H-E-B is one of the more beloved Texas brands, as evinced by the fact that every time we write about them, people in parts of the state who don’t have one respond by declaring the lengths to which they’d go to see the company open a store nearby. While the San Antonio-based chain dominates in Central and South Texas, there’s a significant, Dallas-Fort Worth-shaped hole in the company’s current holdings. The company does operate three locations of its higher-end Central Market concept in Dallas, with another one each in Plano, Southlake, and Fort Worth—but otherwise H-E-B is just a dream that folks in DFW hold in their hearts.
Still, that dream has been inching closer to becoming a reality. While DFW proper remains an H-E-B desert, the larger North Texas region as a whole isn’t. There are now a handful of stores within 50 miles or so of Dallas—in Waxahachie, Ennis, Burleson, Corsicana, and Cleburne—with the earliest, in Cleburne, having been there since the 1980s. And they’ve just added another to the lineup: Hudson Oaks, about 25 miles west of downtown Fort Worth, opened its first H-E-B store on Friday. As you may have guessed from the enthusiasm we mentioned above, people in town lost their dang minds about it.
— Bud Kennedy / #ReadLocal (@BudKennedy) May 13, 2019
H-E-B can get that “lining up at 3 a.m.” action every time they release a new limited-edition shopping bag with a picture of Selena on it—but, in Hudson Oaks, they didn’t need to offer a limited-edition anything to the first shoppers. (They also didn’t offer any sort of Chick-Fil-A-style giveaway to the first customers in line—according to WFAA, people just wanted to get there early to say they were the first!) Parking was a mess, with customers forced to walk over from the nearby Dairy Queen parking lot. And then there were the cheerleaders.
The cheer squads were there at a sneak preview event the day before the official opening in order to represent their school districts, which each received a donation of $5,000 from the company, according to the Weatherford Democrat. While it’s unclear if there were any H-E-B specific cheers performed, the Weatherford High School Kangaroos’ sparkly pom-poms spelling out the company’s name lead us to believe that there might have been. The Aledo squad’s live horses and Bearcat mascot (you can see him tucked in at the back of the group shot above) indicates that enthusiasm for the store wasn’t limited strictly to the brand’s human fans.
The background of the Hudson Oaks H-E-B is interesting too. Former Mayor (and current County Judge) Pat Deen lobbied the company to come to town for more than a decade, according to the Democrat, and he sounded downright tearful at the store’s opening. “For me this is emotional because at the time when I was in Hudson Oaks, being a part of the team that recruited H-E-B became a passion,” he told the paper. “This is probably the most gratifying win ever in 20 years in Hudson Oaks, and it’s touching.” That’s a big get for a town of only 1,600.
The future of H-E-B’s North Texas plans are unclear. The company didn’t respond to a request for an interview on the subject, and they’ve been slow to reveal plans around expansion in the past. When the company purchased a half-dozen Sun Fresh Market locations in the DFW area in 2016, it set off fresh speculation around the possibility that the chain was finally heading to Dallas—but, alas, the company quickly squashed rumors, declaring all of the enthusiasm “the ultimate honor” before saying that, while they’d “love to be in Dallas,” it wasn’t happening “right now.” Still, with every store in the region, more North Texas locals get introduced to the brand, which suggests that perhaps it’ll happen sometime soon.