Saturday, August 8, 2009

An open letter to HEB

Dear HEB,

Congratulations on the opening of your new Buffalo Market (on Buffalo Speedway and Bissonnet). From what I’ve read over the last few weeks, your new store looks mighty impressive. Your cheese and wine selection look just as extraordinary as Central Market’s selection. I’m sure the residents are quite pleased that they will no longer have to drive the extra two and half minutes it would have taken to get to Central Market.

HEB's grand new store | Source: Swamplot

Forgive me if that sounds sarcastic. I currently reside in the Heights area, an area you have ignored for far too long. Presently, you have one store in the area, an HEB Pantry Foods that has seemingly been there since the dawn of time. The floors are grimy and the entire place has an odor of meat that is past its prime. The selection is limited to the bare essentials, which I guess is the concept of the Pantry Foods line.

Orange-colored "vine ripe" tomatoes (lower right) and overripe/spoiled tomatoes (upper left)

Grocery shopping in the Heights is getting better, but still needs some help. Fiesta on Shepherd is a great place to shop for every cut of meat imaginable, but lacks the quality in upper end cuts of meats and mainstream produce selections. Kroger has been doing a fairly poor job of servicing the area (the store on 20th is pathetic), but is at least attempting to improve the situation by revamping the tired store on 11th and Shepherd.

I know you can do much better. Your Bunker Hill location is one of my favorite places to shop. Prices seem fair, the store is clean, the selection is top notch, and you don’t need one of those annoying shopper cards in order to get the sale price. Quite frankly, I’m puzzled why a decision was made to open a store in the saturated 59 corridor, while other areas are grossly under-represented.

The typically empty membership only Restaurant Depot, next door to HEB Pantry: What could have been a perfect new HEB

Thank you.


  1. I was in the 14th and Studewood Fiesta yesterday (because it's a couple of blocks from home, and because they actually have a good selection of inexpensive wine), and I found myself thinking, Do they now realize that this place is sitting in the midst of expensive real estate and upper middle class people who would love to shop at a really nice store right in the neighborhood?

    It made me think of my DC days. When Whole Foods opened a truly gorgeous store on a block that until then was known mostly for large rats and homeless people defecating in the middle of the sidewalk in broad daylight, some thought they were crazy; it became the most successful new store in their history. There was a huge untapped appetite for good grocery shopping that was not satisfied by the other nearby stores (one of which was sometimes the site of shootings, the other of which was nicknamed the "Soviet Safeway" because of how long you'd stand in line for stale bread there).

    There's a big opportunity waiting for the first grocer smart enough to take it.

  2. I used to know the person involved with selecting new locations for HEB and I begged her to consider the old KMart location. All I could get is gloop in return--something about stifling regulations in the Heights (which that old KMart wasn't even in technically). And more gloop about how the demographics aren't right.

    I'm hoping the revisions to the 11th street Kroger prove that it's worth competing for our business. But, honestly I shop more at the HEB pantry on 18th/TC Jester because I find their produce to be pretty good (if you pay attention) and I don't buy a lot of processed products. And I can tell you that it opened about 1994, because I am getting to be one of those crotchety old people who remembers when.


  3. Our local HEB does leave a lot to be desired. Small wonder HEB doesn't want to capture the dollars that are being brought in by the gentrification of the area.

  4. I read that HEB probably won't renovate/build anything close to the current 18th St. location location because of its very close proximity to the White Oak Bayou. Apparently it is in something even worse that a flood plain - it is in a 'floodway'. I am guessing it got flooded during Allison.

    I reluctantly went to Foodarama a few months ago and was very surprised. The place is very clean and never too crowded, the opposite of the HEB pantry.

  5. Also forgot to mention that I don't mind the HEB. I'd shop there over the 11th St Kroger any day. The produce at HEB is very good and they do offer many Central Market product line items. I can get my specialty items such as lactose free milk and organic apples

  6. T -- This letter is not nearly harsh enough!! The Heights is in *dire* need of a solid grocery store. I don't care if I can get awesome meat at Fiesta if I then have to go somewhere else for my produce. The produce at both Krogers is wilted and flavorless anyway. And no where in the Heights can I get a nice piece of fish. It's wrong that I have to go to Randall's at Shepherd/Westheimer to do any kind of all-in-one grocery shopping. While I'm at it, I'm tired of hearing rumors of the "new Whole Foods" going in on West Dallas (close-ish to the Heights). I want a nice grocery store, and I want it last week. KAJHSFha;lfkjhsk;ejlfhkjawdfh!!

  7. I agree 1000 percent! Yes, I know there no such thing as more than 100 percent, but I have felt this way for 10 years, so that 100 x 10! Brings us and H-E-B Heights Market or H-E-B Timbergrove Market! Why did H-E-B not grab the former Kmart or Albertsons?

