one-stop shop­ping in Drip­ping Springs

New H-E-B at heart of 56-acre district ex­pected to give Hill Coun­try res­i­dents respite from long treks for food

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS & PERSONAL FINANCE - By Brian Gaar

DRIP­PING SPRINGS — H.E. Butt Gro­cery Co. opened its first lo­ca­tion in Drip­ping Springs Fri­day morn­ing, at­tract­ing dozens of cu­ri­ous res­i­dents who wanted to check out the long-an­tic­i­pated store.

“This is the biggest thing that’s hap­pened to Drip­ping Springs,” said 11year-old Ni­cole Cross, who along with two friends talked their par­ents into driv­ing them to the grand open­ing. They were first in line when the doors opened at 6 a.m.

“I don’t even get up this early to go to work,” said Lisa Wood­land, a Drift­wood res­i­dent who ac­com­pa­nied her daugh­ter, Claire . “And I teach school.”

The 68,000-square-foot store was a wel­come sight for many Drip­ping Springs res­i­dents. Al­though there is a smaller gro­cery store in town, many peo­ple still reg­u­larly drive into Austin or Bee Cave for gro­ceries.

“We’ve been wait­ing on this a long time,” said Sher­rie Parks, who lives in the area. “I spend 40 min­utes, round trip, just to get to a gro­cery store. Then I

don’t want to go but ev­ery two weeks, so I spend three hours in the store shop­ping.”

City lead­ers hailed the store’s ar­rival and forth­com­ing tax rev­enue, ex­press­ing op­ti­mism that the larger devel­op­ment that is home to the store — and in­cludes a Home De­pot — will be­come a re­gional shop­ping hub.

“It’s all any­one wants to talk about these days,” said City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michelle Fis­cher.

In ad­di­tion to bring­ing in 200 jobs, the store is ex­pected to have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the city’s bot­tom line.

For the first year, Drip­ping Springs of­fi­cials say they ex­pect to re­ceive about $115,000 in sales tax rev­enue from the new store. That com­pares with the cur­rent bud­get, which as­sumes the city will col­lect $750,000 in sales taxes for the fis­cal year.

H-E-B spokes­woman Leslie Sweet said com­pany of­fi­cials got an un­ex­pect­edly high num­ber of re­quests for or­ganic of­fer­ings — and the new store’s prod­ucts were ad­justed ac­cord­ingly. There are also prod­ucts from lo­cal grow­ers, in­clud­ing let­tuce and goat cheese, she said.

“We’ve in­tended to build this store for quite some time, but were just wait­ing for the right moment for Drip­ping Springs and then also the right time for H-E-B,” she said.

The store is part of a nearly 56-acre planned-devel­op­ment district, the com­mu­nity’s first, that also in­cludes banks, re­tail space and a Home De­pot. That district has al­lowed city lead­ers to have in­put into the gro­cery store’s ar­chi­tec­ture and land­scap­ing.

In ad­di­tion, H-E-B, Home De­pot and the lead de­vel­oper have paid for sev­eral pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing one new road, up­grades to an­other, pub­lic waste­water im­prove­ments and park im­prove­ments.

Through an agree­ment, the city is re­im­burs­ing those costs — about $2.9 mil­lion — by re­turn­ing a por­tion of the sales tax money, Fis­cher said.

City lead­ers say they hope Drip­ping Springs will now be able to at­tract shop­pers from nearby towns such as Wim­ber­ley, Blanco and John­son City.

“This will ac­tu­ally be a des­ti­na­tion point,” Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds said. He said he hopes the devel­op­ment will draw res­i­dents from sub­di­vi­sions along U.S. 290, be­tween Drip­ping Springs and Austin. “Hope­fully, we will be at­tract­ing some of these peo­ple to shop and spend some time in town.”

Some long­time Drip­ping Springs res­i­dents were a bit sad­dened by the store’s open­ing and the growth that it rep­re­sents, said Olivia Cross, who also brought her daugh­ter to the open­ing. But for the most part, “ev­ery­body’s just ec­static,” she said.

“Ev­ery­day liv­ing doesn’t have to be planned any­more,” Cross said.

Jar­rad Hen­der­son pho­tos

When’s the last time an 11-year-old wanted to be up at 6 a.m.? From left, Clare Wood­land, Emily Hooker and Ni­cole Cross pre­pared to rush in as Brenda John­son opened the doors to Drip­ping Springs’ new H-E-B early Fri­day. At left, Olivia Cross was given flow­ers and a $50 gift card for be­ing one of the store’s first shop­pers.

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