Texans don't exactly need national rankings to know we're the best, especially when it comes to one of the top sources of state pride, H-E-B. Still, a little affirmation never hurts, and the San Antonio-based supermarket has just earned a new accolade among the best pharmacies in the U.S. for customer satisfaction.

This is the second consecutive title for H-E-B Pharmacy, which also earned the No. 1 spot in last year's J.D. Power ranking. Measuring customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar and mail order pharmacies, the J.D Power U.S. Pharmacy Study uses data analytics and consumer intelligence based on responses from 12,142 pharmacy customers.

“This award illustrates a true team effort among all H-E-B Pharmacy Partners and is a direct result of everyone’s hard work, leadership and dedication to the health and wellness of our customers and communities throughout Texas,” said Craig Norman, R.Ph., H-E-B senior vice president, pharmacy.

And it wasn't just one category, either. H-E-B’s overall satisfaction swept all seven performance areas the study used to rate brick-and-mortar supermarkets, including:

  • No. 1 in people
  • No. 1 in time and cost savings
  • No. 1 in pharmacy trust
  • No. 1 in resolving problems or complaints
  • No. 1 in digital channel offerings (website, mobile app, text)
  • No. 1 in pharmacy offerings meet customer needs (medication and health/wellness services)
  • No. 1 in customers’ ability to get prescriptions how/when they want.

H-E-B has almost 290 pharmacy locations in Texas. In addition to providing prescription solutions at low prices, H-E-B Pharmacies also offer conveniences such as same-day prescription delivery, auto refills, health screenings, adult and child immunizations, compounding services, specialty pharmacy, nutrition services, and pet medications.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B carts out new home decor and furniture for Texas shoppers

Milk, Bread, Eggs, Accent Chair

Milk, bread, eggs … accent chair? Beginning this month, some H-E-B shoppers in San Antonio and New Braunfels can pick up home goods and furniture along with their groceries.

On July 14, the San Antonio-based grocer announced the launch of two home decor lines under the new Home by H-E-B department. The two new brands — Haven + Key and Texas Proud — promise “hundreds of items” for shoppers, according to a release, including “timeless woven textiles, inspiring décor, and versatile furniture and accent pieces.”

Each line has its own distinct style. With its modern, sleek aesthetic, Haven + Key rivals Target’s Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, the smash-hit product line the mega-retailer developed with Joanna and Chip Gaines. Midcentury-inspired leather chairs, blond wood accents, gold-trimmed mirrors and objets d’art, and neutral pillows are just a handful of the home goods ready for browsing.

Texas Proud is just that: goods designed to remind us how proud we are of Texas.

“The Texas Proud collection will celebrate the bold and distinctive style of Texas, bringing home the iconic spirit of the Lone Star State. The line will feature items such as wood and antler art, leather goods, cowhide benches and candles,” H-E-B says in a release.

The retailer also notes that many of the products are designed right here in Texas, and features accents like crosses, "Come and Take It," and Texas flag wall hangings.

San Antonio-area shoppers are among the first to peruse the new collections, now available at the H-E-B plus! at Hwy. 281 and Evans Road and the three-month-old New Braunfels location, which became the first H-E-B in the state to offer the Home by H-E-B department when it opened in April 2022.

(The New Braunfels Home by H-E-B department is more than 2,500-square-feet and houses more than 500 pieces, so if shoppers are serious about sprucing up their interiors, it might be worth renting a U-Haul and heading to that location.)

“At H-E-B, we’re always looking for ways to offer an unique, quality shopping experience, and Home by H-E-B is another way we’re able to better meet the needs of Texans,” says Sabina Israelian-Garcia, H-E-B Group Vice President of General Merchandise, Drug Store and Beauty, in the July 14 release.

Along with Alamo City, Haven + Key and Texas Proud are currently only available in Corpus Christi and Brownsville, as well as Burleson, a suburb of Fort Worth. The retailer adds it has hopes to offer the Home by H-E-B departments in 25 stores across Texas this year, specifically citing the new stores in Frisco and Plano.

