Groundbreaking Grocery Store Celebrates 20 Years in Fort Worth — How Central Market Changed Everything

A Foodie Paradise With Staying Power

BY Courtney Dabney // 09.24.21

Where were you 20 years ago? Some of us in Fort Worth were making our first trip to Central Market, with that groundbreaking grocery store opening two decades ago. We gawked at the vastness of the selection and filled baskets with imported rarities and other food wonders never before available in Fort Worth.

Central Market will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of its Fort Worth store with food, beverages and a little concert from Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel this Friday, September 24th.

The H-E-B offshoot’s mega/superstore on steroids actually first flung open its electronic doors on October 10, 2001, becoming the largest tenant in the new Chapel Hill Shopping Center. Now joined by the Container Store, World Market and Orvis, it still is the hub with plenty of drawings power. Try finding a parking space on Friday night.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to what happened on opening day.

“The line of grocery carts literally wrapped around the store for hours as customers patiently waited to enter Fort Worth’s new foodie paradise,” Central Market media rep Heather Center remembers. “Longtime ‘cooler customers’ who had made the occasional trek to the mothership (Central Market) in Austin knew the drill, but others new to the concept first asked many questions.

“Why the serpentine flow rather than straight grocery aisles? Where’s the laundry detergent? Can’t find the Coca-Cola and furniture wax. This store is all food.”

With its European-style layout, unbeatable assortment of fresh produce, 80-foot seafood case, a cheese wall with hundreds of imported and domestic cheeses, a growler filling station, 2,500 wine bottles and its world class cooking school, Central Market still stand outs. You could say it’s just the right blend of local, regional and imported goods.

If you can’t find it at Central Market, you probably don’t need it.

Cheese wall featuring hundreds of domestic and imported cheeses is awe-inspiring.

Fort Worth’s Central Market has become a real community hub. It’s hosted numerous play-dates on its playground and picnic lunches on its sunny patio. Beer and brats with live music on the stage kicked off many summer weekends and celebrations galore over the past 20 years.

Central Market has also proven to be a good neighbor, having given more than $10 million to local nonprofits since it opened in 2001. That includes schools, food banks, museums, cultural organizations, military families, local police and fire departments, and disaster relief services in the area.

“Fort Worth immediately embraced Central Market and we immediately embraced Fort Worth,” Central Market/H-E-B president Stephen Butt says. “I’ve said from the beginning that this city has soul. Its unique personality and warm, friendly, generous residents have helped shape our store into what it is today.

“Our customers feel a sense of ownership and community when they enter our doors. Our partners know them, and they know our partners.”

Not only a good place to shop, Central Market has a loyal workforce. Many like Austin Jourde, the Fort Worth store’s general manager, have been on board for years. Jourde was one of the store’s initial workers and he and 23 others, are also celebrating their 20th anniversary right along with the store. That’s a rare story in and of itself.

Dips and grab and go meals fill the cold cases at Central Market.

“Food is essential in our everyday lives and also such part of our celebrations in life,” Jourde says.  “It’s been a pleasure to serve Fort Worth over the past 20 years through events, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, community gatherings, parties on the patio and even pandemics and snowstorms.

“I credit the success of the store to my partners who are some of the best in the industry and also to our incredible customers ― many who now feel like family.”

Sometimes a grocery store is more than just a grocery store.

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