HUDSON OAKS, Texas — At 3 a.m. Friday morning, a full three hours before the doors opened, there were people lined up outside the H-E-B in Hudson Oaks, just to be the first shoppers inside the new store about 25 miles west of downtown Fort Worth.
By noon, all 13 registers were open with long lines stretching throughout the aisles. There were lines at the self-checkout kiosks too. And lines in the produce department. And in the beer and wine section. And the deli. And the dairy. And all over the store.
“This is the H-E-B special sauce,” said Chelsea Thompson, H-E-B’s area community coordinator for north central Texas. “This is Parker County waiting for years and years for us to come here.”
It took about a decade or slightly more for Hudson Oaks to get here.
“We just didn’t take no for an answer,” said Parker County Judge Pat Deen, who was the mayor of Hudson Oaks for 12 years before being elected to the countywide position.
“Look at this parking lot,” he said standing outside the H-E-B. “I had to park at the Dairy Queen!”
On opening day, the H-E-B drew a remarkable crowd, but Deen and others believe it will continue to be an economic driver.
“If there’s any business that can define a community, H-E-B does that,” he said.
How can a grocery store be credited with defining a community?
That’s the “special sauce” that Thompson tried to describe.
“We offer great deals," she said. "We are always involved in our community. When we come into a community, we make a promise to take care of our neighbors, and that’s who our customers are – our neighbors,” she said. “The leadership in this company is really great. They focus on diversity and inclusion and education and really retaining the best partners that they can and you feel it and it’s awesome. I’ve been here almost 8 years and I can’t think of any place else I’d ever work.”
There could be one other reason H-E-B is beloved.
It is a Texas-based grocer with unabashed Texas pride.
“It fits the culture,” Deen said.
The Hudson Oaks store is H-E-B’s northernmost location. Expansion into North Texas has been slow and calculated and human nature is to want what you don’t have. Which means, when it finally arrives, people are drawn to it.
“This community has waited years and years,” Thompson said, looking at the lines stretching from the checkout area. “I don’t see this craziness going anywhere. I think this is here to stay.”
She said H-E-B is very selective about the communities it chooses to build in and in DFW, the chain has focused on its Central Market stores.
There’s a good chance people from Tarrant County and beyond will drive to Hudson Oaks to do their shopping, Deen said, which is why they widened roads and built up the infrastructure right off I-30.
“This is ‘cha-ching’ for the county on the taxes we’re going to get here,” he said. “So, just keep shopping. We’re excited.”