Currently, both collections are available only in those five locations and can be purchased in-store or via the H-E-B app or website for curbside or delivery options.

The launch of Home by H-E-B and the Haven + Key and Texas Proud lines are the latest innovations for the South Texas retailer, which also owns Central Market. In recent years, H-E-B has dramatically increased its curbside and delivery services, continued the rollout of its award-winning Texas True BBQ restaurant, and has continued its expansion to the farthest reaches of the Lone Star State.

More recently, it launched a multimillion-dollar fund to build a new elementary school in Uvalde following May's devastating mass shooting. Even its strategy during the pandemic was lauded as one of the most thoughtful corporate responses in the U.S., proving once again that it’s H-E-B’s world, we’re just living in it.

The new collection is available in two San Antonio-area stores, though the retailer hopes to have it in 25 locations by the end of the 2022.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B
The new collection is available in two San Antonio-area stores, though the retailer hopes to have it in 25 locations by the end of the 2022.
Courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B establishes $10 million donation to rebuild Uvalde's Robb Elementary

H-E-B for Uvalde

After the tragedy in Uvalde last month, H-E-B did what it does best, stepping up to help Texans in need. Beyond announcing a $500,000 donation for victims and their families, the San-Antonio based grocery chain deployed its disaster relief trucks to the South Texas town to provide meals, supplies, and further recovery resources in partnership with local nonprofits for the people of Uvalde. But the store isn't stopping there: H-E-B this week announced a new donation to help rebuild Robb Elementary, where the massacre took place.

Built in the 1960s, the elementary school serves approximately 538 students in grades second through fourth. The school has been permanently closed since the events on May 25, 2022, and plans are in place to demolish the building so that no students or staff ever have to return to the site of the tragedy.

In a news release, the Butt family and H-E-B announced they will commit $10 million to help build a new elementary campus in Uvalde. Longtime supporters of public education, the Butt family and H-E-B,will work as founding donors with other stakeholders and organizations on the development of this project.

Texas firms Huckabee and Joeris General Contractors, which are also founding donors, have also made generous commitments to donate their services and time to this project, which will help the children, families, staff and Uvalde CISD community move forward together.

“Our first store in Uvalde opened in 1959, and Uvalde people are our people,” said Charles Butt, H-E-B’s Chairman, in the release. “As we continue to mourn tremendous loss, I join with my family and H-E-B in working to ensure the Uvalde community can move forward from this tragic event. Our children are this country’s future, and our schools should be a safe place where children can thrive and envision new possibilities.”

According to the release, the new campus will significantly enhance educational offerings, implementing state-of-the-art safety and security measures and infrastructure to support the availability of new technology. The location and design of the new campus and timeline for the project have not been determined, but the school district will work closely with the Uvalde community, donors, and other stakeholders to solicit ideas and gather feedback for the project.

For those who would like to join the effort, contributions to support this project can be made by donating to the Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization established to both raise funds for the new elementary campus and support the immediate and ongoing financial needs of Uvalde CISD. Donations can be made by visiting UvaldeCISDMovingForward.org.

"We will never forget those who were senselessly taken from us on that tragic day," says Uvalde CISD Superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell on the Moving Forward website. " ... we want to honor their legacy as we work to build our future."

Courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B's new brand of green products will benefit Texas Parks & Wildlife

H-E-Being Green

In its ongoing mission to take care of Texans, favorite grocer H-E-B has announced a new retail initiative that will support that commitment for generations to come.

Last year, the company revealed products from Field & Future by H-E-B, a new environmentally minded line of household, personal care, and baby products designed to be clean and green. Now, the retailer is using its new brand to benefit longtime partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF), by supporting their efforts to help conserve and protect Texas.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is excited about our new partnership with H-E-B. This Texas company will donate a portion of all sales proceeds from its Field & Future line of sustainable products to support our efforts to conserve the state’s wildlife, habitat and natural resources,” TPWF Chairman Mike Greene tells CultureMap.

