Texas grocery chain H-E-B is set to open its newest Houston-area store tomorrow, November 11. The new H-E-B Spring Market on FM 2920 has taken cues from both the leviathan at Bunker Hill and I-10 and smaller, more intimate stores like the recently opened Buffalo Market. In fact, the square footage of the Spring Market is roughly the same as the Bunker Hill location -- 85,000 square feet -- but features a far better use of the space. Gone is the Cafe on the Run feature that is a carry-over from H-E-B-owned Central Market. In its place? Wider aisles and much more space. And that's only one of the new features at the Spring Market.
We took a guided tour of the new store on Monday afternoon with store leader Rick Copeland. Copeland told us that because of the varying demographics of the area, H-E-B has made room in the store for both high-end features like the popular Sushiya station that serves fresh sushi, as well as more value-oriented features like a bulk-items section and endcaps with gifts under $10 and $20 for the upcoming holiday season. One of the centerpieces of the store is the Tortilleria, which is featured in many H-E-Bs. But unlike other Tortillerias, the Spring Market will have both corn and flour tortillas made fresh every day. Enormous paper sacks of maseca ring the large production area just off the bakery, which we're sure will be the heart of the store once it's open.
Near the front, we noticed a variety of T-shirts and caps being sold by the cash registers. UT's burnt orange and A&M's maroon immediately jumped out at us, but we weren't familiar with the navy blue or leaf green T-shirts. Upon closer inspection, we realized the T-shirts were for area high schools Klein Oak and Spring -- a nice touch for area residents.
The key to the success of all H-E-B stores is this kind of focus on the community for whom the store is being built, as opposed to more corporate chains that simply blanket towns with identical big box stores. This same attitude can be seen at the Buffalo Market store, as well. Other touches were seen in the price scanners that dot the aisles, which serve two purposes: customers can scan an item to see its price and customers with W.I.C. or Lone Star cards can also check their balance.
In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, as well as demographically conscious, the store is also highly energy efficient. The beer and frozen foods cases use LED lighting while motion sensors also function throughout the store, controlling lights in various areas and faucets in washrooms. They also run an in-store recycling program in which they recycle all manner of packing materials and even used cooking oil.
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Other areas of the store which Copeland and the H-E-B team are excited about are the expanded healthy living department -- which offers more choices in vitamins, bulk foods, and organic and natural products (including Central Market products) than a typical grocery store -- and the pharmacy section. This is the first store in the area to offer a separate patient consultation room where the pharmacists can dispense flu shots, take vital statistics and consult with a patient in private instead of in the waiting area.
Before the store's grand opening tomorrow, November 11, the public is invited to an open house tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. to get to know the new store and management and nosh on some nibbles.
For more images from the new store, see our slideshow.