Winn-Dixie is a large supermarket chain in the south eastern United States of America. The company’s roots are in a local mercantile run by William Milton Davis in Burley, Idaho in 1914. Davis and his four sons would move to the booming Miami, Florida in 1925 where they would open what would become Winn Dixie. The company continued to grow and added several stores in Florida. Eventually, the Davis family would buy several grocery store chains throughout the southeastern United States and even in the Bahamas. Winn Dixie was officially born in 1955 as a large chain of supermarkets. The company was one of the first Florida industrial corporations to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Although Winn Dixie hit some financial rough patches in more recent history, the company continues to be one of the United State’s largest supermarket chains. Here are 20 things you didn’t know about Winn-Dixie.
1. The beginning
William Milton Davis and his four sons went into the grocery business in 1914 when he opened Davis Mercantile in Burley, Idaho. As was common in the early twentieth century, Davis Mercantile sold goods to customers based on credit. Unfortunately, in the 1920’s, competing mercantile stores began to sell goods for cash only. Davis Mercantile was hit hard because these new competitors had larger selections and lower prices. On the advice of his brother Carl, William Milton Davis decided to take a chance and move to Miami, Florida. The area was booming during the 1920’s. William Milton Davis borrowed $10,000 from his father and opened Rockmoor Grocery in a suburb of Miami in 1925. The store was a success, and William and his sons renamed the store Table Supply before opening up four more stores in southern Florida by 1927.
William Milton Davis and his sons prospered with their new Florida grocery chain, Table Supply. In 1931 they bought the Lively Stores chain for $10,000. Soon there were 33 Table Supply stores in Florida. When William died in 1934 he left the chain to his sons, Artemus Darius Davis, James Elsworth Davis, Milton Austin Davis and Tine Wayne Davis. The brothers continued to expand the business. In 1939, the Davises purchased 51% of the Winn & Lovett grocery chain, and in 1944, they bought the rest of the chain as well as another chain, Steiden Stores based in Kentucky. Now the Davis brothers owned 73 Winn & Lovett store and 31 Steiden Stores between Florida and Kentucky. The Davis brothers made their headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1955 the Davis Brothers further expanded and bought 117 Dixie Home (a home furnishing and carpet chain in the southern United States) and Winn-Dixie was born.
3. Winn & Lovett
E.L. Winn and W.R. Lovett founded northeast Florida’s first wholesale grocery store in 1920. Winn and Lovett expanded by building a chin of small neighborhood grocery stores. By 1928, there were 65 stores in the chain and the company Winn & Lovett was incorporated. Despite the Depression, Winn & Lovett prospered. The company consolidated its small stores into fewer but larger stores. There were 55 stores in 1934 throughout central and northeast Florida in southern Georgia. Lovett bought Winn’s shares of the stores.
4. Further Growth
Winn Dixie continued to expand through the 1950’s. The company purchased chains including Ketner-Milner Stores in North Carolina, Hill Stores in Mississippi and Louisiana, and King Stores in Georgia. The company bought City Market Stores, a Bahaman grocery chain in 1967. By 1969 Winn Dixie operated 715 stores in the southern United States. In the early 1970’s Winn Dixie opened division offices and distribution centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, Orlando, Florida and Fort Worth, Texas. In 1976, Winn Dixie bought supermarket chains in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In 1995, the company continued expansion when they purchased the Cincinnati based Thriftway Food and Drug and in 2000 with the purchase of Mississippi based Jitney Jingle.
5. Davis Brothers
Winn Dixie has always remained in the Davis family. The Davis family still maintains 35% of the company’s stock. The Davis family has been active in Florida politics since the 1950’s and support conservative candidates. Many say that William Milton Davis’ heir, James, is a financial guru. James Davis is also responsible for the family’s support of traditionally black colleges and universities. The family endowed Stetson University School of Business Administration. Davis Hall was dedicated in 1967. The Davis family has donated to Boy Scouts of America. Central Florida’s Camp La-No-Che was renamed Winn Dixie Scout Reservation.
6. Financial Problems
By the end of 2002, Winn Dixie was faced with some financial difficulties. They were forced to close 76 stores in Oklahoma and Texas. Two years later, the company closed 111 more stores in the Midwestern United States. This included stores called Thriftway around the Cincinnati area. Instead of closing Atlanta, Georgia area stores, 40 stores were converted to a different brand, Save Rite Grocery Warehouse Brand. Around this time, Winn Dixie also gave up its rights to the central Florida Boy Scout camp’s name. In 2005 the country restructured under bankruptcy and sold off a total of 326 stores leaving it with stores mostly in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Winn Dixie emerged from the bankruptcy much more financially sound. The company was sold for $530 million to BI-LO in 2011. Winn Dixie would continue to operate under the same name but would become a subsidiary to BI-LO. The company was no longer owned by the Davis family. BI-LO and Winn Dixie includes 750 stores in seven southeastern states. The company employs more than 63,000. The headquarters remains in Jacksonville, Florida.
8. 2018 Bankruptcy
Southwest Grocers owned several Winn Dixies after the 2011. They would have to sell several of the locations in Texas and Louisiana. Southwest Grocers filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and has continued a plan for reorganization. Currently the remaining Winn Dixie supermarkets are undergoing renovations.
