Sunday, July 22, 2018
Human Interest

Looking Back: On June 15, 1950, St. Petersburg's first Publix supermarket opened on 16th St. N.

Images from a bygone era: St. Petersburg's first-ever Publix opened on June 15, 1950. The grand opening ad alone is priceless.

The story below appeared in the pages of the Evening Independent on June 14, 1950. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with Publix-related photos, mostly from the 1950s and 1960s.

Publix Super Markets To Open First Store in St. Petersburg

Tomorrow morning Publix Super Markets, Inc., already one of the largest grocery chains in Florida, will open its newest unit, a new 100 per cent air conditioned store on Sixteenth street north between Sixteenth and Eighteenth avenues. The store is the first of the Publix chain in St. Petersburg and is the 22nd in Central and West Florida.

Wilbur C. Cheek, who has been appointed manager of the new store, has been in St. Petersburg for the past three years and formerly was manager of a downtown grocery for 2 1/2 years. He came here from Washington, D.C. where he was connected with the Safeway grocery for 19 years.

The new Publix store here is the last word in commercial buildings of its kind. It is so designed as to be "completely dirt proof", with the front of the store made entirely of marble and glass. The store marquee is fronted with builder's glass to add to the slick cleanliness of the facade.

Publix offers an unusually large parking area for shoppers, with double parking lots on both sides of the store. Planting areas have been arranged for landscaping the parking area, which is lighted with fluorescent pylons and floodlights. Landscaping has also been continued in the front of the store area.

Page one of a two-page ad from the June 15, 1950 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, announcing the grand opening of the Publix supermarket at 1720 16th St. N. in St. Petersburg.

Page two of a two-page ad from the June 15, 1950 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, announcing the grand opening of the Publix supermarket at 1720 16th St. N. in St. Petersburg.

Store Interior

The interior of the store has been finished according to the latest modern design. Seven colors are used in its decorations. The etched-wood walls are of complementing colors, there being one each of coral pink, sunshine yellow, dawn grey, and light green. The ceiling is of white Weldtex veneer, in a block design. The floor is covered with green asphalt tile. Darker green molding and trimmings tie the color theme together. A Plexiglas canopy, featuring the various departments, with pictorial signs as well as words, stretches around the market. These signs have a life-like appearance, being lighted from behind with neon-type tubes.

Canned and packaged goods are displayed on the many feet of shelving in the market. The produce, dairy, frozen foods, and self-service meat departments all have the latest type of showcases and refrigeration units. Near the front of the store is a special department for bakery goods.

Sure to meet the approval of the shopping housewife are the new-type baby carriers and grocery carts used in the new store. The new design eliminates the possibility of the baby turning over in the cart while its mother's back is turned.

Walk-In Cooler

A walk-in vegetable cooler, made completely of stainless steel inside and porcelain on the outside, holds vegetables not on display in show units.

The latest style meat cooler and freezer and a zero-room for frozen products have also been installed. Meat sold in the market is cut in a special cooler room.

To operate the various refrigerated coolers and display units and the store's air-conditioning, 14 electrical motors have been installed in a separate motor room, in the rear of the store building. The entire inside of the store is lighted with the latest streamlined fixtures.

Publix Super Markets, Inc., has 22 stores in 17 of Florida's leading communities. Officers of the corporation are George W. Jenkins, president; William M. Hollis, vice president; Langford H. Davis, secretary-treasurer; J. H. Newsome, grocery buyer; J. K. Blanton, meat supervisor; R. H. Schroter and S. I. Nix, grocery supervisors.

Manager Cheek is a permanent resident here, living with his wife and seven children at 2934 Eighth avenue north. He is a deacon in the Central Presbyterian Church. During World War II he served with the marine corps for three years.

(Photo courtesy of Publix)

The Publix store on 16th St N (near 18th Ave). circa 1960s.

(Eric Mencher | Times)

August 16, 1982. The Publix Supermarket at 1720 16th St. N in Woodlawn Shopping Center in St. Petersburg will close August 21st. The market, opened in 1950, had been Publix's longest continuous operation at the same location in its statewide chain of 258 stores. A scarcity of shoppers spurred the decision by the Lakeland-based supermarket chain.

(Times staff photo)

August 28, 1957 - Shoppers surged to the scene... So many, in fact, that lines hundreds of persons long waited to get into the stores at the new Madeira Beach Shopping Center. Publix Super Market - at times - had to stop traffic outside the doors.

(Weaver Tripp | Times)

March 10, 1960 - Panorama Of A Well-Stocked Supply … Groceries in Publix Market at Southside Shopping Center.

(Norman Zeisloft | Times)

February 5, 1964 - Checkers To Be 'Checked Out' … Eleven checking clerks from Publix Super Markets wave goodbye before leaving for Lakeland today, where the "Checker of the Year" will be selected. These girls were selected as finalists from various local markets. Left to right, they are Judy Burnette, Jeanette Segovis, Gerda Johnson, Gladys Harper, Wanda Dobson, Vada Martin, Barbara Meritt, Aurelia Muthert, Elona Tice, Emeline Welton and Dorothy Gardner.

(Times files)

July 4, 1965 - Sellers are Also Producers … Major food chains in Florida are not just sellers. They are producers too. Many operate baking facilities like this and supply stores all over the state. This picture is at a Publix Bakery, but Food Fair supplies stores here from a bakery in Miami.

(Tom Bennett | Times)

June 25, 1969 - Lt. K. D. Clothier of the St. Petersburg Fire Department is shown with his wife and children and the $303.40 in loot he gathered in a wild, 5-minute free shopping spree in the plaza's Publix Market -- his reward for coming closest to guessing when 60 tons of ice would melt outdoors in a recent plaza promotion.

(Fred Victorin | Times)

January 30, 1967 - Vertical Food Freezers … The Latest in Upright display food freezers and dairy product display cases installed on a try-out basis at the 11-year-old Publix Market, Ninth Avenue and 49th Street North, are meeting with excellent customer acceptance, Publix officials say.


(Tim Rozgonyi | Times)

June 15, 2017 - The building on 16th St. N. that housed the first Publix supermarket to open in St. Petersburg still exists, and is now a Family Dollar store.

Special thanks to Jennifer Bush, Manager of Special Projects at Publix Super Markets, for her gracious assistance with this post.

To order reprints or download any Times photo from this story, please visit the Times image archive.

Tim Rozgonyi

Twitter: @timrozgonyi

e-mail: [email protected]

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