Monday, May 3, 2010

The life and times of the Rockaway Acme

The Rockaway Acme, located at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, opened in 1980 and closed on April 10, 2010. It had moved from a smaller location in Rockaway township. This new location became one of Acme's most successful North Jersey stores.

The store began it's life with the fish-eye logo along with the deluxe version of the 70's Colonial decor package. The 80's remodel came to this store around 1986. Although the store was only 6 years old it received all new cases, fixtures and registers as well as the red oval logo which you can see below.

Classic Acme images courtesy of Rob Ascough

As successful as this store was it was passed over during the Checkerboard Arch remodels of the early 90's. The next remodel, which was desperately needed, came around 2000 with the Chalkboard Market interior. The store was essentially gutted and remodeled from floor to ceiling. The exterior upgrade you see above did not happen until years later. The store kept it's "Super Saver" style awning but had a 3D logo put in the space where the red oval logo had been. The property's landlord upgraded the facade of the shopping center just a few years ago.

The latest signage was put up when the facade was redone.

All of the photos above come to Acme Style courtesy of Rob Ascough. The interior photos below were sent in by a new Acme Style assistant... Shaun from North Jersey.

I had been in this store a few times in the mid to late 90's. The store was in terrible shape. I was shocked to see how this once mighty Acme was a filthy mess. I visited again in the early 2000's and was stunned by the complete reinvention of the store. It was my first encounter with this decor and layout. It as quite impressive. The Acme was still going strong back then as the gigantic ShopRite down the street hadn't opened yet.

The former Starbucks alcove, which was closed years ago, was never again used for much of anything. Most stores saw their Starbucks converted to Seattle's Best. Business here must have dropped to the point where a coffee cafe could not be supported. We'll take a look below at the competition which destroyed this once high-volume store.

As I began seeing more stores with this decor package I realized the one used in the Rockaway store was a less deluxe version. It seemed the remodel was never quite finished here particularly with the department signage around the store.

The Bakery was moved from the far left corner to the right side of the store during the 2000 remodel.

Notice the case in the back of the Deli is empty. The store had been phasing out perishable offerings over the last few years as business continued to spiral downward.

The deli case there stocked only with bottled drinks. Fresh offerings long gone. Now... I don't do much pricing commentary here on this blog but I really need to point out something here. Morning Star products have been a staple in my freezer for years now. I buy them at Pathmark, Stop and Shop, A&P, ShopRite and Target. I have never once seen them priced higher than $4.99. They are more often in the $3.99 to $4.59 price range. If business at your store is declining, what is the motivation for charging more than everyone else for a product? I realize this us just one example in a store full of thousands but the difference in price of this one item to the competitors is pretty shocking.

The Fisherman's Net still has water... but no fish. This department was shut down long before Acme announced it's closing. May have even closed a few years ago.

The famous hole in the Meat Department ceiling which was only recently repaired after being a mess for years.

Floral was moved from the entrance to over near frozen food during the remodel.

No Pharmacy in Rockaway.

The Chalkboard Market brought back the official Customer Service desk. The Rockaway Acme had the CSR stand put in durning the 80's remodel. Sometime in the 90's the CSR stand was replaced by a make-shift Customer Service department and express register. During the remodel, Customer Service was moved to other end of the registers next to the former Bakery Department.

Rockaway originally had the hanging dome lights which can be seen here in the Shrewsbury store. They were replaced with these recessed lights a few years ago.

Shaun has also provided us a look at the backroom areas. A first here at Acme Style.

And now we'll head back outside...

The Best Buy building used to be a 6 cinema theater back in the 80's. It closed years ago and remained empty until Best Buy moved in. The Office Depot started as a Kids "R" Us. It is now a vacant space. Several other stores are closed as well. Several new strip malls have been built around the mall leaving this one in their dust. Not much to see here anymore besides the Best Buy.

Now the abandoned Rockaway Acme...

Rob captured these erie pictures of the abandoned interior. I believe the lease runs out at the end of May. I'll try to get photos after the store gets cleared out.

The original Rockaway Acme...

Looks like the huge Acme sign came right out of the top of the building. Must have been easier to cover over than remove completely.

Located at 25 West Main Street.

Looks very similar to the former Union City Acme.

Now we'll take a look at the competition...

The Rite Aid in nearby Wharton was a Food Town back when Acme opened. I believe it survived into the early 90's.

The ShopRite over on Route 46 was the Rockaway Acme's main competition back in the 80's. It moved down the street into a mostly abandoned shopping center that once house a Jamesway and even earlier... a Two Guys.

This was the Rockaway Acme's first serious competitor... and by no means it's last.

