BELLAIRE, Texas – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – H-E-B is opening its first two-story grocery store in the Houston area. It’s in Bellaire, an affluent municipality surrounded by the city of Houston.
Beginning at 6 a.m. on June 27, Bellaire will have the opportunity to experience the first of HEB’s double decker concept, which they originated in six stores near Monterey, Mexico. The San Antonio-based grocer plans three more multi-level locations in Houston.
Another two-story H-E-B will open in the Heights area at 2030 Shepherd will debut in January, 2019, with another nearby at Washington Avenue and Waugh, featuring grocery on the first level, with parking above planned for mid-summer of 2019. The equally anticipated two-story in Meyerland Plaza is planned for September of 2019, co-starring shared parking with JC Penney, according to Scott McClelland of H-E-B. “The smaller H-E-B Pantry store didn’t necessarily serve the City of Bellaire as well as it needed to,” he said. “So we’ve built a two-story store with foods from all over the world. It was a way to get 78,000 SF into Bellaire and I think you’ll agree it’s worth the wait.”
McClelland noted that the store has a massive generator that will kick on in the event of a hurricane (we have these now in 125 of our stores) so that this store will never lose power.”
Suburban drivers pulled into the first level parking lot, took an escalator up to a cool 78,000 SF haven filled with cold-pressed juices, more than 1,600 brands of wine, a deep meat selection that includes items like the Cajun Kiss and Armadillo eggs, made from chicken tenders wrapped in bacon, jalapeno, and pepper jack cheese. Shopping carts can be snapped into the cart-o-lator, adjacent to the escalator that transport visitors upstairs. There are also three large elevators, designed to accommodate 11,200 pounds each.
The sleek, stylized store sits on 3.2 acres at 5106-5120 Bissonnet at Cedar, where the old H-E-B Pantry store anchored a strip center leased by Brixmor Properties, which now has the property listed for sale through HFF.
This new H-E-B is the first grocery store to open in Bellaire in 25 years.
Previous entries in the Bellaire market include an old A&P, a grocer that is now closed because its traditions would not allow it to change its business model. A Weingarten’s store at Bissonnet and Cedar was here in 1956 and later became Safeway and now, the current Randall’s. Gerlands sat at Hillcroft and Beechnut. An A&P store was at Cedar, on the Ferris end, later transitioning to become the former H-E-B Pantry store at Cedar @ Bissonnet. H-E-B also took in some space that used to be an old 5 & 10 cent store called TG&Y.
Brixmor, the real estate firm that owns the new H-E-B building, has listed the new store for sale to investors through HFF. The marketing materials from HFF describes the location as “surrounded by a densely populated and affluent customer base in an area that has high barriers-to-entry with strict zoning regulations enforced by the City of Bellaire, which do not apply to the rest of Houston. While several retailers and grocery stores desire having a Bellaire address, feasible retail options are severely constrained. Even on a wider scale, barriers-to-entry within the Loop 610-area are evidenced by a 96-percent current retail occupancy rate and 22.6-percent retail rent growth over the last five years.”
HFF notes the area “has an average household income of $235,000, the highest in all of Houston.”
At the VIP luncheon and initial tours for community leaders, the 113-year old H-E-B Corp. donated $5,000 check to Henry Owen of the Nature Discovery Center and $5,000 to Undies for Everyone. Guests received bouquets of flowers, specialty cheeses, fresh-baked bread, cookies, and coupons for free bottles of Just Made Juice.
Shoppers are greeted by an interactive light installation called Blue By You, by Texas artist Ansen Seale. In all of the multi-level stores planned for Houston, H-E-B will commission an artist to create a custom, site-specific installation, adding an engaging element to each neighborhood’s H-E-B. McClelland had said earlier that in the Heights, which has a more downhome feel, there an art installation featuring chickens wearing crocheted sweaters. In Bellaire, the piece is composed of acrylic, LED lights and aluminum. As residents move in the space, Blue by You responds by changing color, leaving a trail behind the moving person.
“We have been a part of the Bellaire community for more than 24 years and are committed to our loyal customer following,” said Armando Perez, Senior Vice President, H-E-B Houston. “While the Bellaire store will offer an enhanced in-store experience with the highest standard of service and selection, we are also always looking for ways to be innovative and connect with our customers on a new level.”
The Roaster, a Four J Foods coffee shop and eatery will open in August on the second floor, with a separate entrance for easy access on your way in or out. This restaurant for those on the go will feature indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of charm for meetings over coffee.
Store Center Leader and Bellaire resident Allison Junco, who oversees cosmetics, beer and wine and grocery, led guests on a tour following lunch, as did General Manager Hugh Sintic and Ernie Gonzalez, Operations Leader.
H-E-B Curbside, located downstairs in the well-lit parking garage is designed to save customers time while offering all the products available in-store. “Simply create your grocery list, submit your order and pay at heb.com,” explained Sintic. “H-E-B’s personal shoppers will hand pick all grocery selections and deliver to you curbside at your scheduled pick up time – they’ll even load your car.” He said that beginning next week, a system of red and green lights will help direct shoppers to available parking spots.
“The new H-E-B is exactly three miles for the heart of Westbury and I won’t mind driving that at all,” said Becky Edmondson, president of the Westbury Civic Club. “I also love the fact that after two hours in the store today, I came downstairs to my car in the garage and my water was still cold. I love it that our cars will be out of the hot sun while we shop!”
In 2015, before H-E-B actually committed to building the new store, the Bellaire City Council handed over five parcels of land, abandoning City right-of-way and easement, to the H-E-B Grocery Co. for free in the interest of economic development. Only a month earlier, the Council had voted to sell the land for $187,000.
But Bellaire city leaders, including Mayor Andrew Friedberg, look kindly to new development.
“Beyond the added shopping conveniences for our residents and H-E-B’s long history of corporate partnership with the community, the new store represents a significant investment in Bellaire’s future,” Friedberg said after the VIP luncheon. “Commercial redevelopment is something we’ve been working on for years, and the new H-E-B is not only part of that itself, it’s already serving as a catalyst for other exciting projects in the area.”