10 Things You Didn’t Know About Winn-Dixie
These days it’s hard to imagine not being able to stop by a Winn-Dixie grocery store to pick-up whatever ingredients you need for supper. The stores are as much a part of Southern food as pimento cheese, sweet tea, and Waffle House. Even movies sent in the South tend to find their way to a Winn-Dixie. One of the most famous scenes from Fried Green Tomatoes was set in their parking lot and Kate DiCamillo’s beloved children’s book Because of Winn-Dixie has Winn-Dixie right in the title. While you may have wandered the aisles of Winn-Dixie’s for hours bargain hunting, there may still be a few things that you don’t know about the grocery store.
1. The store may have grown up in the South, but its roots are in Idaho
Davis got into the grocery business back in 1913 when he started working at a general store called the Clark Mercantile in Burley, Idaho. His brother, William Milton (W.M.) joined him there and eventually bought the place, changing the name to Davis Mercantile.
After over a decade in the business, like many before—and many after—Davis decided he wanted to live in the land of sun and sea. He packed up and moved to Florida and with a $10,000 loan in his pocket he set up shop in Miami, buying the Rockmoor Grocery in 1925.
2. It’s a family business
While Carl Davis ran the show, his brother W.M. always gave him great advice (like the whole moving to Florida thing). Once they had started their operations in the South, W.M. came on board as a stockholder, along with sons Artemus Darius (A.D.), James Elsworth (J.E.), Austin and Tine, according to the Groceteria site, dedicated to grocery store history. The Davis family changed the name of their store to Table Supply, and continued to grow their grocery business by buying up stores like the Lively Stores chain. The family still owns shares in the corporation today.
3. They helped bring the Mayo Clinic to the South
William Davis died from pneumonia back in 1934 and the family believed it should have been prevented. They struck up a relationship with the renowned Mayo Clinic, which continues to this day. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, J.E. Davis helped bring the Mayo Clinic to Jacksonville and the Davis family donated 400 acres of land for the new clinic. Winn-Dixie’s website also provides health-related information and healthy recipes from the doctors at the Mayo Clinic and they donated funds for the Mayo Clinic’s medical library.
4. Winn & Lovett
To continue growing their family’s grocery empire, in 1939 they bought 51% of Winn & Lovett, a grocery chain with 73 stores across the Carolinas. They changed their name from Table Supply to Winn & Lovett and set up their headquarters in Jacksonville. The company grew a lot under the Winn & Lovett name, snapping up Steiden stores in Kentucky, buying out 46 Margaret Ann Stores in Florida, and shops in Mississippi, South Carolina, too. That fond memory is probably why the store named their private label, Winn & Lovett, even though it has since been phased out.
5. They were the first Florida corporation to trade on the NY Stock Exchange
Winn-Lovett earned a place in history as the first Florida-based corporation to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Grocery.com.
6. Winn-Dixie was actually their fifth name
It wasn’t until 1955 that the Davis family bought 117 Dixie Home Stores and along with that purchase, they stumbled upon the name that we all know and love: Winn-Dixie.
7. The checkmark in their name dates back
The checkmark in the Winn-Dixie logo—and their famous Chek brand—comes courtesy of another chain of stores that the company acquired called Kwik Chek, according to the Jax History site.
8. They are a long-time supporter of historically black colleges
After reading Booker T. Washington’s book Up From Slavery, James Davis decided that he wanted to support historically black colleges, including Bethune-Cookman College where Ja-Flo residence hall is named after James and Florence Davis.
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9. They are international
While Winn-Dixie may be best known in the South, the company is international. They took over the City Markets stores in the Bahamas way back in 1967 turning them into Winn-Dixies.
10. Kate DiCamillo wrote her book Because of Winn-Dixie because she was homesick
The author, whose book about a dog discovered at a Winn-Dixie was turned into a movie of the same name, explained the book’s quirky name to her publisher: “I wrote Because of Winn-Dixie because I was homesick for Florida (I live in Minneapolis) and because I wanted a dog and couldn't have one (I lived in an apartment building that didn't permit them). It allowed me to go home and to spend time with a dog of the highest order.