PLANO — First in line at Wednesday’s opening of Plano’s new H-E-B were familiar faces to the grocery store’s executives.
Frisco residents Maria Garcia, 37, Jennifer Burkman, 45, and Michele Hearn, 41, had been there since 8:30 p.m. the night before and they were sporting custom T-shirts to mark the occasion.
“We’re back. H-E-B Groupies” read their shirts, with checkmarks by two of the four northern suburban stores that are launching the popular Texas grocery chain’s entry to the Dallas-Fort Worth market. “We’ve been going to Waxahachie or Burleson with each others’ lists for years,” Burkman said, referring to H-E-B’s previously closest locations to Dallas and Fort Worth.
The trio was joined by about 250 others — a smaller crowd than the 1,500 who waited for H-E-B’s September debut in Frisco. A DJ started entertaining the people outside the store at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday while employees offered them coffee and sweets from a beignet truck.
Dana Freed, 55, of Plano, arrived at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday. She lives just behind the store and has been driving by it every day since construction started in June 2021. She said she’s not a lifelong H-E-B fan but now considers this her store.
“I have so many grocery stores nearby. I’ll probably still shop at Market Street and at all the others,” she said. Depending on which direction she’s driving, Freed goes right past Market Street, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Tom Thumb and Kroger.
“H-E-B has already had an impact,” said Freed, a self-proclaimed busybody who calls herself the unofficial mayor of West Plano. “Everyone has cleaned up their act and remodeled. The Walmart Neighborhood Market even has a new name. It’s called the Walmart Plano Market.”
Frisco H-E-B record
As H-E-B opens in Plano, the big question the company’s executives are pondering is: Will it be as busy as Frisco?
“It’s the $1 million question,” said Juan Carlos Rück, H-E-B’s executive vice president for the North West Texas Food and Drug Retail Division. “We don’t know. We’re planning for a good reception.”
The Frisco store had to be “remodeled” in a record 12 days after it opened, he said. H-E-B added two checkout lanes and four self-checkouts in response to the huge crowds.
Store officials then decided to reconfigure the front of the Plano H-E-B. Some single-serve beverage coolers were moved to another area to make way for a new layout with 15 checkout lanes and 14 self-checkouts.
The San Antonio-based grocer was surprised when 1,500 shoppers showed up in Frisco for the store’s 6 a.m. opening on Sept. 21. The shoppers kept coming, and the store, located on the northeast corner of Main Street and Legacy Drive, still hasn’t settled down. Three portable checkouts have been added in the entrance lobby.
The Plano store could take some pressure off Frisco, but maybe not.
“Plano is closer to the region’s larger populations in the fourth-largest [metro] in America,” Rück said. “If we can continue to do this kind of business, we can continue to build more stores.”
H-E-B opens 3 stores
For the first time in H-E-B history, the 117-year-old chain is opening three stores on Wednesday: the one in Plano and two near Houston, in Willis and Magnolia.
“Wednesday is a history-making day,” said Stephen Butt, H-E-B board member and president of the company’s Dallas-based Central Market division, at the Plano store’s ribbon-cutting on Wednesday. “We have been humbled by the Texas-size welcome we’ve received and by the enthusiasm of our customers and by our associates who have been working very hard to serve them.”
The company has 145,000 employees in Texas and Mexico, and it operates 420 stores with annual sales of $38 billion.
So far, H-E-B’s plans in Dallas-Fort Worth include the Plano and Frisco stores and two more under construction in McKinney and Allen. Stores are also in the works in Mansfield and north Fort Worth’s Alliance Town Center.
Plano vs. Frisco
The Plano and Frisco stores have different exterior designs, but the stores are identical inside. A big difference is Plano’s 55,000-square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center, which will help with store deliveries when it opens in mid-2023. The Plano store has the chain’s largest international wine selection. There’s also a large choice of kosher wines and nonalcoholic beers and wines.
The store will emphasize convenience with its Meal Simple chef-prepared section of foods to take home and heat or bake, seasoned meats and seafood, and sushi by the pound. At the other extreme are aged cuts of meat and fresh seafood.
“We’re a store for wherever a customer may be on their food journey,” Rück said.
In-store-made ranch dressing will make its H-E-B debut in Plano’s produce section.
Local foods are another H-E-B staple, as seen in its aisle with hot sauces and barbecue rubs.
“It’s the kind of aisle you want to stand in front of and study for a while and get lost in it,” Rück said. “Unfortunately, people haven’t been able to do that because the store has been so crowded now. People walking up and down the aisles think they need to keep moving.”