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AUSTIN-The H-E-B Grocery Co. continues to cross-pollinate its Central Market stores with its regular H-E-B groceries and its latest Austin store shows some of the early results of that experiment and more. At 90,000 sf, the store is one of H-E-B’s biggest and it anchors the Center Park at Tech Ridge shopping center at Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane.

The San Antonio-based company has used its growing roster of Central Market stores for research and development of ideas and processes to spread to its more conventional groceries. Central Market elements that have shown up at the more traditional Center Park store include a 3,000-sf, in-store cafe that seats 65 and an outdoor dining area; a drive-through prepared food pick-up; and cooking demonstration stations.

H-E-B is testing the cafe and the drive-through concept to see how they do apart from a Central Market-type store. The company has a similar set-up at one of its San Antonio stores.

“Mostly you’ll see it in particular items, like particular types of produce, the merchandising of produce you’ll see in the store is very reflective of Central Market,” Kate Brown, an H-E-B spokeswoman, tells GlobeSt.com. “Even the flow of this new store at Parmer and I-35 is similar Central Market in the way that you are led through the store.”

The store also has expanded photo, drug and general merchandise departments. Stores within the store sell baby goods, photo equipment and services and cosmetics. The store also sports a large canopy on its exterior to hide the big-box look that comes with a 90,000-sf building.

The size of the store depends on the community it’s in, Brown says. H-E-B recently opened an 84,000-sf store in Georgetown, TX and a 51,000-sf store in Elgin, TX in recent weeks. “We will continue to expand and do what’s right for the community, but they’re different,” she says. A 90,000-sf store won’t work everywhere, she adds.

H-E-B expects to open two stores in Houston this month. It has more than 300 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Mexico.

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