Never let it be said that H-E-B doesn’t keep its promises. The San Antonio-based grocer told Heights residents that if they voted to repeal century-old regulations prohibiting the sale of beer and wine in the neighborhood that it would tear down an old Fiesta and replace it with a modern, two-story store.
That store, all 92,000 square feet of it, opened at 6 am on Wednesday, January 30. As H-E-B president Scott McClelland told a crowd of media and VIPs at a preview event on Tuesday night, this store has all the latest “bells and whistles” that have made the company among the most popular places in Houston to shop for food.
“If you ask people to go up an escalator, what you put in the store better be better than what you put in a store at grade,” McClelland tells CultureMap. “That’s what we tried to do.”
Those bells and whistles start with a second location of The Roastery, the coffee shop and cafe concept from New York chefs Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley, Joey Campanaro, and Jason Giagrande (collectively, “The Four J’s”) that serves coffee, tea, sandwiches, salads, freshly-fried mini doughnuts, and more.
Of course, the meat, seafood, produce, and dry good selections are all extensive. In addition, shoppers will find plenty of organic products, lots of options from Texas, a full-service pharmacy, and a colorful floral department. The company tailors each store to meet the needs of its neighborhood. Having identified the primary demographics as young professionals and families led to certain features in the product mix.
“If you look at sparkling water, it’s the biggest sparkling water set we have all over Houston,” McClelland says. “Interestingly, since you have young professionals with small kids, it has the biggest peanut butter set of any store we have in all of H-E-B. It’s interesting that I would get excited about peanut butter, but we even have a peanut butter that doesn’t have peanuts in it. It’s a non-peanut peanut butter. It’s the first store I’ve seen that in.”
Since the company wouldn’t have opened the store without the ability to sell beer and wine, the store has an extensive selection of both — approximately 1,800 bottles of wine and 300 beers that include craft beers from Houston and other parts of Texas. A premium wine case even offers famous vintages like Opus One and Dom Perignon.
At a time when more and more customers are opting for either delivery of curbside pickup, the store still wants to give people reasons to come inside and do their own shopping. Cooking demonstrates, wine tastings, and art installations — a group of chickens wearing colorful sweaters by Houston sculptor Elaine Bradford that’s titled Who says that chickens can’t fly, or that money can’t fall from the sky? — combine with customer service to keep people coming back.
“There’s really only four reasons you shop anywhere. It’s the location, the price, the quality assortment, and the people,” McClelland says. “We talk a lot the people that work in the store. If you can create a relationship with the people who shop in the store, maybe they’ll come to the store because they want to see you.”
Since H-E-B announced its plans in 2016, car lots and other businesses along Shepherd have been transformed into new bars, restaurants, and shopping developments. McClelland thinks the store deserves a little credit for helping to spark those changes.
“There was the group that fought us on coming to The Heights and the alcohol ordinance. I said, if you look at Shepherd, it’s not really an attractive street. When you bring in H-E-B and we build the kind of store we are, we think we’re going to attract better quality retail and development on Shepherd that’s going to make this really a crown jewel of The Heights,” he says.
“I think you’re seeing that occur now. The Heights will become even more of a destination for where people want to live.”
The Heights H-E-B; 2300 N. Shepherd Dr.; 713-802-8100; Open daily from 6 am to 12 am.