A Publix supermarket boycott is gaining momentum after it was reported that Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a member of the billionaire family that founded the grocery chain, donated to the rally that preceded the riots at the United States Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
Fancelli donated $300,000 to help finance the bulk of former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally, which kicked off what would become a deadly and unprecedented day in U.S. history. The donation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 30. On Monday, The Guardian reported that many fans of the supermarket and its beloved subs were vowing to shop somewhere else.
"#BOYCOTTPUBLIX In Florida there are lots of options. We have Trader Joe’s, whole foods,the fresh markets - Winn Dixie, Aldi and greenwise" one shopper said on Twitter. She added that while Publix is "downstairs for me," she is now getting in her car to drive to another supermarket.
Another former avid customer of the supermarket chain, which has more than 1,200 stores in the southeastern United States, said they switched to a new grocery store after learning of Fancelli's involvement in the "Stop the Steal" rally that later became a deadly riot.
"The past two weekends I have avoided #Publix and shopped elsewhere. I refuse to fund their conservative political shenanigans #BOYCOTTPUBLIX," they wrote on Twitter.
While the supermarket has a loyal following, another shopper said a boycott was a matter of principle.
"This Publix boycott is really gonna hit my soul but it must be done," he wrote on Twitter.
Publix first commented on the report on Jan. 30 with a statement distancing the company from Fancelli.
"Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix Super Markets, and is neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way. We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions," the company wrote. “The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. The deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work or opinions of Publix Super Markets."
A spokesperson for Publix did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TODAY Food regarding increased calls for a boycott.
Fancelli's father, George Jenkins, founded in 1930 after he left Piggly-Wiggly, another supermarket chain across the South and in parts of the Midwest. The Jenkins family has an estimated net worth of $8.8 billion, according to a December 2020 article from Forbes. That ranks them the 39th wealthiest family in the United States.
In addition to funding the bulk of the reported $500,000 cost of the rally, Fancelli has also been a major donor to the GOP and Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This isn't the first time the supermarket chain has been connected to controversial political donations. Three years ago, after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, the chain temporarily stopped political donations after Parkland survivors protested the company's donation of $670,000 to the campaign of Adam Putnam, a self-described "proud NRA sellout" for state governor.
Earlier this year, Publix faced questions after it donated $100,000 to a political action committee supporting Florida Gov. Rob DeSantis' re-election. The grocery chain was then awarded a contract to exclusively distribute COVID-19 vaccines at its stores. While the governor's office denied the money was linked, according to a report, additional stores were added to the distribution plan.
While the boycott continues to pick up momentum, some people on social media warned that not shopping at Publix, a place where Fancelli is not an employee, could hurt the jobs of people who had nothing to do with her decision.
"so i understand why ppl wanna #BOYCOTTPUBLIX but remember the stores are employee owned!! skipping your pubsub isn’t going to effect the jenkins family empire in the slightest, just workers!!!" one person wrote on Twitter.
"yes!!! if you boycott publix you’re also boycotting the people who work there and may rely on that job," another added.
Publix is privately owned by the descendants of founder George Jenkins, employees and members of its board of directors, who can buy shares in the supermarket chain that pay a dividend every quarter based on the company's financial performance. The most recent share price was listed on the company's investor site at $57.95. The supermarket claims to be the largest employee-owned company in the United States.