Austin-area grocery, home improvement stores generally keeping stocked

While some Austin area shoppers found shelves emptied of certain items, several grocery and home-improvement store managers said their stores had no major issues with the distribution and availability of goods in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the companies are making plans to help residents returning to the coast.

“I’m not hearing any major outages of any product, but with as many shoppers as we’ve had the last two days we can possibly run low for a short time while we are restocking or making new product to keep up with the spiking demand,” said H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Sweet.

H-E-B is the dominant grocer in Central Texas, and the state’s largest private employer.

At one point, H-E-B had closed 30 stores in the Gulf Coast and Houston areas, including all 10 in Corpus Christi, which is near Rockport, where Harvey made landfall Friday night with destructive winds that are being followed by flooding rains.

Sweet said the San Antonio-based grocery chain has been “working furiously” to reopen stores, noting that five in Corpus Christi have since reopened, as well as stores in Lake Jackson, El Campo, Wharton, Alice and Falfurrias.

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“We have lists of over 1,000 H-E-B partners that are volunteering to travel to go help reopen our closed stores just as soon as we’re allowed back in, so we can have them ready for our customers when they return to their homes to recover,” Sweet said.

At the Walmart on Ben White Boulevard near I-35 in Austin, a manager said the store was busier than usual, with customers wanting items such as panchos and flashlights.

“We’re getting hit harder than normal, but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” said the manager, who like managers at other stores said they were not authorized to be quoted by name per company policy. “We ran out of water pretty quick yesterday,” he added, but said supplies had since been replenished.

Family-owned Breed & Co. on West 29th Street in Austin, which sells hardware, homeware and garden items, received quite a few calls Saturday from people asking for sand, an item the store doesn’t carry, a salesperson said.

She said business on Saturday was coming “in little waves.”

“It’s not too crazy,” she said. “I think people don’t want to get out.”

At the Lowe’s home-improvement store in Kyle, south of Austin, one manager said “we’re getting people from the coast who are coming this far to look for their needed supplies. ”

The manager said some people already were trying to make way back on Saturday to areas they had evacuated, “and I don’t blame them. If I was worried about my home, I’d want to get back to check on it too.”

Matthew Harrigan, a spokesman for Home Depot, said he wasn’t aware of any issues in the company’s Austin area stores, all of which were open. Only one Home Depot store is closed in Texas, in Victoria.

Home Depot planned to send two buses with associates from its Austin stores to assist customers at its Corpus Christi, Lake Jackson and Victoria stores, once the latter reopens.

“We’ve been working all week to mobilize storm prep and recovery supplies to the region and continue to do so via our hurricane command center in Atlanta,” said Matthew Harrigan, a spokesman for the company.

H-E-B said Saturday that its disaster relief efforts were continuing throughout Texas Gulf Coast communities. Six area food banks, including those in Corpus Christi, Victoria and Houston, have received water donations. Each location received a full truckload of water, which is about 20 pallets of bottled water, H-E-B officials said.

In addition, Sweet said: “Our mobile kitchens and disaster response units are cleared to deploy (Sunday) from San Antonio. They’ll head to a Victoria H-E-B store to set up and start serving hot meals, hydration, fill emergency prescriptions, charge phones, etc.”

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