The retailer and the wildlife foundation are longtime partners, and this new initiative will aid coastal conservation efforts, as well as Black Bear restoration in West Texas and the establishment of the state’s newest park, Palo Pinto Mountains, which opens in North Texas next year.

“H-E-B is an iconic Texas company, and this new partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our official non-profit partner, is incredibly exciting,” said TPWF Executive Director Carter Smith in an April 5 release. “It’s fitting that the Field & Future line of products will benefit conservation projects across Texas, and we’re deeply grateful for this new partnership.”

There are nearly 100 Field & Future by H-E-B items on shelves across Texas already. Products range from dish soap to bath tissue; baby diapers; and trash bags, which are made from 65 percent post-consumer recycled plastic from H-E-B facilities.

The line features the How2Recycle label, which is found on more than 1,700 other H-E-B branded items. The grocery chain joined the How2Recycle program last year, placing clear and easy-to-read labels on products so customers can know if and how to recycle product packaging.

“We know H-E-B and our customers have a shared commitment in protecting the land, water, and air of Texas for generations to come,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs in the release.

Since 2012, H-E-B has contributed more than $20 million to over 500 environmental organizations in land and water conservation, habitat and coastal preservation, and community cleanups. This includes giving more than $2 million in grants to organizations such as Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Conservation Fund, and the Nature Conservancy in Texas.


Houston's Central Market gets on vegan train with Jay Z's fave cheese

hova loves it

There's a vegan cheese in town and it's kind of a big deal. The cheese is from Misha's, a Los Angeles-based company that makes what they claim is the best dairy-free cheese on the market, and it's making its debut at Central Market.

Misha's does a spreadable cheese flavored with herbs and spices. Central Market will carry the following six flavors:

  • Lox – dill, capers, carrots
  • French Connection – herbs de Provence, grains of paradise, black olives
  • Smoked Cheddar – smoked paprika, chipotle
  • Sari – sundried tomatoes, garlic, cilantro
  • Seven Point Five – jalapeño, habanero, strawberries
  • Black Truffle - black truffle, shallots

Previously, Misha's was available only on the West Coast and online. The new partnership with Central Market brings Misha's to Texas' seven top cities, including Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Southlake, and Plano. Five of those cities have CultureMap bureaus, so Misha's is on to something (and meanwhile CultureMap might need to open bureaus in Plano and Southlake?).

Central Market has been less quick to embrace vegan foods than other chains like Sprouts and Kroger's. But Misha's possesses extra assets: They're Black-owned and have a celebrity backing buzz from a group that includes Jay Z and NBA All-Star Chris Paul.

Misha's cheese is made from cashew and almond milk, the most common ingredients used to make vegan cheese. And the cheese is spreadable, versus firm. Spreadable vegan cheese is far easier to make than firm vegan cheese — a lesson Misha's cofounders learned early in the game, as they told medium:

The first product we launched was an aged, sliceable cheese. It was fairly complicated to produce, and package and it was a bit volatile. One night, right as we were preparing for the next day's farmers market, it got the best of us. Our refrigerators failed and the cheese didn't set up properly. Ian and I looked at each other nearly defeated… all that time, all that effort, all that money… and then, almost in unison we said 'let's sell it as spreadable cheese!' Less time, less energy, cheaper to make and package."

Founders Chef Ian Martin and Aaron Bullock, who began operating in 2018, have an unusual background for cheesemakers: They were previously in the music and entertainment industry. But Martin had begun exploring raw vegan cooking, and worked with two well-known raw vegan names: Matthew Kenny and Juliano's Planet Raw. Bullock, meanwhile, had an interest in naturopathic medicine and had opened a clinic.

They've earned backing by Marcy Venture Partners: Jay Brown and Jay-Z, Pendulum Holdings: Robbie Robinson, Lisa Shamus, and 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, and hope to reimagine the dairy aisle not only with their non-dairy cheese, but also other products such as milk, butter, and yogurt.

