Hutto is stepping up the city’s efforts to attract a major grocery retailer, asking residents to make their voices heard and reach out to and encourage their favorite store to come to town.
City officials say developers have been approached but show reluctance to build in Hutto because of its population size. Hutto’s current population is hovering at just more than 15,000, according to city data. Neighboring Taylor, home to an H-E-B, has approximately 16,000 residents.
In July, Hutto City Council passed a resolution showing support for a grocery store within the city limits. In addition, the council asked community members to write to the store of their choice and ask that they open a location in Hutto.
Councilwoman Anne Cano said the council decided to put the issue to the community to help encourage grocers who may be considering the city.
“We want them to know we will spend our dollars at their store,” Cano said. “Hutto’s residents want their grocery dollars to stay in Hutto.”
Cano said H-E-B has been approached about building in Hutto in the past.
“Past mayors and past city managers (have) asked them to come several times ... they keep saying we don’t have the population for it.”
As Hutto grows, the demand for local grocery services also rises. A 2011 resident survey ranked having a local grocery store as the No. 1 need. That same year, a retail assessment and leakage analysis commissioned by the city found a $88,952,105 loss in supermarket and grocery services to surrounding communities.
Hutto City Manager David Mitchell said retailers such as H-E-B have been presented with numbers from the assessment report, showing more than $90,000,000 worth of demand in groceries for local residents. Mitchell said large area retailers such as an H-E-B may be worried about syphoning off customers from existing locations.
Currently, H-E-B operates six grocery stores with a 15-mile radius of Hutto’s town square.
As for concerns that Hutto’s population may be too small to support a major retailer, Mitchell said Hutto’s growth already supports large retailers in the region such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s on Hwy. 79.
Mitchell said the lack of a local grocery option for shoppers is inconvenient for residents.
“A lot of our residents work outside of our community,” Mitchell said. “It’s an extra hassle for them to have to stop (on their commute) to pick up groceries.”