Humourless, Overly-Litigious Grocer LP, better known as HEZ, has identified Brownwood as a finalist for becoming the first test market for a brand new store concept. Joining the ranks of HEZ Center Market, H-E-Z Plus, Tu Tienda and Joe Z’s Smart Shop, Central Commodities and Deli looks to serve the lower-end spectrum of supermarket sales.
“We aren’t going to be like a dollar store, only offering low-grade products” Marketing Director Bri Tyson stated. “What we’ve done here is singled out all of our most popular concepts across the 5 brands we operate, made them as affordable as possible, and look to pass the savings on to you”.
“The majority of our products are going to be made by Hill County Carnival, our private label brand. Shoppers know Hill Country Carnival means quality that often outpaces name-brand rivals. We plan on offering these same favorites at a lower price point by simply using generic labels. Brownwood residents hate art anyhow,” laughed Ms. Tyson.
A long time coming
Brownwood residents have heard rumors of HEZ coming to town for as long as they can remember. “Zoning issues, tax abatements, NIMBY, I’ve heard it all” said Joe Joe Hudson, area small business owner. “We thought it would never come. I’m so happy right now”.
The reason for the rather lengthy delay was explained clearly by Ms. Tyson. “Research takes time, and we know how important the Brownwood market is. We know how desperately they’ve wanted a store and we knew we couldn’t let them down. We’ve researched everything from location to name, brands highly favored by area consumers, you name it.” Originally, the new concept store was to be named Third World Supermarket and Deli, but internal research shows that most citizens found it to be “Offputting, possibly ethnic, and not American”. “Value Pantry was another name we researched, but we found that Brownwood’s high rate of vandalism would quickly turn our store into “Value Panty” and we do not plan to sell undergarments at this time. It would have disappointed our customers.”
The Deli sure looks to be American though, a throwback to the Lunch Counter meals of the early 20th century. Cold sandwiches of all varieties will be offered, including area favorites such as pimento cheese foldover. Luncheon loaf will be cut on-site and always fresh. Bread will also be baked on-site and available by the slice. For the budget consumer; ‘Nothing but heels‘ bread will be offered. “We find that when selling bread by the slice, nobody wants the heels. Since we’re already baking by the loaf, we just bag the heels up and pass the savings along to you!”
Tyson went on to explain that another HEZ favorite is to be included in the Central Commodities concept. “We’ve found that our in-store demonstrations attract a wide variety of customers, and these demonstrations tend to drive the buy rate of specific products through the roof. Since we are focusing on value here, we couldn’t really have parking lot BBQs, in-store sushi, or Haute couture of any sort. Our customers aren’t going to care about which wine pairs best with an organic kale and almond salad. They want to eat, and get back to watching NASCAR, tinkering with the lawnmower, or blaming President Obama for all of their trials and tribulations.”
“Instead, we’re focusing on quick meals done right, with a bit of that classic Texas flair. In keeping with the proud HEZ tradition, we plan on offering monthly demonstrations that our customers will value and look forward to. Our first event is “The Exciting World of Ramen”, where residents can learn the proper method for making the most delicious bowl of ramen possible. I can’t give you too many hints, but adding the flavoring packet is a key step.”
What to expect
The Central Commodities floor plan envisions a 48.000 sq. ft. building with wide aisles and the latest technology along with old-school hospitality. All registers will be EBT accessible. To further save money (and more importantly the environment), Central Commodities will not offer plastic bags. “We tell customers to bring their own canvas bags, cardboard boxes, or even recycle what they’ve got lying around home. I’ve personally found that an old 6-pack holder doubles as a fine transport for canned goods.” All shopping carts will be ferried from checkout to car by cheerful staff, preventing the rampant theft that has plagued both Tu Tienda and Valu-Mart stores in Canada. “There’s this one store in Sunnyvale, and loss prevention has caught the same guy stealing our carts at least 4 years running. He takes them, rolls them down the hill into a creek, and recovers them later. It’s a major pain.” Tyson stated that Central Commodities plans to take hospitality to the next step and offer “Curb to curb service” for customers traveling on-foot. “Plus, this keeps them from stealing our carts.”
The market research conducted has also allowed Central Commodities to be tailored to the Brownwood market. Our tastes and preferences were a key reason in design. “We heard about the Potted Meat Food Product Cookoff and checked with Libby’s foods and, yes, Brownwood does buy canned meats at a higher rate than our Austin area consumers. We are going to have an aisle with nothing but preserved meats. Potted meat, chipped meat, canned ham, corned beef hash, pickled pigs feet, canned anchovies, canned herring, canned salmon, canned tuna, canned frogs legs.. you name it.” “Ramen too, every flavor you can think of. Brick ramen, bowl ramen, every flavor you can think of, even Oriental. We hope that one of our future customers can tell us what it’s actually supposed to taste like” laughed Tyson. “I mean, did they just lick an Asian and say “This right here is gonna be good stuff for ramen?””
The store will also feature an aisle devoted to panhandling, with every color of sharpie imaginable. To cut down on waste and support the environment, unused cardboard boxes from inventory will be cut up and sold as ’emergency easels’. “We want to help the less fortunate in our community, and it’s the least we can do to help. We only ask that they not beg on HEZ property.”
In addition to the popular ‘make your own 6-pack’ stations seen at nicer grocery stores, Central Commodities looks to offer a new, if not somewhat controversial option.. the “Make your own cigarette” station. Rolling machines will be offered, and shoppers will be free to choose from several different blends. “We’ve found that our target consumer often neglects buying adequate groceries and instead focuses on making sure they have beer or cigarettes. Usually both. This way, we can make sure they get the most value for their money.”
Children of all ages will enjoy the discount candy section. “It’s going to be like Halloween for these little folks. We have those strawberry candies, Mary Janes, peanut butter kisses, Necco wafers, wax bottles, and candy corn. All of the favorites!” The Hispanic candy aisle also promises to be popular, with tamarind covered items you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. “Believe it or not, the tamarindo con limon y chili licorice was a top choice at Reggaefest 2014 when we tested snack items.”
The store’s interior design will also feel familiar. “When we remodel old stores, we usually sell what we can and destroy the rest, but with Brownwood, we wanted to test a bold recycling concept. We’ve remodeled several of our east Texas properties in the past few years and plan on using vintage fixtures and displays. After all, Brownwood’s motto is “Feels like Home”. Expect to see woodgrain a-plenty.
While no definitive date for groundbreaking has been set, residents can sleep well knowing that HEZ is finally due to arrive.
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