H-E-B's New Montrose Market Opens Today; Take a Sneak Peek and Avoid the Crowds

Categories: Grocery Guide

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An outdoor eating area off the Cafe on the Run is shaded by one of the remaining oak trees.
I stood inside the vestibule to the new H-E-B Montrose Market (1701 W. Alabama) yesterday afternoon, awaiting the beginning of a media tour through the San Antonio grocer's latest Houston store -- all 78,000 square feet of it -- and watched as one potential customer after another had to be turned away.

"We'll be open tomorrow," the tired-looking H-E-B rep guarding the entrance told eager visitors. One man with an armful of folders asked, "I just need to fax this stuff. Where's the next closest H-E-B?"

The H-E-B rep just stared at him, her eyes glazed with exhaustion. "I don't know," she said. "There's a Fiesta across the street..."

It's not like H-E-B to open a grocery store a week before Thanksgiving. But this isn't your average grocery store.

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Montrose Market was built on a hotly debated site that drew complaints from the very beginning: The land, which once housed the Wilshire Village apartments, was cleared of many of its old oak trees -- although a few examples happily remain, incorporated into the design of the store -- and the streets leading to the store itself were never equipped to handle the type of traffic that this enormous new store will draw.

That traffic was evident yesterday as customers attempted to stream into the store, one after another. I'm eager to see how West Alabama and Dunlavy will handle the extra load of vehicles over the coming months.

H-E-B worked with area residents throughout the construction process, holding unprecedented community meetings and even allowing the public to vote on the final store design, in hopes that it would assuage concerns about the store's impact on the immediate neighborhood.

Like the recently built H-E-B Buffalo Market in West University, this new store also incorporated natural light and sustainable building supplies and practices into its new facility. H-E-B team leader Shannon Simpson said that they also learned from Buffalo Market's mistakes, however: The aisles here have been greatly widened and shelves are built on risers, enabling them to be restocked more efficiently.

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Despite its truly gorgeous exterior -- it's honestly the prettiest grocery store I've ever seen in Houston -- the enormous store and its wide aisles still feels a little out of sorts with the surrounding neighborhood.

"It's like a suburban store in the Loop," CultureMap's Joel Luks said of the massive space. The feel is somewhat mitigated by more personalized touches, like the store's decision to stock items from My Fit Foods and create an inviting cafe space overlooking one of the site's most glorious old oak trees.

The store is also attempting to ease its entry into the neighborhood with a voting campaign, in which shoppers are asked to cast their votes for one of four local charities at checkout: Houston Achievement Place, Kids Meals Inc., Wilson Wonderground Spark Park or the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Each vote provides $5 to the chosen charity, with the winning charity receiving a donation matching the total number of votes, up to $10,000.

Votes can be cast through Sunday, November 20. That might be reason enough to brave the crowds (and the inevitable traffic) this weekend.



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8 comments
winelush
winelush

I was shocked at the produce prices.  twice (literally) of Fiesta.

Kids' Meals
Kids' Meals

Please vote for Kids' Meals at H-E-B (bit.ly/w0aCHn). Texas, unfortunately, is number one in our nation in food insecurity for children. Harris County has particularly high rates for young kids. We are a meals on wheels program for children. Kids' Meals delivers over 1400 meals daily directly to little Houstonians living in poverty. We do this with a staff of 9 and many, many volunteers. Each meal only costs $1.50. Every vote online is a $1 donation, every in store vote is $5.00. Every vote is needed.

KC
KC

We went this morning - it's a 2 block walk for us, and we walk to Fiesta all the time.  We've been looking forward to the opening for several items that we really like there and hate to drive to Buffalo Speedway for.  At any rate, it was busy, but not mobbed, and it seemed like most of the folks there were actually managers and such.  Lots of tasty samples being pushed, and some really great deals - at least for this week.  We will be splitting our grocery budget between them and Fiesta though - Fiesta's been a great store for us since we moved to Houston 10 months ago, and we want to still support them.

Elsa
Elsa

As someone who lives out in the 'burbs and has dealt with two rather recent HEB openings, let me warn HEB newbies of what they can expect: uneven availability of goods, constant reshuffling of brands (don't expect that item you suddenly fall in love with to be offered two months from now, even if it's still being produced... it will just disappear), and prices that rise up to 25% overnight.  My son's favorite Martinelli Apple Juice went from $4.97 to $5.99 between weekly shops, so I go to the scourge that is is Kroger for it and paid $4.74.  Also, have a backup plan for decorated birthday cakes because their decorators are very hit and miss. 

tee-wee
tee-wee

Fiesta had a sign that mentioned they'd been in the community for 50 years. They should have produced one that read: "Yes, we sell beer and wine". Good thing they pumped up the wine bar idea only to not be able to open it possibly until 2012.

Ramon
Ramon

HEB discontinues things at a moments notice so their price can't be compared to Wal-Mart and Kroger.  If they don't carry it, you can't compare it.  Meanwhile they built up the possibility of beer and wine - yet knew they would not have a license.

Their claims in ads are all smoke and mirrors.  Yeah, they are lower than Kroger on a lot of items - by a penny.  But the Kroger ad typically has more meaningful items that save a lot.

Did anyone know that the BBB refuses to let HEB join in Houston because of their false and misleading advertising?

Machine
Machine

This one better have the Oscar Mayer Jalapeno Cheese Dogs! I was upset when they disappeared from the Buffalo Speedway location.

HO-HUM
HO-HUM

Ramon- Could you please give us a specific an example of HEB's alleged "smoke and mirrors" in an ad? Thanks.

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