The H-E-B South Flores Market, which opened Dec. 2 with daily operating hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, will extend its evening operations to 9 p.m. starting Monday, Store Manager Nick George said Friday.
‘The response from the community and our neighbors has been phenomenal,” George said as he surveyed a store busy with after-work customers Friday evening. “It’s amazing how many people actually do live downtown now. We’re thrilled to be able to extend the hours to meet our customers’ needs. The evening business is way better than we expected and that tells you how many people actually live downtown. I’m here right now and people are coming home from work and picking up something for dinner or for breakfast in the morning.”
Will staying open one hour later inevitably lead customers to arrive even later and push for a 10 p.m. closure?
“In a big store you can bring a truck inside the store and stock with customers in the store,” George said. “Here at the South Flores market, our store is smaller and the aisles and more narrow so we really can’t do that, so there are limits.”
George shared a range of “first impressions” that he and his fellow H-E-B partners have observed after a little more than two weeks of operations in the new downtown location.
“Lunch has been phenomenal too. People walking from their downtown offices, people coming here who are on jury duty at the courthouse. We expected that,” he said. Perhaps less expected is the out-of-town visitor and tourist traffic. “Every hotel concierge and general manager has been through here to see what we can offer their guests. Visitors are coming here to buy what they need for their hotel stay, whether it’s a phone charger they forgot to pack or food and drink for their room. Some come straight from the airport before they check in to their hotel. They already know we are here.”
George said lunch hour customers are buying more fresh sushi than expected and remarking on its high quality.
The extension of operating hours is only one of the changes that George said H-E-B has made in response to customer shopping patterns and feedback. More seafood options have been added and some items are being added to the fresh and organic produce inventory. Most customers, he said, seem surprised at the range of products and choices that designers have fit into the store. The 50 cents red plastic shopping bags have proven to be an unexpected hit.
“There are more groceries here than people anticipated, and they seem to love the variety at the same time they are experiencing a store of this scale,” George said. “It’s truly an urban shopping experience, and people are telling us they love the size and feel. People say they feel like they are in New York. A shopper told me today, ‘This is how grocery shopping should be.'”
The market’s opening week included a seemingly nonstop line of cars waiting to get into the 47-space parking lot as other shoppers exited. Traffic police were required to work both the César Chavez Boulevard and the South Flores Street entrances and exits.
“The parking lot has settled down, and people are getting in and out just fine now,” George said. “We do want it to be a multimodal store, and as we get more people used to it, more of the area residents will walk here. I’ve had several of our neighbors tell they me they drove here the first time, but now are walking here with their own shopping cart. Changing people’s habits takes a little time. Others drive in and say they forgot we sell gas and see our $1.75 a gallon price, and say they just drove miles to another fuel station out of habit and paid more.”
The promised bike repair station equipment arrived Thursday and the various tools attached to cables are accessible to anyone who uses the bike rack out front.
A couple of closing hour drive-bys by the Rivard Report this week showed customers still in the store after 8 p.m. Monday’s new closing hour, it seems, just makes it official.
*Top ImageCustomers coming and going at H-E-B South Flores Market about 15 minutes before posted closing time of 8 PM. Photo by Scott Ball.