For years, as HEB opened new stores in other Texas cities, Stephen Butt said, “In the back of everybody’s mind would be the question: Is this the format that we would feel is strong enough to go to the metroplex?”
As it turns out, Dallas-Fort Worth was always “an aspirational goal” for the San Antonio-based grocer. That’s why it came here first with its Central Market stores, said Butt, who’s president of HE-B’s Central Market Dallas-based division and on the HEB board and executive committee.
“We’ve skinned our knees going into new communities, so we knew coming into a dynamic metro market like Dallas-Fort Worth, we had to have our act together. We have respect for the competition here,” Butt said. “Finally, a couple of years ago, we felt like we were in the right place and we had the right HEB format.”
The chain’s first D-FW HEB store opens Wednesday on the northeast corner of Main Street and Legacy Drive in Frisco.
The 118,000-square-foot store is geared toward people who love to cook and those who don’t. There are more than 50 choices of cut-up fruits and vegetables for meal prep and 65 fresh-pressed juices. “Made in store” is also a common phrase. Prepared meals come in individual and family-pack sizes and include meals from various cuisines that are ready to eat, heat or cook.
The store focuses on offering a wide selection. There are eight varieties of chicken salad. South Asian prepared foods were added as part of the grocer’s effort to tailor the store to Collin County’s demographics, and for the first time, HEB is offering sushi by the pound.
This store is introducing some products named in honor of Dallas-Fort Worth, too, such as Red Pegasus sushi rolls and D-FW and Highway 75 sushi party trays. There’s a new HEB Café Ole coffee flavor in beans and K-cups called Taste of D-FW that has a hint of chocolate.
The Frisco store has HE-B’s first combined cheese and charcuterie meat section with 350 cheeses from around the world. Imported meats and cured hams are from Spain and Italy, some cured for 24 months. The department can fill custom orders and also has various tray sizes ready to take to a party. The selection was put together by Bernice Reyes Sharp, HE-B’s deli and cheese merchandiser who holds some rare and top certifications, including from the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers.
This store has a True Texas BBQ restaurant attached for those who don’t want to cook the six types of brisket that will be stocked in various cut sizes. The store will also do the trimming. Seafood can be steamed while you shop if you like.
The store is opening with a large meat section, including some already aged beef, Halal and Kosher products. “We want people to interact with us about meats they read about or ate at a Brazilian or any restaurant, because our people have the product knowledge,” said Juan Carlos Rück, HE-B’s executive vice president for the North West Texas Food and Drug Retail Division.
The store’s beer and wine section has about 2,200 wines and one of the largest sake collections in the region. The wine sample station has eight bottles on tap, said Will Bliss, HE-B’s central Texas beer and wine merchandise manager. “We studied the wines that people love in this area.”
Frisco HEB is introducing a few wines in “premium plus” bottles that are twice the size of a regular bottle, said Chris Hurst, beer and wine merchandiser for the northwest Texas region. “This makes a statement when you put it on the dinner table.”
If the store sounds like a Central Market, it’s not, “but we learn from each other,” Rück said.
It’s a supermarket that brings together the best current ideas from the Texas grocer in a format that it believes can be a one-stop for households’ weekly shopping needs, he said.
“We did a lot of homework. We spent time in people’s homes,” Rück said. “From Southeast Asian families, we realized our bakery would need to make a couple kinds of Roti bread and their younger generation was too busy to cook and wants the meals they grew up with already prepared.”
Stephanie Perkins, healthy living section manager, said her department, which includes 190 bulk food bins, is stocked with new and trendy specialty food items. “Plant-based food is really big in this area of town,” so there’s 24 feet of shelf space devoted to it. She also stocks “school-safe snacks” that are safe for people with food allergies.
It’s a place to come and explore. Rück is partial to the seasonal department, which is ready for Día de los Muertos, but he’s not sure how it will play in Frisco. “We’ll see.”
So far, HEB has announced five stores that are in development. Plano opens later this fall. McKinney and Allen open next summer, and there will be a groundbreaking in Mansfield early next year.
The company’s market research shows that it has lots of work to do here, Butt said. HEB has found that a third of local residents know the brand first-hand: “They’re missing us, and they’ll be loyal.”
The next third “might have a son or daughter at UT Austin and are somewhat familiar and they’ll give us a shot.”
Then the last third of local shoppers have never heard of HEB and don’t know anything about the brand.
“We know that earning trust will be essential to our success,” he said. “We can’t just listen to the people who love our stores.”
WHAT TO EXPECT ON WEDNESDAY
The HEB Frisco store opens at 6 am, and there’s sure to be a crowd. Here’s what we know about the plans so far:
The live DJ starts at 4 am
The HEB hot air balloon will be there at 5:30 am
The Wakeland high school drumline will also start performing at 5:30 am
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