Emphasizing the gourmet/health vibe seems to make vegan food easier for foodies to swallow than the whole inconvenient "humane concern for animals" angle. Misha's is also certified and licensed in California as a Dairy Company, which allows them to legally use the word "Cheese."

Assets such as these have earned them attention on food websites such as Food 52 — and now a spot on the shelves of Central Market's 10 stores.

"With Austin, Houston and Dallas all consistently named most friendly for plant-based consumers, expanding into Texas is a perfect next move for Misha’s," Bullock says in a release. "We're a purpose-driven and community-focused company that believes in spreading kindness and committed to lifting as we climb. We're proud to join hands with the great people of Texas."

Photo by J. Thomas Ford

Tilman Fertitta's empire joins 4 Houston firms on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies

big biz in h-town

Some Houston-area companies have some major bragging rights. Forbes has released its new list of the country’s largest privately owned companies based on annual revenue, and five local firms land on the list. They are:

  • Car dealership group Gulf States Toyota, No. 45, $8.3 billion in annual revenue.
  • Energy company Calpine, No. 48, $8 billion in annual revenue.
  • Petroleum and petrochemical products marketer Tauber Oil, No. 61, $6.7 billion in annual revenue.
  • Casino, restaurant, and sports conglomerate Fertitta Entertainment, No. 166, $2.8 billion in annual revenue.
  • BMC Software, No. 219, $2.1 billion in annual revenue.

Elsewhere in Texas, San Antonio-based H-E-B ranks fifth on Forbes’ new list of the country’s largest privately owned companies based on annual revenue. According to Forbes, the grocery chain’s annual revenue is $32.8 billion, making it the largest private company in Texas. On its website, H-E-B reports annual sales of $32 billion.

The only other San Antonio company on the Forbes list is construction engineering company Zachry Group. It ranks 225th, with annual revenue of $2 billion.

Nearly all of the other Texas companies in the Forbes ranking are based in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. As well as the five Houston companies, 13 DFW companies companies show up on the list:

  • Grand Prairie-based alcohol and wine distributor Republic National Distributing, No. 25, $11.9 billion in annual revenue.
  • Dallas-based conglomerate Sammons Enterprises, No. 70, $5.8 billion in annual revenue.
  • McKinney-based roofing distributor SRS Distribution, No. 80, $5.4 billion in annual revenue.
  • Irving-based arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels, No. 81, $5.3 billion in annual revenue.
  • Dallas-based luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, No. 101, $4.7 billion in annual revenue.
  • Irving-based electrical systems and equipment maker Consolidated Electrical Distributors, No. 103, $4.6 billion in annual revenue.
  • Fort Worth-based food and beverage distributor Ben E. Keith, No. 107, $4.2 billion in annual revenue.
  • Dallas-based oil and gas explorer Hunt Consolidated, No. 113, $4 billion in annual revenue.
  • Frisco-based transportation and logistics software provider Transplace, No. 127, $3.6 billion in annual revenue.
  • Addison-based cosmetics retailer Mary Kay, No. 164, $2.8 billion in annual revenue.
  • Plano-based senior healthcare provider Golden Living, No. 178, $2.6 billion in annual revenue.
  • Dallas-based general contractor Austin Industries, No. 217, $2.1 billion in annual revenue.
  • Dallas-based transportation and logistics company Mode Transportation, No. 220, $2.1 billion in annual revenue.

One other company on the Forbes list, New Jersey-based IT company SHI International Corp., has a strong connection to Texas. Austin billionaire Thai Lee, with a net worth estimated at $4.1 billion, is co-founder, president, and CEO of SHI. The company ranks 28th on the Forbes list, with annual revenue of $11.1 billion.

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Giant sea creatures made of recycled beach trash wash onto Galveston Island in must-see new exhibit

inspiring sea change

A giant great white shark, massive bald eagle, oversized octopus, and more enormous sea life are invading Galveston Island — just in time for the holidays.

Washed Ashore, a compelling and traveling art of giant sea animal sculptures made of trash collected from beaches opens in Galveston on Saturday, December 10 across 19 locations.

