Friday, March 12, 2010

A&P, Morristown NJ

One of the very last "Centennial" A&P stores that is still open. This style of store was built in huge numbers from the mid 50's to the early 70's. A&P and Acme built similar stores throughout the 50's and 60's... generally 15,000 to 20,000 square feet and with the standard issue 8 aisle format. Both chains experienced explosive growth in the 50's and 60's building stores everywhere and anywhere they could. Acme stuck closely to the Northeast while A&P spread around the country with stores numbering in the thousands. The 70's proved to be a difficult decade for both chains. A&P saw it's number of stores drop in half by the 80's while Acme began shuttering it's older stores without buidling replacements. Both chains continue to struggle today with being caught between low priced stores like ShopRite and Giant and high-end chains like Wegman's and Whole Foods.

This location is missing the distinctive cupola and weather vane at the very center of the roof. This store looks to be the only one left still sporting the gates along the roof line. The "Centennial" awning and columns have been recovered with an unfortunate modern look. The Deli and Food Market signage may have been left over from the Sav-a-center look of the 80's when A&P ditched it's signature red and orange colors in favor of green. Lots of green. Everything painted green. Some stores even had a green A&P sign.

Click here to see a great picture on of a Centennial store in it's original condition.

This store is unusually long for a Centennial model.

Surprising to see parking spots along the front of the store instead of a fire lane. This store was quite busy when I was there but it appeared that customers use it more as a convenience store than their weekly grocery shopping destination.

A good old fashioned neighborhood store. "Your great store just next door." Or something like that.

The old A&P sign with the newer "Sav-a-center" enter sign. Not saying that this was ever a Sav-a-center but it may have had the decor of one.

Now let's take a look inside...

Decent selection of Produce. Even has a small salad bar.

The interior is done in A&P's 90's decor. This look was replaced in more successful stores in the late 90's to early 2000's. You can see a sample of this look in the abandoned Bristol Super Fresh. A&P has since moved on to it's "fresh" market concept which is on it's third reinvention in about six years.

Very limited service Bakery. The store has entire aisle of alcohol which is oddly shared with the Health and Beauty aids aisle.

Front end of the store with 5 checkout lanes. The store office is over to the far left. You can see the round green clock mounted above the office if you look closely. The clock may have been left over from the Sav-a-center look from the 80's as are the entrance and exit signs out at the sreet.

Some aerial shots...

The original building was clearly added on to, possibly from three different sides. Not sure if this location started out as an A&P but it does appear that no additions were made after the Centennial front was added.

An aerial shot of Morristown shows just how close the town's two A&P's were located to each other. The former A&P store on the right can be seen close up down below...

This former A&P is now subdivided into a Burger King and health food store.

Below are 3 other remaining Centennial stores with little alterations made to the original structures...

75 Washington Valley Road, Bedminster, NJ

Route 22, Golden Bridge, NY

32 Bedford Road, Katonah, NY


  1. Amazing. I grew up in Morristown and never realized the building that housed a Burger King I ate in countless times (especially while in high school, which is right around the corner from the A&P) was another A&P. Weird to think that Morristown had two stores so close to one another. Now I'm wondering when the other location closed? I remember the existing store being popular among older residents in the area, perhaps ones that were no longer comfortable driving to one of the area's larger grocery stores like Acme, Kings, Stop N Shop and Shoprite, which had a Morristown location on the second floor of a two-story structure in addition to the existing one on Route 10 in Morris Plains.

  2. That's a really neat store. The inside reminds me of the Super Fresh in Hammonton, NJ, which has the same decor package.

  3. A few observations about this store. I too visited this store in April 2007 and it is an absolute treasure. Notice the 1 hour parking sign on the side of the building in the second photo. I wonder how long that's been there? I too found odd the arrangement of alcohol and H+BA in the same aisle. When I was there, there was a gate about halfway up the aisle cordoning off the alcohol part of it. Are the vintage coffee grinders still at some of the checkouts with what appears to be the faded original instruction card insert placards on the machines? They were there in '07. This store was also using Sav-A-Center carts then too. And given the fact that part of the building has what I call a "barrel roof", I too wonder if it had a previous life as a grocery or maybe even something like a bowling alley. Looking at that roof, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that.

