April 21, 2021

60th Anniversary

Then & Now: 1958 Florida vs. Florida today

Politics, demographics, the economy and headlines.

Mike Vogel | 4/27/2018

1958: Business Heavyweights

Jim Walter

The Tampa delivery driver, like a lot of vets in post-World War II America, couldn’t find an affordable home until he saw an ad for an unfinished house. He bought it, flipped it and realized vets like him would jump at buying a water-tight shell they could finish themselves inexpensively. He borrowed to become the builder’s partner, bought out the partner in 1948 and formed Jim Walter Corp. in 1955. His model worked perfectly in Florida. He took his company to a peak of 25,000 employees and billions in revenue and into other industries. For decades it was the only Fortune 500 company based in Tampa. The company sold to what’s today KKR in the 1980s. It went through a bankruptcy and emerged as Walter Industries in 1995. Walter himself retired a bit later and died in 2000. In 2009, the company closed its homes division — it tallied 350,000 homes over its life — and relocated its heavy industry-focused business to Alabama.

Juice

Tropicana was the Florida creation of Italian immigrant Anthony T. Rossi, a pioneer in flash pasteurization. Minute Maid and its frozen concentrate business — frozen concentrate took off in the 1950s — was another major player in Florida. An antitrust action broke up Minute Maid in 1958, and Tropicana is now owned by Pepsi.

Phosphate

International Minerals and Chemical was one of about a dozen companies in Florida that mined and processed phosphate in 1958. It’s the corporate ancestor of Mosaic, which continues to mine phosphate and is one of Florida’s largest single landowners.

Made in Florida

Along with orange juice, other prominent products made in Florida were King Edward cigars, Maxwell House coffee, Glidden paints, Owens-Illinois glass and Hudson napkins.

Tourism

In 1958, Florida’s business scene was only partly taking on its presentday contours. The Tisch family out of New York — now the leaders of Loews — had completed their Americana Hotel just a couple years earlier. Designed by Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus, designer of the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc, the Americana today is the Sheraton Bal Harbour. Today, the Tisches, through Loews, have the Loews Miami Beach and — at Universal Orlando — the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and soon Universal’s Aventura Hotel.

Florida had 11.3 million tourists in 1959. In 2017, Florida had 116 million.

Grocers

When FLORIDA TREND was founded, the grocery power in Florida was Winn- Dixie, founded by W.M. Davis in Miami and his four sons. From Jacksonville, the sons built it into a major industry player after W.M.’s death in 1934, while the sons themselves became movers and shakers in Florida.

Winn & Lovett was the first “Florida industrial corporation” to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It became Winn-Dixie with the acquisition of Dixie Home markets.

George Jenkins’ Publix proved the enduring one, however. With just 40 stores at the end of 1958, Publix grew to dominate the state grocery market and move beyond. Winn-Dixie peaked early this century, went through a bankruptcy reorganization in 2005 and 2006 and was bought by Bi-Lo in 2011. Parent company Southeastern Grocers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March.

 

See other stories from Florida Trend's May issue.

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