The clever showcase features more than 20 pieces — most more than six feet tall and as much as 17 feet wide — such as coral reefs, jellyfish, penguins, sunfish, and more.

Sculptures can be found at museums, hotels, parks, attractions, and popular outdoor spaces. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon-based non-profit Washed Ashore and the Galveston Park Board, the exhibit, which is open though March 5, 2023, is free.

This innovative, powerful exhibit to educate the public about the hazards of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and comes at a touchstone environmental moment. Some 35 million metric tons of plastic entered the global aquatic ecosystems in 2020, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s research partners.

Similar Washed Ashore exhibits have been displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens, across the nation. Notably, this Galveston debut marks the first time the exhibit will not be behind a paid gate, per press materials.

“The sculptures are impressive,” Visit Galveston Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody said. “But they’re even more impressive when you look at them closely. The artists at Washed Ashore placed recognizable objects – like buckets and shovels – at a child’s eye view. This way, hopefully, they will learn to take with them what they bring to the beach.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit the official site.

Photo courtesy of Visit Galveston

Meet Greta the great white shark.

Bad 'a' Hawaiian coffee shop brews up plans for 10 Houston-area locations

curiously strong coffee

A new coffee shop will brings the flavors of Hawaii to the Houston area. Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii has signed a development agreement that will bring as many as 10 locations to West Houston and Galveston in the next five years.

Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii was founded on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1989 to serve Hawaiian-sourced coffee to locals and tourists. Franchising on the mainland started in 1985, but an acquisition in 2019 paved the way for its current expansion. Currently at about 30 locations nationwide, Bad Ass announced plans to open five locations in Dallas earlier this year.

The cafe serves hot, cold, and frozen coffee drinks as well as tea and smoothes. Food options consist of a tidy menu of breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and muffins.

Bad Ass Coffee’s colorful name comes from the donkeys who carried coffee beans along steep mountain passes in Kona, Hawaii. Locals named them the “bad ass ones” for their stubborn but friendly nature, the company states.

Houston franchisees Kyle Price and Heath Rushing bring experience from the health care industry to their new role as entrepreneurs. In a release, they explain that Bad Ass Coffee’s values help fueled their interest in bringing the brand to Houston.

“We love how the brand honors its Hawaiian heritage and creates a culture that differentiates itself by embodying its island roots,” Rushing said. “Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii also isn't just a brand, it's an identity and the vision is to fuel the inner badass in all of us. We hope to unlock inner badasses by fueling customers with energy and kindness every single day.”

Houston Astros' Julia Morales reports on life with the team, work-family balance, her new fashion line, and more


Photo courtesy of Julia Morales

Julia Morales with Alex Bregman at Minute Maid Park.

For serious Houston Astros fans, Julia Morales Clark needs no introduction. As the Astros sideline reporter, her job is to tell the on-and-off-the-field stories and relay the big moments that keep sports fans connected to the team.

Starting in West Palm Beach at Spring Training in February and grinding to the postseason, Morales is a constant fixture next to the Astros dugout. She spends all day, every day during away games traveling with the World Series Champion team, asking the hard questions and enjoying front-row seats to the antics of Alex Bregman, José Altuve, and the rest of the ball club.

This season, Morales reported on the longest game in World Series history and interviewed everyone who had anything to do with the famed no-hitters against the Yankees and Phillies.

She also gave fans a glimpse behind the scenes through Instagram — and became known as the “Queen of Astros TikTok.”

Childhood dreams

Morales grew up outside of Dallas in the small town of Crandall where sports were a constant in her life. With both parents being college athletes, she and her brother were always playing various sports with her dad often as coach, it was what her family did together.

Going into her 11th season with the Houston Astros, Morales is grateful to talk about sports daily and admits she wanted to be a news reporter from a young age. “By the time I was ten, I had already decided it was what I wanted to do. At the time, there were not a lot of females in sports reporting, especially at the national level, so I didn’t know it was a possibility,” she tells CultureMap.

“When I got into college, I started noticing that more women were covering sports, so I decided I wanted to go the sports route instead of the news route.”

