Winn-Dixie is a grocery chain operating in the southeastern United States. The company operates outlets under the trade names Winn-Dixie, Winn-Dixie Marketplace, and SavRite. In their almost century of operations they have experienced both boom and bust cycles.

Humble beginnings
The store's history began in 1913 in Burley, Idaho. Carl Davis found employment with the Clark Mercantile, a small local grocer. He was joined later that same year by brother William Milton (WM) Davis. The brothers bought the store in 1914 and renamed it the Davis Mercantile.

W. M. Davis listened to the advice of brother Carl, moved to Florida and purchased the Rockmoor Grocery in Miami. The year was 1925, and Florida was booming. W. M. was financed by a $10,000 loan from his father. He was joined in the venture by his 4 sons, who became shareholders. The firm changed the name to Table Supply in 1927, as well as adding 4 more stores to the growing concern.

Growth spurt
In 1931, W. M. and his sons acquired Lively Stores, a retail chain. The purchase of the chain for $10,000 grew the company to 33 Table Supply stores ranging from Miami to Tampa.

Founder of the chain W. M. Davis died from pneumonia in 1934, and leadership passed into the hands of his 4 sons.

Bill Lovett, head of Winn & Lovett, convinced the Davis brothers to buy into a majority position of his company, adding another 73 stores to the now regional grocery chain. This acquisition positioned them favorably for further expansion after WW II. The Davis brothers adapted the Winn & Lovett name in 1944, as well as the corporate headquarters in Jacksonville, Fl. The next year, Winn & Lovett acquired the 31 unit Steiden Stores chain in Kentucky. The company grew again with the purchase of Margaret Ann Stores, another Florida chain with 46 units.

The 50s saw continued growth with Winn & Lovett being listed on the NYSE, becoming the first Florida industrial corporation on the stock exchange. Their ticker symbol was WIN, a symbol still in use today. The company pushed into South Carolina in 1955, adding the assets of both Ballantine Stores and Eden Stores. The same year Winn & Lovett made the jump into Mississippi with the purchase of Penney Stores. Winn & Lovett also acquired the 117 unit Dixie Home Stores in 1955, and changed their corporate name to Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. The company was becoming a regional powerhouse in the grocery business.

In 1956, the company absorbed the Ketner-Milner Stores in North Carolina, Hills Stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, and King Stores in Georgia. Winn-Dixie purchased the City Market stores in the Bahamas in 1967. By 1969, Winn-Dixie was operating 715 stores throughout the southern United States.

To serve the empire that had been created through acquisitions, the company opened regional offices/distribution centers in Charlotte, North Carolina, Orlando, Florida, and Fort Worth, Texas. This move was accomplished in 1973-76.

1982-83 saw the rise of the 3rd generation of the Davis family into upper management. A. Dano Davis, son of J. E. Davis, became President and Principal Executive Officer in 1982. The next year R. D. Davis, son of A. D. Davis, became Vice Chairman of the Board, then became Chairman in 1984.

That same year, Winn-Dixie opened its first Winn-Dixie Marketplace store in Valdosta, Georgia, a 45,000 square foot outlet.

In 1995, Winn-Dixie purchaseed 25 Thriftway markets in Ohio.

To meet the new technological advances in the grocery business, Winn-Dixie installed their first self checkout system in 1996, followed by adding the system to several more stores the following year. In 1998, the company launched its website,

storms on the horizon
In 1999, Al Rowland became President and CEO. The company underwent a major restructuring in 2000, centralizing purchasing, advertising, and marketing. Winn-Dixie acquired 68 grocery stores, 32 fuel centers, and 2 liquor stores in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. In the period 2000-2002, the company rebranded over 50 stores in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi to their SavRite Grocery Warehouse brand. Winn-Dixie launched their customer loyalty card program in 2002, a means of providing rewards, discounts, and incentives for shopping at their stores. The company withdrew from its Texas and Oklahoma markets, concentrating on their core region.

Another change occurred at the top in 2003 with Frank Lazaran being named President and CEO of Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. The company launched a store brand initiative, offering high quality product under the store's own label at substantially reduced prices compared to nationally advertised brands.

Storm clouds continued to gather in 2004 with implementation of an Asset Rationalization Plan, expense reductions, and key brand initiatives.

Peter L. Lynch was appointed President and CEO in 2004, the 3rd such change at the top in a 5 year period.

Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in 2005, and announced a severely reduced operating area. The new operating area consisted of Florida and portions of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The fall of 2006 saw Winn-Dixie emerge from Chapter 11 protection, and the issue of new company stock to be traded on NASDAQ.

Even though severely reduced from its former reach, Winn-Dixie is still a major grocer in the southeastern United States, ranking #305 on the Fortune 500 list of the nation's largest companies.

legacy of community involvement
The company throughout its history has been active in community programs and charitable support. In 1934, the year the founder died, the family began an association with the Mayo Clinic, which still continues today. In 1960, J. E. Davis read Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery. Affected by his exposure to the trials experienced by slaves and their descendants in acquiring an education, Davis, through Winn-Dixie, began funding various black educational institutions. These include Bethune-Cookman College, Rust College, Florida Memorial College, The Tuskegee Institute, the National Council of Negro Women, and others.

Winn-Dixie opened the American Cancer Society/ Winn-Dixie Hope Lodge in Gainesville, Florida in 1985. The Hope Lodge provides a place to stay without cost for persons receiving outpatient cancer treatment. The program received the Presidential Award for Private Sector Initiatives in 1986. Two more Hope Lodges were added, 1 in Miami in 1993, with the 3rd opening in Atlanta in 1998.

Winn-Dixie sponsored its Youth Management Day in 1989, providing an opportunity for exemplary associates to assume the role of management for one day each year. The program is still an annual event.


My Winn-Dixie
We used to have a Winn-Dixie Store in our area before the corporate restructuring and subsequent bankruptcy eliminated it. We shopped there on a regular basis. The store had a kind of 'old school' atmosphere. They still had bag boys, though the baggers were usually anything but boys, being senior citizens. They would bag your groceries, then wheel the cart out to your car and place the groceries into your vehicle. That was a very nice touch, one that I'm sure weighed upon the bottom line of the company. The old man who was usually there was very stooped, bowed under his years. He wasn't there for fun or gas money, he was there because he needed the job to supplement his meager Social Security check. I knew the man, so I also knew his circumstances. Winn-Dixie helped him by giving him a means to help himself. To my way of thinking, that is corporate responsibility. Neither I nor the man aforementioned want a handout, but simply want a way to support ourselves. I believe most people still desire that same thing.

One of the cashiers was an old girl who once remarked to me, after the lady in line ahead of me had made her purchases and left, "That's Doctor XXXXX's wife. She's in here every day, buying a bottle of sherry." I always wondered what she had to say about me after I'd gone.

Winn-Dixie may have become a victim of tradition. They didn't install carells which almost demand that you place your bags into your cart. They emphasized customer service, and customer service has a price. Winn-Dixie had a lot of stores, but they also had a lot of older stores, smaller stores, stores which required more in maintainance than a modern facility while at the same time lacking the ability to stock the gazillion items the American consumer has come to expect.

Winn-Dixie , at least where I live, had become a reflection of myself. It had become somewhat old, and it had its idiosyncrasies, which I deceive myself into believing are marks of character. I liked Winn-Dixie and hope they have a rebirth. If they do, and if they return to my area, I hope they return with a heart much like the one they had when they departed.

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