Costco opened near the entrance of the mall in the mid 90's. To help compete, Acme removed an entire aisle of groceries to make a double-wide aisle of mega-sized merchandise. They added these departments in many of their larger stores... I can't recall the name but can still see the signage in my mind. The new aisle lasted only a short time at Rockaway. Regular sized groceries made their triumphant return as not everyone needed to by 48 rolls of toilet paper at once.

And then real trouble came to town... this huge ShopRite is located just across the street from Costco. Opened in the early 2000's.

Rotate the satellite view and you can see the newly added solar panels on the roof. There's a big sign on the front of the store declaring it's new "green" status.

The final nails in Acme's coffin... Target and Walmart opening in the mid 2000's. Both located even closer to the Acme than the 2 ShopRites and Costco.

The Walmart can be seen from Route 80 but is tucked away in the back of the mall. Not easy to get to if you don't know it's there.


  1. Excellent article on the demise of a once-great store. May I offer readers another interesting former Acme location (not seen in the Directory here): the one located on Bassett Highway in nearby Dover. This Acme -- easily recognized from the blue panels and window-wall -- was one anchor of the Dover Shopping Center, a major downtown strip center built in the late 1950s. The center also included FW Woolworth, JC Penney, WT Grant, and (at the opposite end from Acme) one of the more architecturally-unique Food Fairs I have seen, in addition to smaller stores and a (now-gone) parking deck.

    The entire DSC met its demise when the nearby Rockaway Town Center was built. The Acme was briefly an A&P when a nearby location of the latter burned; today it is a Goodwill-type store. The Food Fair exists today as a State of New Jersey Unemployment office -- with the original terrazzo floors! Most of the other buildings still stand, but the stores have been converted to agency and office space -- don't know if the second-floor bowling alley is still in business. The site is worth a visit if you are in the area.

  2. I always wondered if that building was an Acme! Rob had mentioned that building to me before and wondered if it had been an Acme.The blue tiles kinda threw me though because I have never seen them on an old Acme before. I was going to take pictures of buildings in that area when I was out there yesterday but there was a street fair going on which made parking impossible. My mother used to shop at that JCPenney when I was a kid. I remember it like it was yesterday. There was also a drive in theater behind those buildings. The Food Fair building is quite extraordinary. I will try to get out there again and get some pictures of yet another former Rockaway Acme.

  3. It seems that in the late 70s and early 80s, acme was fond of building stores on the outskirts of enclosed regional shopping malls.

    I am surprised that they did not use the seaview square style store here also.

    According to wikipedia, the office depot was originally a child world toy store.

  4. I've actually never been in this Acme, but I have been to this shopping center, and besides the Child World, the Rockaway Convenience Center also had a Thrift Drug store, which I have been in. Also in the picture of the older Acme, you can see a yellow sign saying Weichert Realtors which was next to the Acme. In contrast to the picture, what are the two other stores on the other side of the Acme?

  5. The Thrift Drug is now a Rite Aid. Not sure of what the other stores are. I can't imagine the Rite Aid will survive much longer with the strip mall now virtually empty.

  6. Excellent post by the site's webmaster! Just a few things...

    The Best Buy at the end of the strip mall stands on the site of the old movie theater but it's an entirely new building. Not that it really matters, just an observation. I remember going to that movie theater many times in my teens and always being happy that I had the night off from work, unlike the poor Rockaway Acme employees that were stuck working! My earliest memories of the Rockaway Mall tell me that there was a toy/children's store at the opposite end of the mall. Maybe it was called Child World? I honestly can't recall. The Rite Aid was likely a Thrift Drug, and I'm pretty sure the reason the Acme never got a pharmacy was because there was a stipulation in the lease that stated no pharmacy could be built that competed with one existing in the strip mall. If Acme wanted a phramacy, they would have had to buy out the one that existed next door and I seriously doubt Acme made that attempt.

    Why? Because Acme had already cut the budget from the remodel, which was supposed to be a lot more elaborate. As the webmaster noted, the Chalkboard Market decor appeared very cheap compared to other stores featuring the same look and I'm sure that's because at least $1 million was slashed because of Shoprite moving into the area. Acme rolled over to play dead long before the competition even opened its doors.

    Too bad. Even by today's standards, the Rockaway location was a large supermarket and had a lot of potential.

  7. that looked like a nice acme...most of our stores are turning into garbage...i'm from south jersey, and walmart, target, aldis, shoprite especially just beat us to oblivion. acme doesn't seem to care. they understaff every department possible, can't compete, and i'm embarassed when my relatives or friends even come shop at my store because of how horribly ran the stores are. the store i work in is beautiful, but the help/prices are not...i guess i'll be riding my unemployment check -knock on wood not- unless acme does a major 360...which hasn't happened since i started here. such a shame. shame shame shame.

