By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – It was a long time in the making, but a brand new Brookshire Brothers Express grocery store opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
The grand opening ceremonies featured a host of city and county leaders, public officials, area residents, Grapeland High School Band, GHS Cheerleaders, the 2016 Peanut Queen, corporate executives from Brookshire Brothers and several other area dignitaries.
The Brookshire Brothers Express Grocery Store opened at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning and several of the employees remarked once the doors were unlocked “… the customers started pouring in.”
As the morning progressed, grocery shoppers and other interested parties began to fill up the parking lot to register for door prizes and take a spin on the Brookshire Brothers prize wheel.
Just after high noon on a beautiful fall day, Sally Alvis, the Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations, made her way to the podium, set up outside the entrance to the store, and kicked off the grand opening festivities.
She introduced herself to the crowd and welcomed those in attendance. “Thank you so much for being here. Our hearts are so full today because of the reception you have given us. This morning, when the doors opened at six o’clock, it was overwhelming. We appreciate the generosity and the warm, warm welcome the community and greater Houston County has given us,” Alvis said.
Next, the senior marketing director introduced Billy Harrington, the Grapeland Brookshire Brothers Express Store Director and asked him to say a few words. Harrington commented, “I would really like to thank you for coming out and supporting us today. We appreciate the opportunity to serve the Grapeland community and look forward to serving you with fresh produce, fresh cut meat, groceries, Brookshire Brothers famous fried chicken and our pharmacy. Stop by, introduce yourself and see the difference it makes when you shop with someone you know. Let us know if there is anything we can do to help you. You can ask for me or my Assistant Store Director, Lisa Kennon Vance.”
Once Harrington concluded, Alvis introduced District Director Luke Gustafson to the audience and then requested Rev. Chuck Bratz of First United Methodist Church in Grapeland to come forward and give the invocation.
Following the prayer, Alvis thanked the GHS Band and Cheerleaders for participating in the event. She also asked GHS sophomore J.D. Martin to make his way to the podium to lead the audience members in pledges to the American and Texas Flags. Martin was joined by the Honor Guard from the Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter 991 from Palestine as they presented the colors.
Martin was followed by Jon Rhone, co-owner of Rhone Funeral Home, who led the audience in the singing of the National Anthem.
Up next, Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey – along with City Councilmembers Emilie Cunningham and Justin Lumbrarez – presented the business’ Certificate of Occupancy to Harrington.
Returning to the podium, Alvis introduced members of the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation who helped initiate the project to bring Brookshire Brothers to Grapeland. Members of the EDC in attendance were: Brandon Bridges, C.L. McGill, Wayland Woolsey, Bob Jones and Tim Howard.
As the ceremony continued, Alvis continued the introductions as she introduced members of the Brookshire Brothers executive management team including: President and CEO Jerry Johnson; COO John Alston; and CFO Clay Oliver.
She also recognized several vice presidents and directors of the company before turning the program over to the COO. “I didn’t think we could surpass the crowd we had at the ground breaking, but you guys have definitely done that. Thank you for coming out,” Alston said.
“As many of you may know, we were founded in 1921 in Lufkin, Texas. Just last month we celebrated our 95th anniversary and though we don’t have any direct family members of the Brookshire that involved in the company anymore, Gene Brookshire, now in his 80s, was on hand last month and we really had a good time. Grapeland has the distinction of being the first store we have opened since celebrating this milestone anniversary,” he explained.
“As far as what Brookshire Brothers stands for,” Alston continued, “Brookshire Brothers stands for what Grapeland stands for. That is building long-standing relationships with our people and in our case that also means the communities we serve and our team members. Brookshire Brothers became a majority owned ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company in 1999 and we became 100 percent employee owned in 2006. We are super proud of that. It’s been a great change for our company. Ninety-five years later, talking about those relationships, we still maintain our headquarters in Lufkin where we operate our distribution center, a central baking facility and all of our retail support. Our total number of employees is over 6,500 and it is not uncommon for us to have employees with 30 or 40 years with this company.”
He added, “This store, is our third ground up Brookshire Brothers Express Store. It is a little bit smaller of a format and it is different from the first two that we built in Apple Springs and Zavalla. It is also different from the other three we have currently under construction. What are the differences? We have an emphasis on the fresh departments with our produce and our meat departments. One other thing that was hinted to me when I came out here for the ground breaking was you guys might like a pharmacy. I started diligently working on that after the groundbreaking and thought ‘What are we going to do?’ So, what I did was to set out to find the best Fightin’ Texas Aggie pharmacist I could find! So by way of the University of Houston and Texas A&M, I would like to bring up Heather Harrison, your new pharmacist.”
For more on Dr. Harrison, please see the related article in this edition of The Messenger.
Alvis returned to the podium and discussed the various discount programs available
through the store. She also recognized 2016 Peanut Queen Hailee Sheridan and asked her to help draw for the door prizes which included a Yeti cooler, a $50 gift card, a Community Coffee gift basket and a meat smoker.
As the official ceremony began to wind down, Alvis informed the crowd, “It is a tradition in our company that before we open a store, we give back to an organization that serves the greater good. So, it is our pleasure to honor your firefighters and your Volunteer Fire Department with this check for $500.”
A check for $250 was also presented to the Grapeland Public Library as a way of saying thanks for hosting the job fair where many of the new Brookshire Brothers Express employees were hired.
The ceremony concluded as members of the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce made their way to the store’s front entrance, along with 2016 Peanut Queen Hailee Sheridan, to cut the ribbon signifying the official opening of Grapeland’s newest business.
From all of us at The Messenger, we would like to extend a warm welcome as well as our best wishes for success to Brookshire Brothers and the team of employees at the new Brookshire Brothers Express!
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.