HOUSTON—I finally got a chance to stop by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Más Club warehouse store.

The pilot store, which opened in August 2009, is a traditional club store like the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s Sam’s Club, with a Hispanic twist. The Houston market has some strong competition in the ethnic grocer field, though, with hometown favorite Fiesta, San Antonio-based H.E. Butt’s HEB, Mi Tienda and Joe V’s Smart Shop banners and a varied contingent of other Hispanic groceries.

Más o menos at Más ClubA membership is less expensive than Sam’s, $30 compared to $40 — considerably less than Costco’s $55 annual membership fee.

While there were the standard electronics and bulk dry grocery items you’d find at a traditional Sam’s Club, this store had some interesting differences, particularly in produce.

For one, you could buy produce items from bulk displays, and I’m not talking bulk quantities. You could buy one head of garlic, one mango, one papaya or one bunch of cilantro, which is a major change from most club stores where you’d have to buy by the case.

The product mix was heavy to Hispanic items, of course, with tomatillos, cactus, dry hot peppers, roots, squashes and the like, but there were also some standards like fresh-cut fruit, kiwifruit, grapes and bagged lettuce.

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I was surprised to see the prices weren’t that cheap. I’m not going to get excited about 28-cent cilantro bunches, I doubt your average bargain shopper would, either.

Another interesting feature about Más Club’s merchandising was the use of RPCs in the cooler for items like corn, root vegetables, cabbage and squash.

And while most Hispanic grocers I frequent are colorful, loud and boisterous, the cold steel walls and dark warehouse lighting kind of sucked the fun out of shopping there. Perhaps it was because I was there on a weekday afternoon, but it was a week before Christmas and I expected a bit … más.

 

The barbacoa tacos from the cafeteria were pretty tasty, though.