Family time

These days Morales spends more time “wheels up” accompanying the Astros on every road game and reporting on 140-150 of the total 162 regular season baseball games. Balancing her career, marriage, and being a mom to 2-year-old Valerie is a constant struggle.

She is buoyed by the offseason when she gets to spend every day with her husband and daughter and bonding over family activities, but admits managing motherhood and the longest season in sports is hard.

“It gets tough with ten-day road trips on the west coast when you are away from the people you love, but I am not alone. Every player has a family, and every coach has a family. We talk about it amongst each other and help each other through it — there is a lot of FaceTime and phone calls. It is part of the job and the sacrifices I have to make, but I also know that she will be proud of me and everything I am doing one day.”

Style and baseball

Although being away from her family is hard, Morales has adapted to life on the road. She has developed a great wardrobe with staples for every climate she visits and says she now owns more Astros orange than ever before. She incorporates her pieces with rented items to keep up with the trends and has a lot of fun with jewelry, naming jewelry juggernaut Kendra Scott as one of her biggest supporters.

Over the past year, Morales has quietly worked on a line of baseball-themed shirts and sweatshirts. She debuted her line right before the Astros clinched the ALCS and has been surprised at the positive reaction to her “Baseball Y’all” brand.

“It did really, really well. It almost overwhelmed me at a point in the season when I was already busy, but it was so worth it. Seeing people wearing my shirts and sweatshirts at the games is amazing. I have so many more ideas and things I want to do — I just need a minute to catch my breath.”

Behind the Scenes

Busy professionals know there are instances when spending more time with work colleagues than family is par for the course, but Morales’ work-family relationships are at a whole other level. Travel plus a three-hour game and a pre and post-game workload – Morales has logged many hours with every Houston Astros team member.

The sideline reporter laughs and says she knows the team exceptionally well, noting that they spend almost too much time together. Working alongside the ball club for over a decade, she has seen most players come and go, except Altuve. She has seen him grow his family with his wife Nina, become a World Series Champion twice, become an MVP, and talked with him on camera through tough losses and intense moments like Hurricane Harvey.

“I wouldn’t call him my best friend or anything, but I have been around him for a decade. It’s almost a cooler relationship than what people would call a friend — it is on its own level, and I am so grateful for those relationships.”

According to Morales, affectionately nicknamed “Mrs. Astros”, the best thing about a baseball season is that no one has any idea what will happen in any given year. This season, in particular, she’s been able to watch the rise of shortstop phenom Jeremy Peña.

“I got to know Jeremy Peña as a rookie ready for his first year in the majors. From having that first interview with him to watching his first home run and then watching him at the end of the season become a World Series MVP and a household name across the country — it has been an incredibly unique experience.”

Diehard Astros fans may know more about their favorite ball team because of the redhead sideline reporter, but now, she's opening the door to let fans get to know her, too. Here are 20 fun facts about Clark.

Go-to outfit: Baseball Y’all cropped hoodie and leggings

Favorite Astros accessory: Golden Thread Star earrings or my World Series Champions Baseball cap.

Favorite ballpark food: Breakfast Burger at PNC Park, Crab Fried in Baltimore and everything at Minute Maid Park

Favorite non-Houston ballpark: T-Mobile Park or Target Field

Type A or B: A

Dream dinner guest (sports related): Earl Campbell

Dream dinner guest (non-sports related): Beyonce

Smartest person in the room or richest person in the room: Smartest person in the room

Drink of choice: Glass of cabernet

Guacamole or queso: Guacamole

TikTok or Instagram: Instagram

Happy Place: Round Top

Top three essential gameday items: Reporters notebook & pen, clear mascara for hair flyaways and a scorebook

Strangest thing about your job: My schedule

Best thing about your job: Storytelling

Cowboy boots or cowboy hat: Boots

Lose sleep or skip a meal: Lose sleep

Show or tell: Tell

Who are you inspired by: My parents

What three traits got you to where you are today: Hard work, my people skills, and my love for sports.