Jr. Food Stores

Jr. Food Stores was the convenience store division of Sunshine-Jr. Stores, Inc., headquartered in Panama City, Florida.   

Founded
May 1961
Closure
July 27, 1995
Fate
Bankruptcy; acquired by E-Z Serve
Locations
365 at peak (1982)
Areas served
Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana

History

Jr. was the brainchild of L.D. "Sunshine" Lewis, owner of the Sunshine supermarket chain that by this time had grown to six stores in the Panama City area.

The first Jr. Store opened in May 1961 at 611 W 11th St, across from Jinks Junior High School. With the success of L.D.'s past ventures due to his entrepreneurial skills, this store format became very popular, and more locations would be built with each passing year. Jr. Stores were marked by their streamlined selection of basic products and relatively low prices, housed in a distinctive 40-by-60-foot block building.

The chain took quickly to expanding throughout the Southeast. Locations were opened in Alabama starting in 1967, Georgia in 1969, Mississippi in 1975, and Louisiana in 1978.

In 1970, five Alabama locations had gas pumps installed. This proved to be wildly successful, and after this decision was proven to work, almost every subsequent store built was equipped with gasoline.

Sunshine-Jr. went public on the NYSE (ticker symbol SJRS); the stores' success led to the 200th store opening in 1974.

Following L.D.'s death in 1981, his daughter Lana Jane Lewis-Brent assumed her position as CEO of Sunshine-Jr., and some changes were made in the name of updating the company's image. Older stores were either remodeled with a more modern look, or closed so that modern buildings could be placed nearby. These varied more in terms of architecture, as the location of the store would have an impact on the shape of the building (if a building were on a corner, its front would face diagonally toward the intersection, etc.), but had the same distinctive yellow panelled marquee. In 1985, local artist Paul Brent, Lana-Jane's husband, was tasked with creating a new visual identity for both Sunshine Supermarkets and Jr. Food Stores, and a new advertising campaign and look for both was rolled out in January 1986.

As the chain grew, it expanded as far west as Hammond, LA and as far south as Ocala, FL.

Sales seemed to stagnate and Sunshine-Jr. was slowly going into debt. In December 1992, Sunshine-Jr. Stores, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

On June 22, 1993, it was announced that Ron Shouse was hired as president and CEO of the parent company as it was undergoing reorganisation. By this time, Jr.'s sister company Sunshine Supermarkets had sold all but two stores, but still couldn't recoop their losses. 

In 1994, the number of Jr. Stores in operation went from 232 to 205, and finally on July 27, 1995, all were purchased by an E-Z Serve Inc., a chain based out of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Most stores spun off to the Swifty Serve name (a merger of Suwannee Swifty and E-Z Serve) in 1999, which too went out of business in 2003.

 

Growth by number of locations (1961-1995)

Year Florida Alabama Georgia Mississippi Louisiana

Total

1961 2 -- -- -- -- 2
1962 5 -- -- -- -- 5
1963 --* --* --* --* --* *
1964 --* --* --* --* --* *
1965 --* --* --* --* --* *
1966 --* --* --* --* --* *
1967 41 -- -- -- -- 41
1968 --* --* --* --* --* *
1969** 55** 24** 2** --* --* >81**
1970 --* --* --* --* --* *
1971 67 49 7 -- --

123

1972 75 70 7 -- -- 152
1973 86 86 7 -- -- 179
1974 112 102 8 -- -- 222
1975 117 117 8 1 -- 243
1976 124 122 11 11 -- 268
1977 139 132 13 11 -- 295
1978 154 136 10 19 4 323
1979 158 143 16 21 5 343
1980 162 144 20 26 8 360
1981 161 141 22 28 9 361
1982 163 136 27 31 8 365
1983 163 126 26 29 8 352
1984 159 121 26 29 8 343
1985 164 119 26 28 8 345
1986 166 107 24 25 8 330
1987 162 92 20 36 6 316
1988 164 83 20 36 6 309
1989 --* --* --* --* --* *
1990 160 80 18 35 4 297
1991 --* --* --* --* --* *
1992 --* --* --* --* --* *
1993 --* --* --* --* --* *
1994 --* --* --* --* --* 232
1995*** --* --* --* --* --* 205

* Missing information

** Data from March 23, 1969, foreseeing the planned locations slated to open by July.

*** 1995 was not a full year for the company, as it was purchased in July. 205 is the amount of then-open stores sold,

(Note: Data from years 1971-72, 1974-88, and 1990 are taken from the respective Sunshine-Jr. Stores, Inc. Annual Reports for those years.)