When Frank James Jr. looks back at his career with Winn-Dixie, he doesn’t just see his own four-decade legacy – he sees a family and company legacy spanning three generations and nearly 90 years.
James retired Aug. 28 after 43 years of service to Winn-Dixie. He began work with the company on Oct. 27, 1970, his 16thbirthday. During the years between, he served as a store director, store supervisor in Montgomery, Ala., produce buyer, produce merchandiser and finally district director in the Tampa region. He has served in that role for the two decades since.
Today James lives in Lakeland, Fla. He says he retired from his Winn-Dixie career with mixed emotions.
“The thing I enjoyed most about the company was the people. There are people with the company on staff or running stories who were bagging groceries when I met them,” he said. James’ father, Frank L. James, Sr., also began his Winn-Dixie career as a teenager bagging groceries. He began working for Winn & Lovett, the company banner preceding Winn-Dixie, in 1949 at a store in Lake Worth, Fla. He retired in 1989 after serving as a company executive vice president. James’ uncle, Don James, began work with Winn & Lovett in 1950 and retired in 1986 as the division manager of Winn-Dixie’s Raleigh division.
James’ grandfather, Marvin S. “Pops” James, began his grocery career at a Piggly Wiggly store in Jacksonville, Fla. in the mid-1920s. Winn & Lovett acquired the store, and in 1939 the Davis Family purchased Winn and Lovett , merging it with the Table Supply chain. Marvin James retired from Winn-Dixie in 1959 as the division manager in the Miami Division. That title is equivalent to today’s regional vice president.
There is still a member of the James legacy working for Winn-Dixie, James said -- Gary D. James is the assistant manager at Store No. 174 in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Our whole family was Winn-Dixie,” James said. Now that he’s retired, James is going to spend more time with family as well as do more hunting and fishing, he said. His best legacy, he said, is the successful careers of the Winn-Dixie leaders he’s mentored over the years. But all of it was possible thanks to the guidance of his greatest mentor, his dad,” he said. “He was the one who taught me to always be fair with your people, but to be firm as well.”