When the power goes out
The party gets started
At Central Market it’s always a party. From Love Dip to wine and beer from around the world, the store seeks to lure customers into gastronomical excess.
And, as customers who were in the Fort Worth store the evening of Tuesday Oct. 18 can attest, the store itself can be a party.
Around 6 p.m., the market on Hulen Street experienced a power outage. As when it has occasionally happened in the past, the natural gas-powered generator on the roof kicked in, providing about 80 percent lighting and refrigeration.
However, this time the phones, computers and cash registers did not come back on immediately. And, for some still unexplained reason, they would not power up for a while.
Some retailers would shut the doors, lock up the beer and call it a night. At H-E-B-owned Central Market, they called in the cavalry – in the form of champagne and truffles. And the customers were more than willing to join in the epicurean feast – no matter the fact no au courant mood lighting was in evidence.
“In typical Central Market style we opened up some champagne and truffles and turned it into a great time for everybody,” explained store general manager Austin Jourde, who said the incident was a first in his 16 years at the market.
“The customers were fantastic. They knew it wasn’t our fault, and they liked the free goodies.”
Jourde said in all about 40 bottles of champagne and about 40 boxes of truffles were opened for the customers who were lined up 10-12 deep at each register.
“I had three truffles myself. It was during dinner rush, which is a busy time anyway for us, so I hadn’t had dinner,” he said, chuckling.
The registers finally returned to operation around 9 p.m., Jourde said. In the meantime, customers who had cash and/or checks could pay, though some of the price totals were simply approximations – in the customer’s favor, of course.
“It’s never about money, it’s about customers having a great experience, and they did in spite of the inconvenience,” he said.
Jourde said clerks were stationed outside to warn incoming customers about the register problems. Many still wanted to come inside, and once inside they joined the party.
“Everybody was so patient. They were just great,” Jourde said, adding that the treats were served for at least a couple of hours.
The store, which normally closes at 10, stayed open late to make sure all of the waiting customers were able to check out.
“It’s about keeping people happy,” Jourde said. “Customers were commenting about what a great time they had.”
Rick Mauch is a freelance writer who frequently writes for the Fort Worth Business Press.