Sunshine

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

Founded
March 8, 1944
Closure

1997 (as a chain)

2008 (last independent location)

Locations
7 at peak
Areas served
Panama City, Lynn Haven, and Millville (also Panama City Beach for a time)

History

The history of Sunshine Supermarkets begins on March 8, 1944, when Luther Darius (L.D.) and his wife Leona Lewis, originally from Milton, opened a franchise of the Jitney-Jungle grocery store chain on the corner of Harrison Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Panama City. He changed the name of the parent company to "Sunshine Grocery Co., Inc." in 1953.

In 1958, he moved the original Jitney Jungle to a new building at 1512 Harrison Avenue. After more locations opened later on, this one was referred to as the "Sputnik" because of its mid-century-modern signage, which was easily the most noteworthy thing about this location. The sign, manufactured by Freeman Electric, measured 52 feet from top to bottom, and showcased an impressive display of light. The top of the sign featured a sphere measuring four feet in diameter with eighteen spikes of eight different colours protruding from it. The sphere was split, made so that half would spin in one direction and the other spun in another as the spire it was attached to also rotated. This sign would stay up until the entire building was demolished in 1986.

In 1966, Lewis changed the name of the store entirely to Sunshine Food Stores, officially becoming independent from Jitney Jungle, after securing ample refrigerated warehouse space for his products.

The 1970s saw significant economic growth in both Sunshine and their convenience store sector, Jr. Food Stores, leading them to go public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972 under the ticker symbol SJRS.

In 1981, L.D. Lewis suffered a heart attack and died in his office at the age of 74. Lewis' will had specific instructions concerning ownership of the company, but he had not stipulated who would run the company. His family was embroiled in a dispute because of this, and a nephew who had served as president of Sunshine-Jr. Stores, Inc. for sixteen years prior (James E. Lewis, Jr., later founder of Express Lane) was ousted. 

In 1982, his daughter, Lana-Jane Lewis-Brent, assumed her position as CEO of Sunshine-Jr. Stores, and with her new direction, she took steps to try to modernise the company's brands and update their image. The under-performing Beach location was closed around this time.

In 1985, local artist Paul Brent, her husband, was tasked with creating a new visual identity for both Sunshine and Jr. Food Stores, and a new look for both was rolled out in January 1986. With this, Sunshine Food Stores' name was changed to just Sunshine Supermarkets.

In the same year, the original location was demolished to make way for a larger-scale Jr. Food Store, with a deli and seating area inside.

In December 1992, Sunshine-Jr. Stores, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As time went on, more and more Sunshine locations were sold to Grocery Outlet and Save-a-Lot. 

After Sunshine-Jr. as a whole went bust in April 1995, and only two locations remained, the connected (but now independently-owned) supermarkets attempted a rebrand back to their old identity, which still did nothing to keep them afloat. The second-to-last location closed in mid-1997.

After this closure, the last location (No. 4) renamed itself to Sunshine Foods and lasted on its own until 2008, when it was closed and turned into a Dollar General.

 

Locations

#1: 1512 Harrison Ave (original location at 657 Harrison opened 1944, closed 1958, this location opened 1958, closed and demolished in 1985)

#2: 2800 E 5th Street (opened 1948, demolished and rebuilt 1971 (grand opening of new building 9/16/1971), closed mid-1990s, (became Save-A-Lot, then Grocery Outlet, destroyed by Hurricane Michael)

#3: 2440 St Andrews Blvd (opened 1949, demolished and rebuilt 1973, closed 1993, turned into bingo hall, now Northstar Church)

#4: 901 Cherry Street (opened 1952, closed 2008, now Dollar General)

#5: 902 Ohio Avenue, Lynn Haven (opened 1954, closed 1997, became Save-A-Lot, then Grocery Outlet, destroyed by Hurricane Michael)

#6: 106 N Tyndall Pkwy (Parkaway Shopping Center), Callaway (opened late 1950s, closed 1990s?, now a strip mall)

#7: 16002 Front Beach Rd? (Wayside Shopping Center), Panama City Beach (opened 1961, closed 1984)

#8: This was a Jitney Jungle store located somewhere in Port St. Joe. It was closed in the late fifties after only a few years in business. As it had already no longer been counted by 1961, the first Jr. store took its number.