Residents have seen and heard speculation and rumors for months, wondering what the fate would be regarding H-E-B’s potential Heights move. Well wait no more.
After the rumor mill ran wild following the No-Dry Vote petition spearheaded by H-E-B and the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition earlier this year, president of the company’s Houston region Scott McClelland confirmed to The Leader in an interview that the company plans to open its new location at the site of the old Fiesta in the Heights, should voters elect to make that area “wet” in November. The official site announcement took place at the old Fiesta location on 23rd Street and North Shepherd Thursday morning.
A permanent move into the Heights remains predicated on the No Dry Vote passing, and it appears H-E-B as well as the Coalition are confident in its future success, as evidenced by Thursday morning’s proceedings.
Advocates such as Heights resident, local attorney and chair of the coalition Steve Reilley told The Leader in September that opening an H-E-B within the Heights would provide a boon for the economy along with the diversity in shopping options.
“There are a lot of people who would like to have a big grocery store within walking distance because they don’t have transportation or would like to have a job they can walk to in the Heights,” he said.
McClelland’s recent inboxes seem to say as much.
“Over the last five years I’ve probably gotten more requests for a store in the Heights than anywhere else in Houston,” he said.
The four-acre Fiesta site may be smaller than property the company typically constructs on, but McClelland said such an aspect was not a deterrent. In order to accommodate the smaller site, H-E-B’s newest store will sit on “stilts,” meaning it will be constructed with parking underneath the 80,000-square-foot store soaring high into in the air and the pharmacy on the ground floor.
“We don’t build any two the same, we don’t use a cookie cutter,” he said.
Above all, McClelland noted that executives do not believe in simply coming in and pushing their ideas; on the contrary, he and others desire the Heights location to be another that residents can truly pump up as “their” H-E-B.
“We want the community to feel good about the store we’ve built,” he said. “We’ll talk to them about certain components and let them weigh in with what they’d like to see in the store.”
“What’s important to me is to build a store people want to shop at,” he added. “It’s best to put our ear to the ground and listen to what people have to say.”
With North Shepherd serving as the “gateway to the Heights,” McClelland believes that constructing an H-E-B “can make the Heights even better than it currently is and have this be a reflection of how great the rest of the Heights and the soul of the Heights really is.”
There appeared to be no worry on McClelland’s face as he addressed the crowd Thursday morning, and he later revealed why—the belief that the Heights community at large will not fail to keep him and the store accountable due to success requring a mutually beneficial relationship.
“If I build a store you don’t like, then nobody wins, cause you won’t shop at it, and I’ll have to pay rent on an empty building, so I don’t win either,” he said.
McClelland said H-E-B hopes to have the Heights location up and running by January of 2018 should everything play out accordingly.