HEB knows how to get in pretty much.
As the first grocery stores of the same name opened on Wednesdays in Frisco, the scene was reminiscent of Black Fridays past.
At least 1,500 people were in line waiting to enter the store, which opened at 6 a.m. A deejay and Wakeland High School drumline kept the crowd entertained for what many had been waiting for for years – walk to the local HEB site.
The crowds were stirred up by the welcoming staff as tunes as Montel Jordan This is how we do it raucous. It took 24 minutes for the fast-moving streak to end. HEB employees distributed $25 gift cards and other free offers.
The day before the opening, Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney paid the popular retailer the absolute compliment.
“We have The Star, the Dallas Cowboys, the PGA, but I’m not sure anything has gotten that level of excitement in this community,” Cheney said.
One enthusiast of the store’s opening was Prosper’s eighth grader Dante Tapia, who dragged his mother, Claudia Tapia, to stand in line for several hours. He wanted HE-B’s frozen chicken wings and avocado, which the young man said had “not been so good here lately.”
The Reddy High School athletic coaching team arrived at 5 a.m. to buy donuts to take to soccer practice, saying, “Okay, let’s eat cake in front of them,” the practicing players.
The community crowd consisted of longtime loyalists and curious shoppers. Some of them became friends by standing in line and sometimes they found out that they had a lot in common besides HEB.
Catherine Oval, 61, of The Colony, and Sela Garrett, 61, of Carrollton, discovered that they both had daughters who attended medical school in San Antonio, where HEB is headquartered.
“My daughter gives us hot sauce and all kinds of things. Tamales and beef are great,” said Ovalle, who is shopping at Kroger but said she would drive six miles to this HEB shop from now on.
Garrett heard that HEB stores sometimes had rare live plants but that they were also there for their condiments, canned goods, vegetables, salsa, and chips. “I shop at Albertsons, but I’ll take some special trips to this store often,” she said.
Everyone seemed to have a HEB story, and while most of the people in line were from Frisco, many shoppers said they were from Carrollton, The Colony, Little Elm and Plano. There was talk of shoppers arriving from as far afield as Oklahoma and Arkansas during the day.
Next up for the HE-B store launch in North Texas is the Plano location later this fall. Stores in McKinney and Allen are under construction and expected to open next summer. HEB said he will begin work at the Mansfield store early next year.
Research has shown that Dallas-Fort Worth is not as familiar with HEB as other parts of Texas are, said Stephen Bhatt, a senior corporate executive and head of the Dallas Central Market for HE-B. HEB has 420 stores in Texas and Mexico and has 145,000 employees.
The retailer estimates that about a third of the population has never heard of HEB and may have moved here from another state. Another third has some familiarity with visiting family or their students in college.
Then there are the loyalists who marketed the chain for several years and lost it.
That would be Zach Cohn, 27, of Roulette, who was waiting in line with his HEB reusable red shopping bags. He was making breakfast for his co-workers.
“HEB got me college takeaway. It was so easy. I just had to warm them up,” he said, adding that he would drive to Frisco along with shopping at the local Tom Thumb so HEB opens near him. “My wife works for the property that HEB bought in Rockwall.”
The real hardliners are Jennifer Burnison, 46, of Little Elm, and Julie Hoffman, 56, of Selena, who were the first to get there at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“All of my siblings live in South Texas, so I know HEB,” Burnison said.
“We’re just excited,” Hoffman added.
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