Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grand Re-Opening, Union City Acme in 1977!

Finally... an old Acme ad! I have been wishing for one to turn up for a long time now. Thanks to Jim Koeppe... the former Grocery Manager of the long gone Union City Acme... for scanning this and sending it in. I am thrilled to be able to share this all at Acme Style. We'll be meeting Jim down below... he is IN the ad!

But before we go further I have to share another wish that I had on my list... finding out where the Union City Acme was located. I knew there was one on Kennedy Blvd but couldn't pin down the exact building. There were a couple that could have fit the bill. Thanks to Jim for getting it all straightened once and for all. When you see pictures of the building you'll wonder how I could have not been sold on it being the former Acme. It even has a crazy huge sign in the parking lot to this very day.

Not only do I know where the Union City Acme was... I now know that it had it's Grand Re-Opening back in 1977! Remodels in those days were not as extensive as they are now but exciting nonetheless. Acme was on a huge remodel kick in the 70's as it rolled out the 70's Colonial Decor to stores built in the 50's and 60's. Most of the efforts were to improve the appearance of the stores rather than store-wide upgrades of cases and service departments.

Dollar General moved in just recently. The front section was a Hollywood Video for many years. The awning was all done up with graphics and neon lights when it was the video store... which I think helped to throw my Acme detection sensors off course. Now that it's a plain Dollar General, I can sense the Acme vibe more easily.

I know, I know... this sign should have been the dead giveaway. But I haven't really seen an Acme sign quite like this one. They're usually taller and not partitioned like this one.

The entrance to the Dollar General is exactly where the entrance was to the Acme.

Jim climbed that sign many times to change light bulbs!

What it lacked in width it certainly made up for in length. The store was about 12,000 square with a full basement which housed the stockroom, breakroom and employee bathrooms. The boiler and compressors were also located in the basement. This rectangle shaped store was a popular choice for Acme in Philly and other
urban areas.

Check out the Grand Re-Opening specials...

Do to a bit of an unfortunate mishap the night before... the Acme salami had to be replaced with a ShopRite salami from down the street. The winner was none the wiser.

Plants were big in the 70's and they were a big part of the remodel! In the 80's Acme became famous for their 1/2 price plant sales. They would fill their stores with hundreds of plants which would sell out completely within a few days.

There's Jim!
Jim tells me the Acme was doing about $70,000 a week. Not that great even for the 70's. The ShopRite about 8 blocks down the street was doing a million a week. It has since been torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. 30 years later Acme still can't figure out how to compete against ShopRite let alone survive near one. Back in the early 2000's when Acme went on a North Jersey building spree, they selected a location in Union City which would have marked the company's return about 20 years after the original Acme closed. Acme was eventually denied the permits to build due to environmental concerns. That was probably for the best. I doubt Acme would have survived. Even the A&P gave up and became a Food Basics when the rebuilt ShopRite opened.

I created this graphic based on a sketch Jim kindly sent in so we could see how the store was laid out. I was very surprised to see 8 aisles. Acmes much wider than this had only 8 aisles. This layout was standard issue in Acmes of the 50's and 60's. Check out the conveyer belt in aisle 6! Cases were sent up from the basement for restocking the shelves. This conveyor system was moved to the Produce backroom during the '77 remodel.

The basement served as the stockroom. All merchandise was loaded into a small opening in side of the store. So small that some large cases couldn't even fit! The boxes would move down a conveyor belt to the basement which had a roller system throughout. Merchandise was moved along the rollers to specific areas for storage... only to wait for a ride back up to the sales floor. Wow... sounds like alot of work!

Jim's mom confirmed for us that the Acme opened in 1956. The property was a florist with huge green houses prior to the Acme taking over the land. The store closed in the early 80's... just a few years after the remodel. Even for it's time the store was on the small side and like so many other Acmes... suffered neglect from the company.

Much thanks to Jim for sharing his ad and all of the information he provided for this post!


  1. Was there another acme in union that lasted at least into the 90s?

  2. In Union yes but not Union City. They are two separate towns about 20 miles away from each other.

  3. I believe the Union store remained open until 2006?

    Great post! The ads and the store's floorplan (nicely done, by the way) make this post even better. It seems that the store was a lot like the former Leonia store, although maybe a bit larger (I remember Leonia being very small). Weird how the store was remodeled and then closed a few years later, although that wasn't uncommon when it came to Acme. I'll assume the remodel was supposed to increase business and when it didn't, Acme opted to pull the plug.

    I spent one day working on a store with a basement (North Plainfield) and it was very odd. Merchandise had to be brought in through a door on the main floor, sent downstairs and then brought back up when needed. It seemed very inconvenient, although the basement was a good way to build a larger store on a limited footprint. A good grocery manager was obviously needed to make sure the basement didn't turn into a Bermuda Triangle for merchandise!

  4. The former Union store has been added below the Union City post to clear up any confusion about all the "Unions" in New Jersey.

  5. Hi, UntillIwas seven yearsoldin 1962 my familylived on 27 street of of kennedy ( then known as Hudson Blv). My dad worked for Safeway,but sincethere wasn!t one in Union City we would often go to the other side of the Stadium and shop at The Acme. By theway cometo Delaware I will show you where Shop Rite takes a back seat to Acme in at least two locations.

  6. 70K/wk in the mid-70s would have been very good for a store this size. At the beginning of the 70s, the average annual sales at an Acme was a little over a million, which is what it had been through much of the 60s. My guess is that the Shop-Right did more like $1M/month, if that, in 1977.


  8. For a fairly short time, I worked at the Grand Union in Elmwood Park (at the corner of Broadway & Boulevard), which was in the building of the former GU headquarters. We had the conveyor system as well, though the store also had a small back room. In the latter years, the basement was rarely used due to the lack of business. After the store closed, Pathmark built a store across Boulevard, in this huge parking lot. The HQ was located in a tower to the left of the store, it was removed in the early 2000's, and the store was torn down to make way for a Walgreens.