HEB Plus to offer variety for Belton shoppers
By Spencer Turner
UMHB students and residents of the Belton community will soon find a new addition to the stable of grocery stores and supermarkets. The Texas grocer HEB is in the final stages of constructing a superstore on North Main Street, across from the Walmart shopping center.
Due to open its doors for the first time at 5 a.m. Friday, the new facility will present a number of improvements over the current store located roughly a mile from the construction site.
Tamra Jones, public affairs official for the HEB regional headquarters in Austin, explained the motivation behind HEB’s desire to develop an enhanced venue.
“We had the opportunity to move the store to a better location and provide more variety to the city of Belton,” she said.
Sophomore Christian studies major Rene Martinez has worked for HEB the past several years as a central checkout specialist and will soon become part of the staff at the superstore.
“Our main focus for this new HEB is to provide the best customer experience ever,” he said.
Once completed, the store will occupy 117,000 square feet of space and include a variety of departments. Entertainment, Do-It-Yourself hardware, a large school section, a sushi corner and an extensive seasonal aisle highlight but a few of the options offered to future customers. but a few of the options offered to future customers.
“If you’re looking for Valentine candy, you’ll know where to find it,” Jones said.
An in-store restaurant named HEB Café on Your Way will serve hand-tossed pizza made with ingredients imported from Italy, while free Wi-Fi service is to be provided storewide to meet customers’ media needs.
Construction on the new store also includes a full-service gas station and car wash, which opened to the public Oct. 28.
Leslie Sweet, director of HEB public affairs in Central Texas, explained the company’s approach to attracting auto clientele.
“We’re always going to be competitive with our gas prices,” she said. “We’re very proud of the prices that we can offer.”
In recent months Sweet has held meetings with administrative staff at UMHB to discuss possible promotions and sales ideas for students that have yet to be disclosed.
The store will also provide Belton residents and UMHB students with an equally important resource: future employment.
Sweet estimates that after the current employees’ transfer requests were processed, the store hired an additional 200 “partners” to work in the new facility.
“We have filled a majority of the positions so far,” Sweet said.
However, she insists many more employment opportunities will arise for students and community members.
“The way the company works is we make a guess for the first few weeks on the number of jobs we need filled. Then as business grows, we add more positions,” she said. “With any new service we might have in the future, we’ll be hiring new workers.”
This is welcome news to junior science education major Aubrey Turner.
“I was thinking of applying for a job there,” she said.
To Turner, the opportunity of being employed at Belton’s newest shopping venue is an exciting alternative to other businesses in the area.
Junior psychology and biblical studies major Will Summers is also quick to acknowledge the benefits of the store.
“This new HEB will be more customer friendly and centrally located,” he said.
Summers, however, notes a possible obstacle in opening such a large a store along the city’s main thoroughfare.
“I’d say a concern is Main Street traffic. That will make it challenging,” he said.
Regardless of concerns about vehicular congestion, the new facility is viewed with anticipation as a viable shopping choice.
Assistant Director of Student Organizations at UMHB Tiffany Wurdemann expressed her take on the new store.
“Honestly, it’s all location, location, location for me,” she said. “My curiosity really makes me want to check the HEB Plus out.”
Turner displays no hesitation in her shopping preference once HEB Plus opens its doors.
“HEB, no questions asked,” she said.
Martinez said the greater selection to be offered by the new store eliminates the need for multiple errands.
“Now there’s no excuse to go elsewhere. It’s one trip for all.”
Summers, meanwhile, plans to strategically approach his selection of shopping centers.
He explained, “I’ll go to Walmart until the crowd dies down around the (new) HEB.”