Representatives from H-E-B and local organizations attended a ribbon-cutting event April 28. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)
On April 28 the company held a grand opening celebration for area stakeholders and H-E-B employees ahead of the grand opening the following morning.
The current store originally opened in 1994, said Katy Segler, the store leader for the New Braunfels H-E-B. The first H-E-B in New Braunfels was located where McKenna Events Center is today.
The roughly 76,000-square-foot grocery store was later joined by two additional stores located on FM 306 and Hwy. 46 that were built to accommodate the growing population. Both stores have larger footprints than the first location.
In January 2021, a gas station and a shopping center that was attached to the main grocery store were demolished to make way for the construction of the new, more than 110,000-square-foot building.
“It was time for this part of the New Braunfels community to have a store that could keep up with the growth [and] could provide more of the items that you see in the other store locations,” said Julie Bedingfield, a public affairs manager with H-E-B.
The new grocery store will include several firsts for H-E-B, said Kyle Stevens, the new vice president of H-E-B for the San Antonio region.
“The first ‘first’ will be a two-story True Texas BBQ with expanded dining options on the second floor,” Stevens said. “Additionally, this will be our first H-E-B to feature our home department.”
Sabina Israelian-Garcia, group vice president of general merchandise for drug store and beauty at H-E-B, said the creation of the new home department and the Haven & Key product line have been over a year in the making.
Home decor and furniture are sourced from around the world, Israelian-Garcia said, and the section will also feature the Texas Proud product line.
The New Braunfels store was selected as the first H-E-B location to include the department, but Israelian-Garcia said it will eventually be expanded to other stores throughout Texas.
“We see this getting to about 100 locations over the next three years,” she said. “We will be in about 25 locations by the end of this year.”
Segler said the store will also offer customers a wider range of prepared and ready-to-eat meals than the original store, including sushi, oven-ready meals and house-made tortillas. While many other H-E-B locations have freshly made tortillas, the Walnut Avenue location previously did not have room to make them, Segler said.
The store is also expected to include a Healthy Living section that will be stocked with bulk goods and options for dietary restrictions, Segler said, and international sections will be more tailored to customers.
Segler and her team began a “sell down” of products at the original store ahead of the grand opening to clear merchandise and simplify the transition to the new facility.
In the weeks leading up to the opening, Segler said products were sold more quickly than expected, and she and her team decided that keeping the store open with nearly bare shelves could be a disservice to the community.
“When we got through the Easter weekend, and then into the bigger sell-down mode in the last week, we did sell through product,” she said. “By the last day we had to make the call of ‘does this make sense to stay open?’”
The original store officially closed April 25 at 6 p.m.
“It was bittersweet,” Segler said. “We have so many partners with over 20 years of experience who have really grown up at this location.”
During the April 28 celebration, Segler recognized five employees who have each worked at the Walnut Avenue store for more than 30 years.
Segler also announced the donation of $10,000 to both the McKenna Foundation and Communities in Schools of South Central Texas.
“As we open the doors to this new age, we know it’s important that one of our first acts of service is to give back to the community,” Segler said during the event.
Once the original building has been decommissioned and the fixtures are returned to the H-E-B return goods center, the facility will be demolished to make space for the parking lot.
The New Braunfels Fire Department is also expected to use the building for training purposes before it is razed.
Until the parking lot is complete, the pharmacy will not offer drive-thru services, but customers will be able to pick up medications through curbside pickup, Bedingfield said. Eventually the store will have 26 curbside parking spaces.
A smaller grand opening celebration will be held at 5:45 a.m. at the location before the store officially opens to customers, Segler said. The event will include live polka music and a ribbon cutting.
“It’s one of the coolest things when you open a store to see your first customers walk in and that’s what these managers are waiting for,” she said. “Just like we were cheering [customers] out of the store [on April 25] we’ll be cheering them into the store coming through the produce entrance here, and then from that point on our doors are open, so we’ll be ready to get to work.”