When H-E-B announced Aug. 11 it would finally open its first location in Tarrant County, fans reacted as if they’d just been handed a freshly baked tortilla straight from the grocery store’s ovens.
An earlier announcement of a location in the Alliance area had whetted H-E-B fans’ appetites, only to have that news yanked back a few hours later. But this one in Mansfield went down smoother than H-E-B’s creamy poblano pasta sauce.
The Mansfield H-E-B store will be at the corner of U.S. Highway 287 and Broad Street, where the grocery has about 28 acres. More details on the size and type of store will be announced during the groundbreaking, planned for the first of next year.
An H-E-B store is more than just another grocery store, said Chris Doggett, executive vice president of Stream Realty, a commercial real estate firm with operations across North Texas.
“It’s a destination,” said Doggett. “It is an economic driver for the area.”
For cities like Mansfield, getting an H-E-B will mean additional sales tax dollars likely coming from outside the area and additional development around the location, he said.
“If you have an office building near an H-E-B, it’s going to make it easier to lease. It’s that sort of thing,” he said.
In addition, Doggett said, H-E-B is known for its involvement in the community.
“Any community wants to see them come to town,” he said. “Because when they come, they quickly become part of the community, sponsoring events and organizations.”
H-E-B began in 1905 in South Texas and currently employs 116,000 around the state. The company is known for low prices and innovative products that emphasize the company’s Texas roots. The company also operates Central Market stores, which offers more international and organic foods and higher-end products.
The power of the H-E-B brand is singular, said Allen Wallach, CEO of PAVLOV , a Fort Worth-based agency.
“H-E-B is a brand unicorn with customer loyalty of almost mythical proportions,” said Wallach. “The beloved grocery chain stands above the rest because it is fanatical about delivering a true Texas experience, including Texas-made products, a product mix that appeals across the state’s diverse cultures, an appealing price-value relationship and a dose of Lone Star hospitality for good measure.”
H-E-B’s competitors have moved to counter the chain’s appeal by working to make their stores more of an experience.
“You see Kroger doing things like their new stores with more amenities,” said Doggett.
Among the most fanantical H-E-B fans of the grocery chain is Emily Hill, who grew up in Weatherford. When the 32-year-old marketing executive moved to the Austin area a few years ago, she became a big fan of the H-E-B experience. So much so, she began a Facebook page, H-E-B Obsessed and website, devoted to the store.
“When my husband and I first moved here, we went to H-E-B and said, ‘Wow, everything is so cheap and amazing in here,’ ” she said.
But there was no way to find when and where to find some of those unique items.
“If you showed up at the wrong time, you would miss something and, hey, it might be great,” she said.
Some offerings are only available for a short time and some items return on a seasonal basis. Hill wanted some way to let people know when those unique products would be on the shelves.
One recent offering she became obsessed with is bourbon barrel smoked beef sausage.
“It’s so good,” she said.
Although very popular, the sausage left the shelves for a short while, replaced by another product.
“But they must have had some demand for it, because it was back recently, much sooner than I expected,” she said.
One secret to H-E-B’s success is the many house brands that have new innovative offerings, Hill said. One recent offering was a house brand potato chip with a vanilla milkshake flavor.
“I know, it sounds really gross, but it was sweet and salty at the same time and it was delightful,” she said. “It’s things like that, you just have to try it and then when it turns out to be really good? That’s what makes shopping there a great experience.”
H-E-B has several stores near Tarrant County – in the Johnson County side of Burleson, for example, and has several more sites it could develop into retail locations. In July, the company confirmed it has acquired land in Prosper and Rockwall as future store sites. Stores in Frisco, McKinney and Plano are already under construction.
In June, a news release announced an H-E-B at Parkside at Alliance, joining retailers such Torchy’s Tacos, Black Rifle Coffee Company and others. But that release was later retracted. Still, H-E-B owns land there and the developer, Hillwood, said a major grocer would be part of the Parkside development.
Clearly, the company plans to turn the Metroplex into H-E-B country. Expect to read many more press releases like this one from Mansfield Mayor Michael Evans:
“For years our residents have asked for an H-E-B, and on behalf of the City Council, we are proud to welcome this economic driver and much desired business to Mansfield.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.