City Cast

How H-E-B Became a Texas Favorite

Brooke Lewis
Posted on July 18   |   Updated on July 19
H-E-B started as a small grocery store and grew into a Texas icon. (H-E-B/Facebook)

H-E-B started as a small grocery store and grew into a Texas icon. (H-E-B/Facebook)

H-E-B started as a small grocery store in Kerrville, Texas in 1905. Since then, the beloved grocery store has expanded to more than 300 stores across the state. From the tortillas, specialty drinks, barbecue sauce, to the friendly grocers — let’s learn how this grocery store became a Texas favorite.

Humble Beginnings

Florence Thornton, who was married to Clarence Butt, started the grocery store as a family business in Kerrville. Thornton worked for A&P Tea Company, ordering and delivering groceries. Her time with the company paid off because Thornton began to develop her own supplies of grocery and save enough money to open her own store. In November 1905, the C.C. Butt Grocery Store, opened for business.

A Fast Expansion

In the early days, the store was set up under a charge and delivery method, where customers came in and placed an order on credit. Then, an employee would deliver the groceries to their home. As a teen, Howard Butt, helped his mom around the store, which helped him learn more about the grocery business. When he returned in 1919 from a stint in the U.S. Navy, his mother let him take over the business. Soon, Butt changed the store’s delivery model to cash-and-carry, which put an end to wagon deliveries. He also yearned to expand the store beyond Kerrville, and successfully opened a new branch in Del Rio in 1926. The store’s name also would change to H.E. Butt Grocery Stores and then eventually shortened to H-E-B in 1946. Butt also managed to expand the store to Corpus Christi, Austin, and San Antonio.

Our Beloved H-E-B

H-E-B finally came to the Houston-area in 2001. I still remember my first trip to the Katy store on Mason road as a child. I thought it was massive and easily got lost exploring all the aisles. It quickly became my favorite store to visit. The Houston area now has 20 locations, including Mi Tienda, a Mexican grocery store owned by H-E-B. The store’s branded products also have a cult-like following. If you’ve ever had one of their tortillas, ice creams, drinks, or other goodies — you’ll understand why.

For more H-E-B fun: Track down your closest H-E-B. Then, listen to our City Cast Houston episodes on the best H-E-B snacks to try and if H-E-B is the best grocery store in the state.

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