AzLast week, we settled a question about a perplexing image of a modern supermarket displayed on the H-E-B website. Turns out that the shop with a tall tower was actually located, not in Austin, but at 18th and Austin streets in Waco. It now serves as a furniture store.
The column generated an online chat about the locations of the first H-E-B stores in our city. The Austin Statesman for June 26, 1950 reported that the chain entered the market in 1938 by purchasing four Piggly Wiggly stores, which were converted to the H-E-B name gradually.
To put the matter to rest, we spent some time in the reading room at the Austin History Center. There, we pulled city and phone directories from the late 1930s through the late 1940s.
We were dazzled by the number of listed markets, some just a block or so from next shopping option. A few were part of national, regional or local groups, such as A&P, Red & White or Checkered Front. Others bore cool names, such as New China (two locales), Handy Hut Food Pantry and Achilles IGA.
Until 1945, however, we found no listing for an H-E-B, but rather six for Piggly Wiggly. The year the war ended, Piggly Wiggly brand had disappeared. Instead, H-E-B listed two supermarkets and six smaller stores:
• Supermarket No. 1: 2014 S. Congress Ave.. Now: refurbished condos. (Moved from 1502 S. Congress Ave. sometime in the early 1940s.)
• Supermarket No. 2: 3106 Windsor Road. Now and then: TarryTown Center.
• Store No. 1: 117 W. Sixth St. Now: McGarrah Jessee building.
• Store No. 2: 824 W. 12th St. Now: ACC garage.
• Store No. 3: 601 E. Sixth St. Now: offices.
• Store No. 4: 1405 San Jacinto Blvd. Now: Capitol complex garage.
• Oddly, there was no Store No. 5.
• Store No. 6: 1111 E. First St. Now: Central Health.
• Store No: 7: 39th and Gaudalupe. Now: Natural Grocers?
So, eight shops as Austin launched into the postwar boom. By 1948, the numeration had changed, but the addresses remained the same.