampa Bay area, with more than 140,000 associates, and more than a thousand stores. And it all started with one store in Winter Haven.

Why do they call it Winter Haven?

The "Chain of Lakes City" was laid out among more than 50 lakes in eastern Polk County in 1884 and 85.

According to the city's Chamber of Commerce, railroad workers first named the town Harris Corners.

Why? Well, because of food.

Mrs. Adele Harris, who lived in the town, would cook for the railroad workers.

Soon, another town founder, P.D. Ecylesheimer, cooked up a new name.

He picked Winter Haven, for the same reason a neighboring Polk County town is called Frostproof: to convince potential settlers that even in the harshest of cold winters, this area is a safe haven for crops, cattle, and the people who farm them.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on 10 News. Watch them on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. and on 10 News at 5:30 p.m.

Check out previous editions of "Why do they call it that?" plus links to photos and maps from Tampa Bay's past at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Connect with 10 News multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm
twitter @graysonkamm | e-mail at this link | or on Facebook

Polk County Deals

Polk County Businesses