  8. Not just the Heights...could we get a little love on the East Side, as well? Midtown Randall's ain't cutting it, and the alternative is a cracked-out Kroger that has a deli selection of...I kid you not...6 huge slabs of "formed ham."

    I can haz vegetables, plz?

  9. Ruthie,

    Thanks for validating my post. I was far too restrained at 1:30am when I initially wrote it. BTW, you win for driving all the way to Shepherd/Westheimer to shop.

    I totally agree that Krogers is super lame. While I was pleased to see that they were opening a larger Kroger concept, the one on West Gray was always my least favorite when I lived in the area. The produce is bad and I don't need a light jazz duo serenading me.

    I currently shop at the the Kroger on 43rd by default. Meaning, my dollars and I go to Kroger BECAUSE THAT'S MY ONLY OPTION.


    I read the info on floodways on Swamplot; not sure I'm buying it after the infrastructure improvements to WOB. While flooding and its associated insurance is probably expensive (just ask anyone living in Timbergrove), it shouldn't be cost prohibitive. This is Houston! We're all one unlucky tropical depression from flooding anyways.

  10. just cos its there doesn't mean it will last.

    what happened to the HEB on 11th?
    -its a bank.

    what happened to the Randall's on 18th?
    -its a storage place.

    what happened to the HEB in 2nd Ward on Harrisburg?
    -its an Auto Zone/Spin Cycle.

    i pray for the building at 11th and yale that used to be eckerd drugs.

  11. If there is a petition for an HEB in the Heights, I'll sign.

  12. I noticed starting a couple months ago the HEB in 18th starting asking for you to enter your zip code at the check out. This is not for credit card validation because it asks you when first start checking out. They must be gathering data on the clientele. My friend told me to type in zip code 77024.....

  13. Thank you for this post, now send it to the HEB headquarters please! That Whole Foods on MOntrose is going to take a while and why drive past I10 if you don't have to? Midtown, MOntrose, and the Heights have a population that knows good food and has the $$ to buy it. I often fantasize about opening a grocery store in this area.

  14. The old Foodland site is sitting here empty on Ella. Just sayin...

  15. Heard a rumor that HEB was looking at the land north of I10 on Yale, before Washington. This would give them freeway access and they would be close to the Target on 10. They did not want to build a large store in the middle of the neighborhood or in a flood plane.

  16. Finally! Someone said it..or rather started a blog about it! I have emailed HEB several times requesting a big HEB store in our neighborhood. I would go on with details about how horrible and over priced Kroger is (I have actually been unable to find simple things like red onions or limes or a tomato that isn't rotted) or why they didn't build a big HEB where the old Kmart was but you guys have pretty much summed it up here. I also heard rumors about the 1-10 Yale location. It's nice to have Fiesta and the Farmers market nearby for fresh produce but we need more!

    Maybe we can start sort of an email petition here. You can go to the following link and request a big HEB store in our neighborhood.

  17. I have shopped exclusively at HEB for many years
    and just having moved from the SW part of Houston to the Loop/Ella Blvd area of Houston I do shop at the 18th street store. Selections are very limited and I have to drive clear across town to one of your bigger stores.We sure would like to have a bigger store in this area.

  18. *screams YESS!!!!!*
    I totally agree with you :O
    When I went to UTAustin I always frequented the HEBs and Central Market there and thoroughly enjoyed their fares...but surprise surprise..the HEB in the heights SUCKS. I not only have to shop at the Kroger on 11th (with their horrible overpricing and OVEROVERpriced organics/naturals) but I always have to take a weekly trip to that new bigass HEB on i-10 next to bunkerhill.
    THe Heights NEEds a good HEB...I was hoping for a whole foods but i don't know if that'll jive with the rest of the community but a NICE HUGE stocked HEB is just the answer. -Hazel

  19. The new Target in the Heights was expected to generate $20 million annually when actually it is generating $60 million. That should be enough incentive for Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and HEB to open BIG stores in the Heights. I don't know who's been doing the market research for these companies, but they are missing out. The HEIGHTS is alive and kicking and growing!!! Wake up retailers including Macy's!

  20. just a post to say that we'd love to see a solid HEB in the Heights, too. Am very jealous of the spring branch and west u folks who get to shop at those large HEBs.

  21. i seriously hate that little rinky dinky HEB by TC Jester and 18th. Living in Austin, I was used to seeing huge HEB's with huge selection to choose from. The little tiny HEB should be ashamed of itself needs to grow up, move to that Restaurant Depot lot and make everyone happy

  22. One more vote for an HEB off of Yale and I-10. With the new feeder road expansion and proximity to the high density population of Washington, it's a no brainer...

    Too bad CBRE is asking $20MM for that piece of property!

  23. The restaurant supply location FLOODS in high rains.

  24. The restaurant supply location FLOODS in high rains.