Central Market Westgate
The new front end, with expanded floral area, wider aisles, and faster check-out lanes
has always been a sales leader for the chain, yet it has received little attention in the way of upgrades since it opened in 1999. The last six months has seen the end of that era of corporate laissez faire
– the entire store has been expanded and upgraded. It may now be the crowning glory of the entire HEB company.
In a truly exemplary way, the changes were driven by both customer requests and the various department leaders’ fevered dreams of Utopian perfection. On a walk-through of the remodeled store, it seemed to me that the whole staff is genuinely thrilled with the changes. I mean really thrilled! With good reason – the changes are thrilling.
Probably everyone’s favorite thing will be that the customer no longer has to twist and turn through the entire store, as though they are walking through the entrails of a snake, to get to a single item. The new floor plan is very open with wide aisles and lots of natural light, and it is much easier to get directly to the department you want.
The grocery department has been greatly expanded, ending another pet peeve: that one often had to go to a regular HEB immediately after shopping at Central Market to get paper towels, pet food, zipper storage bags, aspirin, and the like. Now there are at least one brand of most normal grocery items, and dog food and laundry detergent are going to be available in bulk.
Vinegars in the casks, oils in the earthenware.
The whole Bulk Department, in fact, has been expanded in answer to customer demand. Over 180 items have been added, and it is now the largest bulk department in any Central Market store, anywhere. An entire line of whole leaf teas has been added, as well as a line of bulk Chinese medicinal herbs. The Spice and Herb section has been enlarged, and a really impressive island of oils and vinegars has been installed. All are premium quality oils and vinegars from Europe; the oils are single estate, and the fruit vinegars are made from fruit, rather than merely “fruit infused”. The Bulk buyers really did their homework, and this new addition has some stellar products.
Giant Brand New Coffee Roaster
The center of the store, where the administrative offices used to be, is now taken up by a huge coffee roaster and many varieties of coffee beans. A staff of trained coffee brewers will be available to brew fresh tastes of the new coffees for customers.
Staff of "Coffee Infusers" scientifically trained to brew coffee tastes for the customer
Central Market has purchased 12 exclusive single-origin and farm-specific coffees to complement 11 organic specific-origin coffees that will be roasted in house. Eventually, these in-house roasted coffees will be used at the coffee bar by the Cafe as well.
New, hugely expanded aisle of shampoo!
The Healthy Living Department (vitamins, supplements, probiotics, soap, shampoo, skincare, etc.) has been doubled, and it, too, is now the largest in all of the Central Market chain. The store now also boasts the largest assortment of chocolate and the largest assortment of packaged teas in Texas.
The Cafe patio has been enclosed, adding 80 more air-conditioned seats, and a real stage has been erected for live music. Bands will be engaged to play every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening.
The new enclosed patio and stage
Local artist Kerry Awn
has been hired to paint a 60-foot mural depicting the history and identity of South Austin, and it is one of the few pieces that has yet to be put in place. On Thursday, June 6
, the mural will be revealed, kicking off a huge Remodel Celebration that will feature Dale Watson
, The Crying Monkeys
, W.C. Clark
, The White Ghost Shivers
, and many others.
On that day a guided “stroll” will be offered through the store between 5pm and 8pm, with 27 different food and wine sampling stations. Joe Nick Patoski will narrate the mural for the general edification. Guest Passes for the Stroll are $10, with the proceeds going to HAAM (The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians).