When I finally arrived in the U.S. following the Great Wetback Episode, I lived in northwest Austin with Longtime Buddy Trevor while waiting for my visa to be processed.  Having come from the supermarket business in Seffrica, I was keen to see just how good U.S. supermarkets were by comparison, so I went off to the local H.E.B. store just a couple hundred yards away from his apartment.  It was good, very good;  and I became a huge fan of the chain and its operation.  (Full disclosure:  I did once apply for a job at H.E.B., but I was turned down — not by HR, but by an exec VP who called me, complimented me on my resume, and semi-apologized for not hiring me because, as he said, I was not only over-qualified for a senior position there, but horribly over-qualified and they couldn’t fire someone just to take me on.  Classy move — executive to executive instead of fobbing it off onto some HR clerk — and it only increased my admiration for the chain.)

My only quibble with living here in metro North Texas is that there are no H.E.B. stores anywhere nearby (Central Market is owned by H.E.B., but it’s a different division altogether and caters mostly to upscale customers).  I don’t know why there aren’t — the common saying is that 50% of South Texas shopped at an H.E.B. last week — and as I see it, the only reason that it isn’t 50% of all Texas is that they don’t have any stores up here.

This article (found via the Knuckledragger, thankee Kenny) is just one reason why I respect their business and miss their stores.  If H.E.B. were to open one nearby, none of the others — Kroger, Tom Thumb, Market Street, Aldi or Wal-Mart — would ever see me again.

Come on, Steve;  get your South Texas asses up here.


  1. Hell yes HEB, I live a short distance NW of San Antonio and we have a huge HEB that performs with some of the top sales per square foot in the whole chain. We have been down here for seven years and HEB keeps its staff, takes care of them and rewards them for performance. When you ask when something is located they don’t point, grunt a number and turn away, they accompany the customer over to the location and then help find the exact item. At holidays they staff the store with every register opened and there is never a long wait in line.

    I was most impressed about four years ago when I wanted to cook a goose for Christmas and found out I had to order one several days ahead of time at our HEB. I went in and placed my order leaving my phone number so they could call when my goose came in. I was home just a few hours when received a call from the store and the butcher who had taken my order had gone back and checked on the reserved geese that had already come in, he thought he might have an extra and it turns out that he did so he put my name on it and called me. I was impressed.

    Our HEB carries all of the fine deli meats and cheeses that are in Central Market, the same wine woman has worked there since we moved down here selling everything from box wine to fine $200 and $300 dollar bottles of wine along with good import beers and fresh sour dough bread cooked daily in the store along with lots of other pastries. With dove season coming up I will purchase my hunting license from knowledgeable staff at the customer desk and maybe pick up a few real fine cigars sold by the each from their small humidor display.

  2. I was living in downstate Illinois when I started dating my girlfriend near Houston. Occasionally we would have reason to go to her local “small” HEB while I was visiting her.

    I was jealous. The small HEB had better selection, better staffing, and cleaner presentation than the high-end stores near my Illinois home, and the prices were comparable or lower.

    Now that I live with her, we hit HEB every week. I’m a fan.

    OTOH, in Illinois you can buy hard liquor in any grocery store, even on Sundays. Texas alcohol laws are strange.

    1. You think they’re strange now, should have been there in the 80’s.

      When I was in Tech School at Goodbuddy Airplane Patch (San Angelo) I was a member of several “Private Clubs” (average dues $1.00 a year) so I could enjoy and adult beverage with my meal.

      1. Yes, those laws were strange for someone from the coasts to get used to – particularly having to drive to the county line to buy hard stuff that you could bring back and consume in your local beer&wine dive (a 202 from the 60’s).

  3. Few years ago after an appt in Bloomington IN I stopped at the Kroger to pick up a few things. I’d only been in there once before years ago. Turns out they were having their Grand Opening for a major overhaul. I went to the deli to get a lb of their thinly sliced London Broil and an entourage of about their top 10 corporate people were there gathered and gabbing and laffin it up with champagne glasses in hand. Waiting for my order a middle aged lady approached me and asked how I like their new store? I told her it looked nice and I wasn’t very familiar with it. She took me by the elbow and commenced to giving me the nickel tour. I grabbed my London and we were off. WoW. She said it was now the largest Kroger in all the land and I was amazed at how they pulled it all together. They had a wine dept that was almost completely detached, open up through 2 floors, fully bricked floor to ceiling and wreaked quality design throughout. Thousands of bottles laying on their sides, tasting pedestals, assistants, etc. I never seen that in a grocery store before. They had a sushi line with a continuous conveyor line with 8 chefs slicing and dicing their art and setting them on the conveyor that went around the 30′ long counter. I don’t do sushi but that display was very inviting. An immense cheese section, a full flower shop, a bakery that went on and on, the deli was beyond belief. It was like being at Disney world. It’s difficult to get in an out of that place quickly. Kroger goes all out in that store to legally entice as many of your favorite legal tenders out of your ass pocket as possible.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with Kroger. They do an excellent job where they can — their older, smaller stores are not as good as the smaller H.E.B. stores, but their large ones are outstanding.

  4. If you ever have the misfortune to be in one of the states where they operate, and most of them are in the North East, try Wegmans. Their store branded items are usually as good as, if not better, than the national brands. We have a decent Kroger here in KY, but it’s not close.

    1. Mark,
      Wegman’s moved into greater Boston about two years prior to my 2015 departure. The store I patronized in Burlington MA was quite well stocked, but too damned big for my liking – more than 100,000 sq ft.

      @kim – Kroger came to IL, bought out Mariano’s, and screwed up the store. Too much corporate, not enough personal choice. The store near me is older, so there’s that. Other locations I’ve tried just seem a bit “off”. I still shop there for most items, but do also patronize Trader Joe’s, and for certain sale items Heinen’s and/or Sunset Foods (local chain of 5 stores).

      1. I went into a local Trader Joe’s once and I won’t go again. The place was overrun with Junior College tweeds, aging hippie bead bimbos, and patchouli oil stench. The prices, and the attitude from the staff towards my MAGA hat convinced me they don’t need my patronage.

  5. In my younger days I lived in the DFW mid cities – 3 different ones. The company I worked for was eventually acquired by the biggest company in our line of work, and they eventually transferred me down to Sugar Land where we discovered HEB. It immediately became our go to store.

  6. Good to hear, we do our best and hope to expand to North Texas soon. The sentiment I read here is a testament to what I view as our greatest strength: decentralized tailoring of assortment and layout to each individual market. Definitely a supply chain headache, but theres no margin without sales, so we just have to stay on top of ensuring there’s margins with sales. More fun!

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