HEB’s plan to build three new stores in Collin County is celebrated in some circles while being criticized in others.
Stores are expected to open in a few years in Plano, Frisco and the town of McKinney which broke the news this week.
The fanfare that accompanies large arrivals, including beloved Texan grocer HEB, serves as a cruel reminder to others desperate for quality grocers in their neighborhoods.
“Metaphorically, it adds salt to the wound,” said Casey Thomas, a member of the Dallas City Council.
Those who have worked for years to attract branded grocers to Dallas, especially south of I-30, say these kinds of ads are just another heartbreak.
Anga Sanders from Feed Oak Cliff says she’s used to it.
“They’re jumping right over the southern area of Dallas,” she said.
According to the city of Dallas, approximately 450,000 people live in what is known as Dallas ‘”food deserts”, where grocery stores, farmers’ markets and healthy food vendors are often miles away.
Some residents turn to convenience stores for their needs, while others venture to other neighborhoods and cities for food.
Although HEB purchased land at North Oak Cliff in 2016, the company has yet to announce a start date for the project.
Dallas City Council member Chad West, who represents that section of Bishop Arts, told NBC 5 that HEB officials recently told him “they’re coming.” However, the company wishes first complete the rehabilitation of their tornado-ravaged Central Market store in north Dallas; and build a central market along McKinney Avenue in Uptown.
There is also talk of HEB potentially requesting that there be retail, multi-family or office space included in order to start an Oak Cliff project.
Sanders calls grocers like HEB “myopic” for not emphasizing the potential for success at Oak Cliff, especially in areas with a food desert.
“If they were in Sector South, they would basically be the only game in town and shoot from far outside the mile radius they are looking at,” she said.
The city is also still considering buying the “Save U More” in the Highland Hills desert food zone in southeast Dallas. The store closed in January.
Some neighbors said poor inventory has caused the store to decline in recent months.
The store opened in 2016 after the city gave the developer a $ 2.9 million grant to renovate the mall and open the grocery store.
In return, the promoter was supposed to keep a store available to the neighborhood for 10 years.
Thomas said the city was in contact with the owner about what could be done to bring a grocery store to the same location, although critics say the city shouldn’t continue to shell out taxpayer money for a project that has failed.
What goes into a company’s decision on where to locate?
A spokesperson for HEB told NBC 5 that they are considering market demand, population growth and the availability of real estate.
The company is considering buying new land or choosing from properties that have already been purchased.
“The enormous growth of Collin County is no secret, and the number of requests we have received from residents to build here has been overwhelming. With these factors in mind, opening stores in Collin County is a natural fit, ”said company spokesperson Mabrie Jackson.
The Town of Mansfield is also anxiously awaiting HEB.
A plan to bring the grocer there has been in preparation since 2016.
A spokesperson for the City of Mansfield told NBC 5 on Friday that they had no updates on their plans yet.
Recent data presented at a recent city council committee meeting shows that the average resident living in a Dallas food desert earns about $ 15,000 per year.
Not everyone, argues Thomas.
“There are people who own homes of $ 250,000 to $ 350,000 who live in my neighborhood,” he said. “We have disposable income, money to spend on groceries.”
Thomas refers to senior residents of South Dallas who own their homes and those who shop at wholesale membership stores in surrounding cities.
“I don’t see this as a poverty issue,” Thomas said. “I see it as a problem of perception. Anyone who lives south of I-30 is seen as poor or low income.
Sanders accuses branded grocers of “ignoring” 40% of Dallas’ population.
She says businesses shouldn’t focus so much on average annual income.
“Average grocery expenses don’t depend on income, they depend on how many people you need to feed,” Sanders said.
Sanders has for years tried to attract quality groceries to the area as part of “Feed Oak Cliff”.
The nonprofit also receives funding for its ongoing efforts to open a nonprofit grocery store.
Executives traveled to Waco years ago to see that town’s store with the concept.
Sanders says Oak Cliff is more likely to see his non-profit community grocery store before a branded grocer moves in.
“Stay tuned,” Sanders said with a smile followed by a laugh.
When asked if residents should wait five or ten years for the nonprofit grocer, Sanders responded with another smile, saying, “No.” No.’