  4. I've lived in Morristown almost my entire life so there are several things that I'd like to add:

    *According to a nice lady who once worked there (to whom I posed this question), this specific location opened in 1969. However, this building did not begin life as an A&P: somebody at posted that this was originally a car dealership; prior to opening, A&P added the Centennial facade to the front.

    *It used to not be as obvious that the building where the Morristown Burger King is located was home to a former A&P: that's because that entire shopping center got renovated a decade or so ago, and it was during that renovation that the developers made the Burger King building resemble a Centennial A&P.

    *Again regarding the now closed A&P location in Morristown, I do know that it pre-dates the current Washington Street location. I'm not sure when it closed (although somebody told me it was circa 1979), although I know for sure that it's been closed since I've moved to Morristown back in 1984. It turns out that A&P made the right decision in choosing which store to keep: the Burger King is in a now-unsafe area of town, while the current location is still safe.

    *This store (the Washington Street location) did receive a Sav-a-Center remodel back in the late-80's. However, it is important to note that the Morristown location was always branded as A&P (and not Sav-a-Center). (As you suspected, the A&P sign on this store was completely green; it would not change back to the "proper" colors until sometime in the early- or mid-90's.)

    *The Morristown A&P is actually a very popular destination for grocery shopping. (I know that I shop here whenever I can, and consider myself so lucky that one of the few remaining Centennials is right in my home town.) A major reason for this is the fact that the only other supermarket in Morristown is an upscale food store named King's.

    Before I conclude, I just wanted to thank the Acme Style webmaster not only for this excellent article on the Morristown A&P, but also for the outstanding work he puts into his entire blog each and every day. You have managed to instill in me--a person who is partial to A&P history--a deep appreciation for Acme.

  5. Centennials were rolled out for A&P's 100th anniversary in 1959, although a few were opened in late 1958, so it's not a "mid-50s" concept. They continued to build these into the early 1970s. they switched to a more modern format in 1973/74. Some centennials were larger than 20,000sf, but the standard size during the 60s was 18,000 sf, with smaller 13K sf stores in small towns and inner city neighborhoods. The barrel roof should have been a tipoff that this was something else and probably an older building. Although chains like Kohl's, Safeway, and Penn Fruit kept the barrel roof and incorporated it into their designs through the 60s, flat roofs were the norm for supermarkets by the 50s.

  6. Love this type of A&P ... there was one in Nanticoke ... located almost an equal distance inbetween the Acmes on Dundee Rd. and West Main St. ... today it is painted blue and houses a bank ... they removed the cupola too.

  7. Max, seems that we moved to Morristown around the same time. I moved there in 1984 and while I doubt we spent much time in the Morris Avenue area, I'm pretty sure I never saw an A&P in that area- that location has been a Burger King for as long as I can remember. A&P probably made the right move by retaining the Washington Street location, which does appear as though it started life as something completely different. Weird how old car dealerships were turned into grocery stores while old grocery stores were turned into car dealerships (see the Jeep dealership on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona- it was once an A-frame Acme.)

  8. Here's another surviving colonial A&P in Stamford, CT:

  9. I too love the "old" A&P style. I've been employed partime for 35 years. My original store on Main St. in West Orange, NJ. closed in Aug. 2000. It had only 7 aisles and that was after the 1993 renovation. It also had a liquor dept which I think carried the store the last few years..It was where people went to socialize and shop. Everyone knew everyone and people would stand chatting in the aisles forever. I watched children grow up and come shopping with their children. Boy how I miss those days. I'm in Montclair now. Its considered one of the smaller stores but its not as warm and cozy as the old days.. Employees come and go. There were two A&P's in West Orange. The one on Mt. Pleasant Ave. closed in the 80's It is currently Metropolitan Plant Exchange. I'm not sure if the weather vane is still there but the shape of the building is classic A&P. I hope things turn around for the company. Fingers crossed!!

  10. I grew up in Morristown back in the '50s and '60s. When I was very small, the A&P was on South Street, in the building next to the old Town Hall, which later became the Social Security office. The A&P on Morris Street opened around 1960, when the Midtown Shopping Center was built on the former site of Morristown Memorial Hospital. The present A&P on Washington Street was built around 1970; before it became an A&P, the building was home to Downs Chevrolet. Downs moved their dealersiop out onto Ridgedale Avenue, in an area that was a gravel pit when I was very young.

  11. There is a King's in Garwood, NJ (competing against the Garwood and Clark ShopRites, the Fanwood A&P, and other stores), and one in Warren Twp (exit 36 on I-78, competes against Super A&P).

