H-E-B Grocery Company is a family-run, Texas-born and bred grocery store. The company's Chairman and CEO is Charles Butt, the grandson of the woman who started it all back in 1905, and all the chain's U.S. stores are located in Texas. You may have heard about H-E-B when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017 or when fans recently crashed the store's website trying to buy a limited edition tote bag featuring Selena, but there are a few things you probably don't know about the Texas-proud company.
To bring you up to speed on H-E-B's history, culture, and general goodness, here are 15 things you should know about H-E-B, a true Texas treasure.
1. The store's founder was an awesome woman.
Florence Thornton Butt was born in 1864 in Mississippi. She was the only woman in her class at Clinton College and graduated with highest honors. When her husband was unable to work because of tuberculosis, she moved the family to Texas and started delivering groceries to make ends meet.
In 1905, she took out a $60 loan, rented the ground floor of a building in Kerrville, moved her family into the second floor, and started a small grocery store called Mrs. C. C. Butt's Staple and Fancy Grocery where she used her sons as delivery boys. When her son Howard returned from the Navy in 1919, she turned the store over to him so she could focus on religious and civic work in the town.
2. It took a few attempts for expansion to catch on.
Howard Butt wasn't content to operate one small store. He created process innovations and started working on expanding the number of stores the family-owned. He tried six times to open a second store, but it wasn't until 1926 that he was successful. By then, he had changed the name of the store to C.C. Butt Cash Grocery and made it self-serve cash and carry business model. The first store using the new H-E-B name opened in San Antonio in 1942.
3. It's one of the largest privately held supermarket chains in America.
The company, which has been around now for over a century, is family owned and operated. Today the company has 340 stores and over 100,000 employees in Texas and Mexico. H-E-B is the largest private employer in Texas. In spite of the fact that all its U.S. stores are located in one state in the southwest, it ranks as one of the largest privately held supermarket chains in the country and is the 15th-largest private company of any kind in the U.S.
4. H-E-B is actually a family of stores.
The company also owns and runs Mi Tienda, an authentic Mexican grocery-shopping experience, Joe's V Smart Shop, which focuses on budget shopping, and H-E-B plus!, which offers Texas lifestyle products. They also own Central Market, which offers premium local and international foods at stores in the larger cities in Texas like Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston.
5. In 1976, the company started opening stores on Sunday.
But they still close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. 1976 is also the year H-E-B stores started selling beer and wine.
6. It's the best retail brand to work for.
A 2017 report by Indeed.com found that the grocery chain is the best retail store to work for because of schedule flexibility, job security, good pay, and benefits, as well as helping their employees (which they call H-E-B partners) grow.
7. The company contributes five percent of its pretax earnings.
H-E-B received a lot of (unsought) attention for how it provided help to Houston after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, highlighting their disaster response work, but they've been contributing to good causes since the beginning. In 2016, their food bank program delivered more than 31 million pounds of food to food banks in Texas and Mexico. H-E-B also has multiple education-focused programs that award money to outstanding teachers and schools and donate books to kids that need them.
8. The company has its own culinary academy.
Employees attend the culinary academy to learn how to work the sampling stations H-E-B has in their Texas stores to promote H-E-B brand products. The academy also trains staff for the stores' prepared food departments and in-store restaurants.
9. They have curbside pickup and home delivery at select H-E-B stores.
Staying on top of the grocery game means offering convenience, so H-E-B is now offering ways for customers to shop online and either pick their order up at the store or have it delivered. Not every location offers it yet, but you can check their website to see if the store closest to you offers H-E-B curbside pickup or home delivery.
10. H-E-B employees can own stock in the company.
In 2016, the company began granting stock to employees. While the company remains privately owned and controlled by the Butt family, employees are anticipated to eventually own up to 15 percent of the company. The stock plan is offered in addition to the 401(k) that employees, also known as H-E-B Partners, receive. To be eligible, Partners have to be at least 21 years old, have worked with the company for at least a year, and worked at least 1,000 hours in a calendar year.
11. It has a golf tournament to benefit the Special Olympics.
It all started in 1986 when the Decker Food Company asked H-E-B to invite some of their vendors to play in a golf tournament, with the proceeds going to support Special Olympics Texas. The event was planned in six weeks and raised $38,500.
The story goes they decided if they had a year to plan they could do even more and they were right — they next year they raised $78,000. Since that first tournament, the H-E-B Tournament of Champions has raised over $99 million dollars to support Special Olympics Texas and other organizations focusing on children, youth, and education throughout Texas.
12. They have a really great selection of products you can't find anywhere else.
The chain's private label products are beloved, from the low-cost organic options to things like H-E-B Creamy Creations Unicorn Cake ice cream. Their meat market and seafood section get rave reviews, and H-E-B locations have had fresh bakeries inside the store since the 1950s (though they've sold fresh baked goods even longer than that - Howard Butt opened a bakery in Corpus Christi in 1936 to manufacture baked goods for his stores). Plus, H-E-B shows even more Texas love because their stores carry Whataburger products.
13. Texas loves H-E-B.
No, Texans really love H-E-B. Like hold-a-photoshoot-inside-a-H-E-B store love. One expectant Texas mom took maternity photos inside a H-E-B, going for an authentic every-day vibe, after her photographer asked her where she spent most of her time.
14. And H-E-B loves Texas.
The store buys from local producers and seeks out Texas-made products to feature in their store. Every year the company hosts the Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best to find the best local Texas products. Winning products are stocked in H-E-B stores.
15. H-E-B goes out of their way to make customers happy.
Tissue warning — if you don't have one handy, you might grab one because it's about to get dusty in here. The parents of a three-year-old boy who lost his favorite toy (a stuffed dog his grandmother bought from H-E-B) tweeted at Scott McClelland, president of the store's Houston division when they couldn't find another one anywhere. It was a long shot — they didn't expect him to answer — but not only did McClelland respond, but he also contacted the manufacturer to make a new one since the store didn't sell them anymore. And that's why H-E-B does Texas proud.
This article was originally published on December 9, 2019.
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