H-E-B Public Affairs Manager Felicia Pena told Community Impact Newspaper the company has received a lot of positive response from the community, which is excited about the new store. Situated along the I-35 frontage road near the highway's southern entrance into Austin, she said the store was designed to create a sense of community among the national fast-food and big-box chains in the area. The addition of the store’s True Texas BBQ restaurant will also give patrons a place to gather and dine in the neighborhood once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
“It’s a big deal for all of us [at H-E-B] too, because the store is a long time coming and the partners [who work there] are so excited to get it open,” Pena said. “They deserve all the praise in the world for opening the store during the pandemic. South Austin is growing really quickly, and we're so exited to bring our store to our new neighbors.”
As the company has prepared to expand its South Austin footprint over the past six years developing the store, it has partnered with local organizations to increase access to food for residents, she said.
With the H-E-B located at 600 W. William Cannon Drive closing, some area residents who previously walked to the store will have to find new ways of reaching the Slaughter H-E-B. To provide access, Pena said H-E-B has partnered with Capital Metro to offer free bus passes to those with limited transportation options. So far 30 individuals have signed up for the program, and the groups will also mail maps to individuals outlining bus routes and paths to the new store.
“We know that there are a lot of neighbors in South Austin who might be walking to the grocery store, so as we get ready to open our newest H-E-B and close the other, it's important for us to be able to find a way to allow those who normally would walk to get to the other location within their neighborhoods,” she said.
The supermarket chain has also donated $20,000 to the Central Texas Food Bank and has been working with the nonprofit and Capital Metro to distribute grocery boxes during the COVID-19 pandemic to individuals who are at high risk or immunocompromised. Other efforts have been made with Hungry Souls, which provides weekend meals to children in South Austin, and Farmshare Austin, which brings organic produce to communities in Southeast Austin through mobile farmers markets.
About $15,000 in H-E-B gift cards will also be distributed to five South Austin schools, and once campuses reopen and visitation is allowed at schools, Pena said staffers hope to be able to volunteer at area schools and connect further with the South Austin community.
“It’s really important to work with these groups who have already been in the community and are doing it well, to look at how we can supplement and support their work, and to build relationships that lets our impact go even further through their work,” she said. “We want to meet these principals at local schools. We want to make sure our organization partners can volunteer and be able to show up to these schools and really connect with the community. It’s important to move into South Austin with that in mind.”