When the sliding doors open next week on the new 90,000-square-foot Tanglewood H-E-B, the chichi neighborhood will be introduced to an elevated grocery concept that is set to place the San Antonio-based company squarely in the lead in the lively Houston supermarket competition.
Already, the exterior of the mega-store is creating buzz among those who regularly travel the San Felipe and Fountainview corridors. The lush 250-foot linear wall of living plants, the soaring metal canopy at the entrance and the site of rooftop vertical windows promising a flood of natural light have the neighbors chattering.
"Who would have ever thought that people could get excited about something like a grocery store other than the people who put the grocery stores together?" mused H-E-B Houston division president Scott McClelland.
Beyond such remarkable additions as a 60-foot yogurt case offering 498 varieties of yogurt ("A lot of culture," as McClelland quips), the new H-E-B will feature a restaurant, Table 57.
"Our competition continues to get better," he explained. "And if you don't change, you die. I keep looking at different things that we can do that will make our stores more attractive to more customers."
Beyond such remarkable additions as a 60-foot yogurt case offering 498 varieties of yogurt ("A lot of culture," as McClelland quips), the new H-E-B will feature a restaurant, Table 57, created under the guidance of top Houston chef Randy Evans. The restaurant's name is derived from the area's 77057 zip code.
Although H-E-B has restaurants in one of its Austin and San Antonio locations, McClelland says the Houston eatery "will be much more ambitious than what you see there. The quality of the food had to be a big step up from where we were."
It's an amenity— with indoor/outdoor dining, cooking classes and wine tastings — that McClelland believes will pay off for the store, particularly with Evans' input. "He's been pretty inventive in what he has done for us."
Those checking in for a meal can expect such au courant offerings as shrimp and grits, seven varieties of burgers and a sophisticated selection of salads including arugula with candied walnuts, apples, raisins and goat cheese and Tuscan kale and cannellini bean salad with grilled tuna. Soups, sandwiches and daily specials will round out the offerings. Breakfast will be served on weekends.
"The food has got to taste great," McClelland said, adding that it must appeal to the female palate. "Seventy-five percent of the people who shop in our store are women. The food needs to appeal to women because that is who is in our store."
"If we expect people to shop with us, we have to be better in everything." Scott McClelland
Beyond the restaurant, shoppers will find a specialized spice blending station, a scratch bakery and tortilleria, Asian fare, a floral department capable of handling everything from a simple bouquet to full-blown weddings and loads more making this store as much of a destination grocery as the new Whole Foods Market in BLVD Place.
At 10,000 square feet larger than the Montrose H-E-B, the Tanglewood store features a "living wall," improved over the Montrose design, according to McClelland. At 250 feet long and 14 feet high, the verdant facade along Fountainview boasts 22,000 indigenous plants, many of which are starting to bloom as spring approaches.
"If we expect people to shop with us, we have to be better in everything. We have to be better in price and we have to be better in service," McClelland concludes.
In preparation for the opening, store manager Donna Theriot treated the 400 partners (employees) to a lively Cajun festival lunch on Saturday with Ragin Cajun providing the food and drink and the Zydeco Dots playing tunes that kept the parking lot jiving for several hours. The party concluded with a tour of the new store for the partners.