Home to some of the nation’s most highly regarded research centers, biotech, pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, and a foundation of more than 46,000 healthcare establishments, Florida has established itself as a true hub for the medical industry. With one in every six jobs in the region being in the Health and Life Science sector, no one can deny the industry’s economic impact.

According to U.S. News & Report’s annual list of top hospitals, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville is regarded as Florida’s best hospital and nationally ranked in seven adult specialties. Unknown to most, if it weren’t for a 1939 grocery industry deal, it’s quite possible the renowned institution would have never ended up in Jacksonville and the city’s Southside would not be the bee hive of activity that it is today.

The story of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville began in the 1920s with the establishment of what would eventually become Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie traces its roots back to 1925 when William Milton Davis acquired the Rockmoor Grocery in Miami. Changing its name to the Table Supply Company in 1927, the chain had expanded into Central Florida when Davis abruptly passed in 1934, leaving the business to his sons, James Elsworth (J.E.), Artemus Darius, Milton Austin, and Tine W. Davis. Believing that his father had died due to poor medical care, the company’s new chairman J.E. Davis, developed a life-long interest in ensuring that the best medical care would be available to his family.

The first Table Supply store. Identified in the photograph are: W.M. Davis (founder at the far right), third from left is his son J.E. Davis and fifth is son A.D. Davis. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

At the same time, William “Bill” Lovett was in the midst of building a massive grocery enterprise of his own in Jacksonville. Founded by Lovett and E.L. Winn in 1920, Winn & Lovett had expanded to 78 stores in Florida and Georgia when Lovett convinced the Davis brothers to mortgage most of their possessions to acquire 51% of his larger company’s stock in 1939. In 1944, the Davis family acquired Lovett’s remaining shares, taking over the Winn & Lovett corporate moniker and relocating their headquarters to Jacksonville.

In 1955, after being listed as Florida’s first industrial corporation on the New York Stock Exchange three years earlier, Winn & Lovett merged with Greenville, SC based-Dixie Home Stores, becoming Winn-Dixie Stores and one of the top ten supermarket chains in the country. By the late 1960s, Winn-Dixie had become the most profitable company in the industry, leading to J.E. Davis being labeled as one of the 10 most powerful men in Florida by the St. Petersburg Times. This power of influence would be successful proven with the recruitment of the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

When Winn-Dixie opened a new 16,500 square feet in Tallahassee’s Apalachee Parkway Shopping Center in 1958, it immediately became one of the largest supermarkets in the Big Bend area. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.