  8. history of cinnaminson acme!
    BEFORE SHOPRITE (SHIT-WRONG) opened: 600,000-1,000,000/week
    AFTER: 200,000-300,000/week (and dropping)

    Department hours:
    350 --> 320 --> 240 --> 210 --> 180 --> 160 -->150 --> 125 --> 120 --> 115
    two full timers eat up 88 of those, sure good way to run a department folks!

  9. Well, I can't blame Shop-Rite for doing the business. Let us not forget that Queen Judy's husband was a BIG-WIG @ Shop-Rite for years...wonder where Shop-Rite got their "inside" info??? Next to Grand Union, I think Shop-Rite had many dirty stores in the past, and now they are all new and very clean.
    Acme likes to play dominos with the help. The more they cut hours, the more customers they loose. Same with the stores,falling like dominos...

  10. Hello all. I was informed last week that Queen Judy and several "suits" from King Super Markets visited the Randolph, NJ Acme and the Morris Plains, NJ Acme. Now WHY on earth would Acme allow the ex president of Acme Markets to visit their stores with biggies from Kings? Rumor has it that she was showing them what a well run large store (Randolph) and a well run smaller store (Morris Plains) looks that to say that Kings does not know what a well run store looks like. Hmmm....Looks like this could be the start of the end for Kings.

  11. After reading about Rockaway ACME that closed last May. I worked at now closed WEIS store in EAST STROUDSBURG,PA. I worked there for almost 3 yrs there. The reason why it closed was to do with competing a Super Walmart across the street. When the super Walmart open in the late 90s; it was a matter of time that the weis store about 11 yrs later. When I found a month ago. A lot of workers & customer were shocked. It didn't have a pharmacy,bank,or hot foods select like other Weis stores. The store last year had shrink loss of $130K in merchandise. The night crew were found out they were the ones that stole $130K stuff. After that the store downfall after that. Now its Empty store of 28 yrs as a Supermarket. What a Shame to these former supermarket Giants.

  12. You know, you brought up the sign coming out of the roof on the old Rockaway Acme that's now the Quick Chek store...I know of at least one other Acme store that had that kind of set up. The store was on Jefferson Street in Passaic, NJ (across from what was once a Centennial-style A&P). The place is now a clothing store called Olympic Town, where they sell sneakers and other stuff, and they recently underwent a remodel where they redid the whole outside of the store. They stripped whatever they had put up away and for a little while you could see the label scars that the Acme signs had left behind...oh, if I had a camera with me.

  13. Wow.. I used to love shopping at the Rockaway Acme because I could always run in and get through fast without bumping into everyone I know and their mother over at Shop Rite. I truly miss this store. Always had the same people there - the light brown haired mgr who was always over at the courtest counter - the checker wh became an assistant manager of some sort (maybe?) dark hair, thick glasses, not the best skin complexion but mild mannered and very nice. Hope they are all doing well in life because they were with that store for yrs. I grew up in Newton, NJ where one of the smallest and possibly shabbiest Acme's was - even as a kd in the late 70's through the 80's it was really bad and very small town.

  14. That demise of the Rockaway Acme was a shame that nothing else has moved into this former Acme...with the Sparta Acme now a CVS, Frank's Pizza, and a Golden Castle Jewelers; Newton Acme now a Dollar General; Pompton Lakes Acme that burned down and rebuilt as an A&P; and the Seaside Heights Acme now an A&P, that Rockaway Acme should turn into something else...but nevertheless, the former Child World/Office Depot is now a bakery; a Party Fair store opened next to Acme; and the Sizzler, which was abandoned for a while, was demolished and rebuilt as Buffalo Wild Wings. And I agree with you when that ShopRite on Rt. 15 in Wharton put trouble to the Rockaway Acme and the Dover ShopRite on Rt. 46 when that opened in 2001. I can see why, that with that ShopRite in Wharton, the Rockaway Acme closed.

  15. Are you saying that the Quick check in Rockaway is the Acme in the pictures? because that Acme in the pictures is at the Rockaway mall. no where near where Quick check is on main street. Rockaway mall is in Rockaway township. NOT Rockaway borough. Quick Check is in the Boro.

    1. Nope, not saying that at all. The Quick Check is a former Acme location.

    2. Yes, that Rockaway Acme located in the strip mall near Rockaway Townsquare was a relocation for the one located on West Main St. in Rockaway (now a QuickChek) and the one in Dover (now a Salvation Army Thrift Store). Still hoping that the one near the Rockaway Mall will become occupied by something else...

  16. UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just found out today that the Rockaway Acme is becoming a Nordstrom Rack!