Largest H-E-B opens in Waco, with other store closures

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

The H-E-B grocery store on 1102 Speight Ave., along with the H-E-B location on Valley Mills Drive and Dutton Avenue, closed its doors for good Thursday. It left customers from Baylor and the surrounding community to adjust their shopping plans in accordance with H-E-B’s newest installment in Waco: an H-E-B Plus The store off of I-35 and Valley Mills opened Friday. H-E-B Plus is located at 1821 South Valley Mills Dr in Waco.

While many people in the community have expressed concern about the changes happening, others concentrate on the good they believe the new store could bring with it. H-E-B has been working to cater to the needs of the Waco community, aiming also to draw in Baylor students to shop the aisles of the new store.

Kansas City, Mo., junior Emily Moyes said she frequented the recently closed Speight-located H-E-B two to three times each week.

“I feel like I live in H-E-B,” Moyes said.

Moyes said she used to drive to the Speight H-E-B but had multiple friends who walked to the store for their grocery trips. Moyes said she supposes she’ll shop at the new H-E-B Plus!, but doesn’t want to. Moyes said the Speight H-E-B felt “sketchy,” but said it had everything she needs for her grocery trips.

M.B. Castaneda, a Waco local, visited the Speight H-E-B on the Sunday before it closed its doors, when shelves were emptying of product and not being restocked. Castaneda said though the change with H-E-B will not affect her personally, she felt concern for the community surrounding the store. Some customers who once were able to walk to the Speight location will be looking for a way to reach the new H-E-B Plus!.

“Some of these people just want to grab something that they need right quick,” Castaneda said.

Domingas Rodriguez, another Waco local, lives on 12th Street, down the road from where the Speight H-E-B once was, and walked almost every day to that location to do his shopping. Rodriguez said he is considering using the new shuttle system provided by Waco Transit to reach H-E-B Plus, but is concerned because the bus won’t come for shoppers on Sundays.

Castaneda said she was concerned it could be difficult for people who aren’t familiar with the bus schedules to come to the new store. Elderly customers most likely won’t get online and look up schedules, Castaneda said.

Dr. Karla Leeper, vice president for executive affairs and chief of staff to the president at Baylor, said there is always talk of what private companies might do on campus.

Leeper has a positive outlook on what H-E-B is doing, though. Leeper said the Texas Hunger Initiative, a group on Baylor campus who works with the community to facilitate resources to address issues with hunger. She said change is hard, but with progress, there is change. In years to come, Leeper said, people will become adjusted to the new situation.

Tamara Jones, a spokesperson for H-E-B, said H-E-B has been working to meet the needs of the local community.

“We’ve really been working for months to be able to offer some solutions to our folks that are on the other side near the Speight store so they have some different transportation options to the new store,” Jones said.

Erin Venable, marketing director at Waco Transit System, said Waco Transit has been working in cooperation with H-E-B since the late spring. Waco Transit Route 9/South Terrace runs through campus twice an hour down Eighth Street, 20 minutes after the hour, Venable said. It’s about a 30-minute ride to H-E-B, she noted, and a 10-minute ride back to campus. It costs passengers $3 each ride that they wish to take the bus to the store, Venable added.

“We have a limit to how much baggage you can carry on the bus,” Venable said. “So pretty much you’re limited to whatever you can carry.”

The bus to the H-E-B Plus runs from 5:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Saturdays. It does not run on Sundays, and only accepts cash.

A special area of the store called “Good Living” will be a health and wellness room, where H-E-B will offer immunizations, health screenings and education for customers wishing to manage their health. Jones said the new H-E-B Plus caters to Baylor students, because it includes a shop for Baylor apparel and souvenirs.

“We have everything from any type of souvenir item to, of course, hats and T-shirts, glasses and key chains; everything to do with your Baylor gear,” Jones said.

As far as student shoppers are concerned, Baylor has proposed to have a form of large market on campus, said Brett Perlowski, director of dining services at Baylor, but there have been no plans made yet. It’s only an idea, he said. There will be a small convenience store going in the new East Village complex, with a few grocery items, snacks and some produce, Perlowski said. It will open today.

“It certainly won’t fill the need of a full grocery store, but I think a lot of the top 20 things that students will get at the grocery store they’ll be able to get in there,” Perlowski said.

“My sense is that if an entrepreneur sees a demand, then one will go in, but if there’s not a demand, there won’t be,” Leeper said.

Jones said the new East Village store provides a café area with Wi-Fi, a seafood department, a floral department and foods made on site such as freshly squeezed juice, guacamole, tortillas and other foods made on-site.