Here Everything's Bigger

Texas supermarket giant thinks small: Are tiny grocery stores the wave of the future?

Texas supermarket giant thinks small with plans for tiny grocery store

Places-Shopping-H-E-B Buffalo Market
H-E-B's agreement to make a smaller storefront for downtown San Antonio is part of growing boutique-size grocery store trend. Photo by John Everett

Although H-E-B usually embodies the mantra of "bigger is better," the Texas grocery chain is making a surprisingly small move in its hometown. The San Antonio Business Journal reports that San Antonio has approved a 12,000-square-foot H-E-B in the heart of the city at the intersection of East Cesar Chavez Boulevard and South Flores Street.

The mini-H-E-B is a first for the retailer, which generally constructs stores around 60,000 square feet. According to SABJ, city officials requested that the company build a smaller H-E-B in the downtown area due to the expected influx of residents. Like Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, San Antonio's rapid growth has been well documented, and has challenged city leaders to find ways to service the city's growing urban core.

The Washington Post points out that as U.S. cities grow, grocers that put an emphasis on natural food options and ready-made offerings are more attractive options to urban residents than the big box stores usually found in the suburbs. Using statistics from real estate and investment firm Jones Long LaSalle, the Post highlights how "fresh markets" (like Whole Foods) and "limited assortment stores" (like Trader Joe's or Austin's Royal Blue Grocery) may beat out traditional supermarkets in sales projections within the next five years.

And H-E-B isn't the only supermarket retailer tapping into the smaller trend. Ohio-based Kroger is looking to service downtown dwellers in its own hometown of Cincinnati, another city suffering from a supermarket void. "For a long time, we were focused on a traditional-size store," CEO Rodney McMullen told the Cincinnati Business Courier last year. "Now we’re looking at alternatives."

It remains unclear if H-E-B has plans to open another store of this size. The grocer's downtown San Antonio location is slated to open in fall 2015.