  12. I was born & raised in Morristown and never knew that that A&P was special in any way. It really sometimes takes for a person to move away from one's hometown to appreciate it! We always went to the Grand Union on the corner of Elm St & Franklin but when that closed, we started going to the A&P in the Burger King/StarMusic strip until King's was opened closer to our house. I would say 1979 is a very good guess at the year of that A&P's conversion to BK. And that neighborhood was always the "unsafe" area of town although "unsafe" is certainly a relative term!

  13. Very sadly, the beloved Morristown A&P was severly damaged by Hurricane Irene. While the outside of the store remained intact, it appeared that the inside did get some flooding. When I visited this A&P on Sunday afternoon, the only lights that were working were those by the cashier lanes and by the meat department. Unfortunately, the entire frozen foods aisle (aisle four) was closed because a loss of power caused ruined all such foods. Also, all of the produce and refrigerated items were sealed off and unavailable for purchase.

    I am very worried about the future of this store, and wish that it can make a full recovery.

  14. That is very sad to read about the damage of the Morristown A&P location. Maybe, with insurance proceeds, the store can get a face lift with new equipment, etc. We just can't lose any more Centennials.

  15. Andy, thankfully a miracle occurred and the Morristown A&P looks like it did before the flood. Of course, I still worry about this location being replaced or closed.

  16. Grew up very near this store on Western Ave. Can remember riding my bike down to inspect the new Chevy's at the then Downs Chevrolet dealership which eventually moved to Ridgedale Ave. This building then became the A&P it now is. Left NJ in 86. Glad to see it still exists and is operational.

  17. Born and raised in Morristown. Heard today that the A & P is closing soon, and that the building is to be demolished. The first rumor was that a CVS drug store would be taking over the site, but the latest rumor is that a small scale food store, perhaps featuring specialty items would be taking over the spot and retaining the liquor license, a very precious commodity in New Jersey.

  18. This is devastating news, but I have just found out that the Morristown A&P will close by the end of 2013 and be replaced by Whole Foods in 2014 or 2015:

    Given how old the Morristown store is, I knew its days were numbered, but this doesn't make it any easier.

    I wonder if A&P is planning a new store in Morristown? (The article did not mention anything about it.) Morristown seems to be a good town for them, since the only competition is Kings. If there is no replacement store coming, then I wonder if A&P just decided to close the store in anticipation of being unable to compete with the new gigantic ShopRite that will soon open off of Ridgedale Avenue.

  19. Yes - this Morristown location is closing - A & P wants to rid itself of these weathervane locations - another near Somerville on ROute 206/202 is also closing. In Mrristown the building will be remodeled and become a Whole Foods Store. The sale reportedly excludes the liquor license which A & P will retain and use in the future. They are looking for options for a location in Morristown. They are keeping the current Morristown store until February of 2014 - A & P basically wants stores 50,000 square feet and bigger. The smaller stores are too limited to be profitable. So any of these older stores are in danger eventually of closing - Also rumors are the company will eventually be sold to Kroger or Safeway as well and decisions are being made with this in mind. I have worked for A & P 20 years.

  20. Whole Foods Coming Soon to this location. My company just brokered the lease a few weeks ago. If you are looking to lease your existing space or want to lease new space. Please call me.

    Steve Battista
    Jeffery Realty
    908-963-4539 cell

  21. Sadly, a store closing sign is now up. This A&P will close on December 6.

  22. I actually drove by this building today (Dec. 6), and the A&P has already closed (most likely because all the inventory was sold). I was pretty surprised to see that all the A&P signs had already been taken down.

    I will be forever grateful to the Acme Style webmaster for writing this great profile and taking these great photos of the Morristown A&P.

    1. Thanks Max! There will be some additional coverage of this store in the 2013 Grand Finale post on December 20th.

  23. I am really looking forward to that 2013 Grand Finale post, Acme Style!

  24. That's a shame that one of the last remaining centennial stores has now closed. The masses of people tend to only want to shop at warehouse-type stores. Something needs to be said for easy-in, easy-out vintage stores like this one.

  25. When A&P used a lot.of green, didn't it mean sav a center or a super fresh was debuting?

  26. This A&P is 44 years old. It was originally a Chevy dealership. I just read that in an article about the new Whole Foods that is moving in.