The Interesting Story of H-E-B Versus Brookshire’s in East Texas
When you go around East Texas and ask a resident what store they would love to have come to their area, H-E-B is always at the top of that list. Some say it is better than any Brookshire's or Walmart or Whole Foods grocery store. Personally, I've never been to one so I can't offer an opinion. What's fun about the conversation is all the hearsay or rumors or stories some people pass on as to why H-E-B will never come to East Texas.
Brookshire's in East Texas
East Texas does have several options to pick up groceries at including Walmart, Sprouts, Target and Natural Grocers, just to name a few. However, the dominant force for groceries in East Texas is Brookshire's. Brookshire's is a grocery chain that started in Lufkin in the 1920's. The family would split the business some time later where one member of the family would take the northern half of East Texas, Brookshire's, and the other would take the southern portion of East Texas, Brookshire Brothers.
Both have grown at different rates with Brookshire's expanding into Arkansas, Louisiana and recently buying a chain in Oklahoma. Brookshire's had some stores in Mississippi but that fell apart after a short time. Brookshire Brothers has expanded a little bit but not at the rate that Brookshire's has.
H-E-B got it's start in the early 1900's in Central Texas. H-E-B has grown to be the dominant grocery chain in central and southern Texas and has also moved into Mexico. H-E-B is also behind the popular Central Market chain which is essentially a Whole Foods type store. You can find Central Market stores in not only central and southern Texas but also in the Dallas - Fort Worth (DFW) area now. H-E-B itself is even opening a store here or there in DFW area.
So why won't H-E-B come to East Texas?
There is no real definitive answer to that question. A majority believe there is a "gentlemen's agreement" between Brookshire's and H-E-B to not open stores in their particular areas. Of course, there is no documented proof of this. I did find this an interesting read in a Reddit thread I ran across. User gridlockjoe said the following:
Again, no proof of this actually happening. However, if you look at Corsicana, there is a Brookshire's and an H-E-B within just a couple of miles of each other.
Not saying it happened just like Reddit user gridlockjoe spelled out but maybe there is some validity to that story.
But Michael, what about the H-E-B in Carthage and Lufkin?
What about them? All I ever here about those two stores is that they're old, out dated and don't provide the same H-E-B experience that other Texas residents get to enjoy so they don't really count, do they?
Many of us remember in 2015 that Brookshire's did explore the possibility of selling. Rumors were everywhere but it seemed that Albertsons and H-E-B were the frontrunners to buy. Brookshire's ended up deciding not to sale.
Will H-E-B ever build more stores in East Texas?
Again, it's hard to answer that question. If I had to guess, I would say that the chances are very slim. "Gentlemen's agreement" or not, even with as popular and as big of a chain that H-E-B is, they would have a hard time getting a foothold in East Texas just because of Brookshire's. The old adage of "only time will tell" certainly applies in this discussion.