9. Private label brands
Like all grocery stores, Winn Dixie has private label brands. In 2003 the company structured a new 3 tier private label brand system. These included Prestige (more upscale products), Winn Dixie (mainstream products) and Thrifty Maid (value items). The Thrifty Maid brand became Value Time and later Clear Value. In 2007, the private label brand received a new look with new packaging.
10. Other private label brands
Winn Dixie has private label brands in all of its departments. Chek is the company’s soda brand. There are over 20 selections of soft drinks including caffeine free options under the Chek label. Chek originated because Winn Dixie owned a company called Quicky Chek. Top Care is Winn Dixie’s health and beauty line. Whiskers & Tails is the company’s pet food and supply brand. Kuddles is Winn Dixie’s label for baby products including diapers, food and other products.
11. Fried Green Tomatoes
A Winn Dixie is featured in several scenes in the 1991 movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”. The comedy drama featured Kathy Bates as Evelyn Couch, a middle aged housewife in Alabama who befriends an older lady Ninny Threadgoode (played by Jessica Tandy) while visiting a nursing home. No one will forget the scene where Evelyn’s parking spot is taken from her by some young girls at the local Winn Dixie and Evelyn gets revenge. Winn Dixie is a prominent symbol of southern culture.
12. Because of Winn Dixie
Kate DiCamillo published a children’s book “Because of Winn Dixie” in 2000. The book is about a young girl, India Opal Buloni, who adopts a dog she finds wrecking havoc at the local Winn Dixie in the town she has just moved to with her father. Opal names the dog Winn Dixie. DiCamillo said she wrote the book because at the time she had moved away from home and missed her native Florida. She was also living in an apartment that did not allow pets and she desperately wanted to adopt a dog to help combat her loneliness. The book was turned into a film in 2005. The family comedy drama starred Anna Sophia Robb, Jeff Daniels and Cicely Tyson. There is also a Scholastic play “Because of Winn Dixie and many promotional items associated with the book and the movie including stuffed animals, t-shirts and even flashcards.
Winn Dixie has sponsored several companies and events throughout its history. The company sponsored the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Winn Dixie sponsors several car racing events. This includes NASCAR. The company was a co-sponsor along with Cargill of a Roush-Fenway race car. Winn Dixie also sponsored the NASCAR Xfinity Series 300 at the Talladega Superspeedway in 2015.
14. Mayo Clinic
When their father died of pneumonia in 1934, the William Milton Davis’ sons began a relationship with the Mayo Clinic. Feeling their father’s death could have been prevented, the Davis brothers helped bring the renowned clinic to the south. The Davis family donated 400 acres of land in Jacksonville, Florida for an extension of Minnesota research hospital. The relationship between Winn Dixie and the Mayo Clinic continues today.
15. New York Stock Exchange
When it was still known as Winn & Lovett, Winn Dixie was the first Florida corporation to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. It has been listed on the S & P 500 since February 1952 as “WIN”. The company is listed on NASDAQ as “WINN”.
As with most stores today, Winn Dixie offers a membership rewards program under the name of its parent company Southeastern Grocers. Previously Winn Dixie has two reward programs, Plenti which allowed for discounts on groceries and FuelPerks which offered shoppers cents off per gallon of gasoline at Shell Stations. The new SG Rewards program offers discounts on both groceries and gasoline. Members of the rewards program are instantly afforded gold status which allows them to get cents off per gallon at Shell Stations based on their grocery purchases. Rewards Program members can get savings on hundreds of grocery items including some beer and liquor purchases. Gift cards also garner points.
17. Distribution Centers
Winn Dixie has several distribution centers where the products sold in the supermarkets originate. There are major Winn Dixie distribution centers in Baldwin, Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami, Florida. There is also a large distribution center in Hammond, Louisiana and in Montgomery, Alabama. They are all large. The Orlando, Florida distribution center is 1 million square feet.
18. American Cancer Society
The Davis family and Winn Dixie have always been socially conscious. Their relationship with the Mayo Clinic extended in 1985, when the company joined with the American Cancer Society to open lodges where people with cancer could stay, free of cost, while receiving outpatient cancer treatments. The first American Cancer Society/Winn Dixie Hope Lodge opened in Gainsville, Florida in 1985. A second Lodge opened in Miami, Florida in 1993, and a third opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. To get funds for this endeavor, Winn Dixie holds a pledge campaign and matches contributions dollar for dollar.
19. Youth Management Day
Throughout its history, Winn Dixie has tried to be ahead of its time in business management, profit, customer service and encouragement of its employees. Winn Dixie held its first Youth Management Day in 1989. The annual event continues today. On this day, young associates become managers for the day. This is a great way for young achievers to have a chance to use management skills by taking on those responsibilities for the day. It’s also a good way for Winn Dixie managers to get insight into where they can change to create a better running business.
Although Winn Dixie has undergone some difficult times during the past two decades, the company continues to thrive in the southeastern United States. There are currently 500 Winn Dixie stores in the United States. There are also 150 Winn Dixie liquor stores and 280 in store pharmacies. The company employs over 38,000 people. Winn Dixie has nearly 3,000 items that are store brand labels. The company ranks 162 on the FORTUNE 500 list. Several Winn Dixie stores have been remodeled and become more modern grocery stores.