Many businesses in Houston have flooded from Harvey. Some can't get their employees to work safely, and grocery stores have been challenged by power outages and spoiled food. Despite these hardships, stores are starting to reopen and they're also giving back.
That includes the grocery chain H-E-B. It's based in San Antonio and has dozens of stores in the Houston area. Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Scott McClelland (@HEBScott), the company's Houston division president.
On his reaction seeing 200 people in line outside an H-E-B store in Cypress, Texas
"It was amazing to walk in. I don't think I've ever seen one of our stores with poorer conditions. I don't think I've ever seen our employees working harder. But maybe most amazingly, I don't think I've ever seen customers happier that we were open. It was a rough day for everyone, but we worked very hard through the day, and customers bought what was on the shelves, and we're working hard to replenish now. It was a heroic effort for our hourly employees and for our managers just to get to the store, because water levels were very high in the neighborhood. For me to get out to that store, I had to go down some streets and then back up and turn around, because water levels were so high. And as I would come out you would see some trucks with bass boats behind them who were going into neighborhoods to save people. I think the narrative that you're gonna see coming out of this is, Texans didn't wait for other people to come save them. That Texans took matters into their own hands, and that they were going to go and fight Harvey head on as best that they could."
On food trucks the company is running
"I just came this morning from one of our mobile kitchens that we have at a Red Cross evacuation center in town, where we fed breakfast to 2,000 evacuees. And kinda the genesis of this idea came from a guy who worked for us, who back in the 1960s had been in the military and worked on a truck that had been outfitted with a kitchen, and he said it was very dangerous. So over a couple of beers one night, on a cocktail napkin he sketched out what he thought a kitchen could look like. And so based on his idea we built one, and now we take them into areas where disasters have occurred — whether it's a tornado or a hurricane, when the fires hit in [Bastrop, Texas,] a couple of years ago we went in and fed all the first responders for three days so they didn't have to eat [meals ready to eat]."
"People reflect back after many years of service to the company, and they will say, 'One of my favorite times of working at H-E-B was when I went and had the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives when I worked in some natural disaster.'"Scott McClelland
On the company needing people in communities they're helping to remain customers
"I think what we find is that, look, if you help to make your community a better place, then it pays off for everyone. And if you invest back in the community, then a rising tide raises all ships. We just want to do what's right for the overall community."
On employees from stores in other parts of the state volunteering to help the relief effort
"It's funny, the people who volunteer from other parts of the company really look forward to coming over. They work very long days and they work very hard. But it's almost like a badge of honor, or a badge of courage, to get to come over and do this. At the last hurricane we said, 'Well, what would you like as a reward for doing this?' And they said, 'Could you make a pin for us that we could put on our name badge that showed we were a part of this?' And people reflect back after many years of service to the company, and they will say, 'One of my favorite times of working at H-E-B was when I went and had the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives when I worked in some natural disaster.'"
This article was originally published on August 31, 2017.
This segment aired on August 31, 2017.