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The Houston Chronicle reports that HEB has decided to spend $150 million to build 11 new Food Drug stores in that city and environs during the coming year, after having spent an equal amount during the past 12 months to establish a significant beachhead in Houston.

The chain currently operates 30 smaller Pantry stores, 13 Food Drug stores and one upscale Central Market there, and will close eight Pantry units when the new, larger stores are opened.

Houston is a tough market, dominated by Kroger and also populated by the likes of Randalls, Wal-Mart, and Fiesta, among others. But HEB clearly is pleased with how things have gone so far, and plans to extend its reach by incorporating parts of its Central Market concept in the new Food Drug units.
KC's View:
We had a chance to visit a Central Market when we were in Dallas last week, and we remain convinced that it is simply one of the best food store formats in America, brimming with great food, extensive selection, enormous sampling opportunities and a vitality that most supermarkets can only envy. If HEB can find a way to transplant some of that to its more traditional stores, it will be remarkable – and industry analysts will be trying to figure out how they did it fro years to come.

One other thought. When you’re feeling down about the industry because of all the headlines and stories that dominate the news, it helps to go to a Central Market. It reminds you of what retailing excellence is all about, and what this industry is supposed to be all about.