The column generated an online chat about the locations of the first H-E-B stores in our city. The chain’s website reports that three local stores were purchased in 1938. We also found evidence that those markets had been part of the Piggly Wiggly group.
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 the 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 or Achilles IGA.
Until 1945, however, we found no listing for an H-E-B; we did find six for Piggly Wiggly. The year the war ended, the Piggly Wiggly brand had disappeared. Instead, H-E-B listed two supermarkets and six smaller stores.
Super Mkt No. 1: 2014 S. Congress. Now: Refurbished condos.
Super Mkt No. 2: 3106 Windsor. Now and then: TarryTown Center.
Store No. 1: 117 W. Sixth. Now: McGarrah Jessee building.
Store No. 2: 824 W. 12th. Now: ACC garage.
Store No. 3: 601 E. Sixth. Now: Nondescript offices.
Store No. 4: 1405 San Jacinto. Now: Capitol complex garage.
Oddly, there was no Store No. 5.
Store No. 6: 1111 E. First. 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.