by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor
United Supermarkets adopted a strategic growth plan in 1998 that grew the company into what it is today. It was a milestone in the company’s timeline, as United Supermarkets opened its very first Market Street store in Wichita Falls. The Market Street banner is described as “where everyday meets gourmet” with a focus is on healthy meals for busy shoppers. There are now 15 Market Street stores, and seven of them are located in Dallas-Fort Worth.
CEO Robert Taylor shared some insight into the origin of the upscale Market Street with The Shelby Report.
“The concept that eventually became Market Street is the result of an idea born by our former owners and several leaders still with us today,” he said. “Innovational ideas seen in stores around the world was the foundation for the blend of grocery stores offering specialty and restaurant-quality food in an inviting, accessible atmosphere. That dream came to fruition with the very first Market Street in Wichita Falls, Texas. From that first store we have continued to innovate and incorporate new concepts as we have introduced the banner into more markets. Innovation is the lifeblood of growth.”
He said the Market Street model is flexible enough that its current average 70,000-s.f size could be adjusted, perhaps to fit into a smaller space in an urban setting.
“Should an opportunity present itself, a Market Street store could also expand to offer even more variety and services,” he said. “Really, our growth plan is not banner-specific. We have five viable banners now, and as we grow, we will be able to position the store banner that delivers the best guest experience and serves the needs of shoppers in that area.”
In 2014, the upscale banner got a refresh when the Colleyville location became the first to feature the company’s new Market Street logo and décor package. It was the cherry on top of a floor-to-ceiling makeover, including interior remodeling and an expanded product selection with an emphasis on fresh departments.
North Texas shoppers find Market Street locations in Allen, Colleyville, Coppell, Flower Mound, Frisco, McKinney and Plano in addition to the Wichita Falls location atop the panhandle.
By the end of this year, eight former Albertsons stores in Abilene, Midland, Odessa and San Angelo will have been remodeled. Soon, the retailer will rebanner the fourth store in that group as a Market Street.
The first converted Albertsons Market was in Midland, and work was completed last June. It is a prime specimen that showcases what’s offered at Market Street stores.
Following the revamp, it features a full-service bakery, in-store dining space, Starbucks, an expanded wine and beer section, bulk foods and an extensive selection of gluten-free items. In the produce department, shoppers can “Ask for a Taste” to try one of more than 100 varieties of locally grown fruit and vegetables. The stores also have a “Kids Free Fruit Program,” which, just as it sounds, allows each child to have an apple, orange or banana during the shopping trip.
Meat cutters are on staff in the meat department, which features Prime Dry-Aged Beef. Market Street also features sushi made fresh in the store daily. The deli has a large “grab-n-go” section with salads, specialty cheeses, tamales, pizza, fried chicken, panini and a variety of hot meal selections.
Market Street also offers a concierge service, which is available to help customers with party planning, catering and custom gift baskets.
The United Family was the first supermarket chain in Texas to adopt the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, which rates the nutritional value of foods on a scale of one to 100. Unique to Market Street stores, guests also have the option to join a free store tour hosted by a registered dietitian.
United has been the only wholly owned subsidiary of the Albertsons Cos. since late 2013 and operates as an independent subsidiary.
It is a good fit, Taylor said.
“There are multiple reasons for this, but one of them is that it allowed us to continue to operate our model the way it has been developed over 100 successful years,” Taylor said. “In terms of store operations, very little has changed. Internally, there have been some changes in terms of accounting and things that are needed to take advantage of the synergies available from an industry-leading company.
“We have the same desire to serve and provide a great experience and service to the guest as Albertsons does. There may be a few differences in the way we go about delivering it, but the mission and vision and promise hasn’t changed.”
He said the affiliation with Albertsons has been beneficial in areas beyond operations as well.
“From a cultural perspective, the United mission of ultimate service, superior performance and positive impact aligns perfectly with the mission of the Albertsons Cos.,” he said. “We have been heartily supported and encouraged by the larger company to integrate our mission into the new stores that joined The United Family.”
Taylor said the company will take advantage of opportunities that may arise for growth.
“Several factors come into play, but as always, we’ll do our best to make sound business decisions with an eye on growth,” Taylor said. “This is a great example of the benefit of regionally operated banners being supported by a large decentralized company like the Albertsons Cos., a national industry leader.”
Lubbock-based United Supermarkets has been in business now for 100 years. It was family owned for 98 of those years. Henry Dewitt (H.D.) Snell started the company when he opened a United Cash Store in Sayre, Oklahoma, in 1916. United moved to the company’s now headquarter city of Lubbock in 1956, when H.D.’s son, Jack Snell, purchased three Taylor Safeways. The company continued to expand over the next four decades under the leadership of Jack Snell and his son, Robert. By 1991, United stores were operating in 20 Texas communities.
Kroger, Natural Grocers open, Minyard rebrands, Walmarts close
A new Kroger Marketplace opened Jan. 8 in Burleson. The 120,000-s.f. store in Burleson Commons features a fuel center and a pharmacy, Starbucks, more than 60 aisles and more than 20 checkout lanes.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage will open a Coppell store on March 8 at 120 South Denton Tap Road. It will be the retailer’s 15th location in the Lone Star State.
Minyard Food Stores has converted several of its Southern Dallas locations to Cash Savers, a cost-plus operation. These stores typically offer goods to shoppers at cost, and then add 10 percent at checkout.
Minyard also operates the Sun Fresh Market chain.
Walmart has closed six stores in North Texas. They are located in Dallas, Southlake, Frisco, Italy, Godley and Grandview.
The Walmart Neighborhood Markets were among 154 stores the mega-retailer said in January that it planned to close in the U.S.
H-E-B grows North Texas landholdings, new hire adds to mystery
H-E-B is keeping North Texas residents guessing about what it plans to do with all the property it has bought there in recent years.
Its main retail brand in the Dallas-Forth Worth area is the upscale Central Market format, and H-E-B has said many times that it is the growth format for the Metroplex.
In North Texas, the San Antonio-based chain operates five Central Market stores in Fort Worth, Plano, Southlake and Dallas (two) and three H-E-B stores in Burleson, Granbury and Waxahachie.
H-E-B has made it clear that it has no current plans to build more stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but the retailer has purchased enough tracts of land in the region to arouse curiosity.
All told, it has acquired about 20 different properties in Allen, Corinth, Dallas, DeSoto, Fort Worth, Carrollton, Plano, Frisco, Grand Prairie, Lewisville, McKinney, Murphy, Plano and Euless.
In addition, H-E-B has hired Mabrie Jackson, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, a regional economic development organization. She begins her tenure with the grocer on March 1 (after press time).
But H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Sweet told The Dallas Morning News that the hiring “does not signal a market entry for our company.”
*Editor’s note: This North Texas Market Profile also appears in the March 2016 print edition of The Shelby Report of the Southwest.