Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jersey Shore Tour Grand Finale!





Acme Markets, Wildwood New Jersey
Wildwood commentary and images by Rob Ascough

A summer vacation on the Jersey shore is known for many things- beautiful beaches covered with colorful umbrellas, seagulls riding the wind currents and… Acme??? Yes, Acme. As recent Acme Style posts have illustrated, there is a good chance an Acme store played a small part in your summer vacation if you vacationed on the Jersey shore. As one of the state’s premier shore vacation spots, it should come as no surprise that Acme- dating back to the days of American Stores- maintained a heavy presence on the world-famous barrier island.
The first American Store opened in 1903 on the corner of First and Central Avenue. As Wildwood became more populated with both year-round residents and summer vacationers, additional stores were constructed on the island. According to Wildwood By-The-Sea: Nostalgia & Recipes (Anita Hirch; www.tasteofwildwood.com) a total of seven American Stores were open for business in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest by 1928.

(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


More stores were constructed as the American Stores name was phased out in favor of Acme Markets. An Acme store on the corner of Pacific and Maple Avenues was assumed the role of Acme’s flagship store in the Wildwoods as the first half of the twentieth century came to a close. With its towering neon sign that could been seen blocks away on Pacific Avenue- one of the main roads on the island running north to south- there was no denying Acme’s position as one of the era’s prominent grocers.

(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


In the years following World War II, grocery stores evolved from small neighborhood markets with a limited variety of items to larger, full-service entities where people could satisfy all their shopping needs in one convenient location. Acme Markets constructed a new state-of-the-art store at Park and Bennet Avenues in Wildwood for the summer of 1957. Unlike the towns’ previous locations that operated under both the American Stores and Acme banners, Wildwood’s newest grocery store was on the western end of the island, blocks away from the business district along Pacific Avenue and the hotels and motels near the beach and boardwalk. As more people began to rely on the automobile, it was increasingly less important for grocery stores to be located within walking distance of most customers.

(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


Wildwood’s newest Acme store was nearly identical to hundreds of others that opened around the same time- quite a few of which have been featured here in the Acme Style Blog. An article published in a local paper covering the opening of the “giant new Acme supermarket”- the 21st opened up to that point in 1957- touted many of the store’s features:
  • Dimensions of 115 feet by 140 feet, allowing for 16,100 square feet of space- 10,530 of which was dedicated to the display of merchandise with the remaining for storage space and service facilities
  • A parking lot surfaced with black-top material and lined to accommodate 107 cars
  • Magic Carpet doors that swing open “in a gesture of welcome as they are approached, admitting the patron to an air-conditioned, color-styled, modernly-equipped food
    display room.”
  • Frozen food cabinets with 97 feet of display space
  • A meat department featuring a full line of fresh and smoked meats in refrigerated cases and a separate Fresh Fish and Poultry department featuring a rotissomat which barbequed broiling chickens that could be purchased cooked and ready to serve and live lobster tank
  • Ten conveyor type check-out lanes and a check cashing office to expedite the process for customers wishing to pay by check
  • A parcel-pick-up station near the store exit that allows customers to leave their purchases while they get their cars from the parking lot and have them loaded by attendants free of charge.
(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


Over time, the island’s other remaining Acme locations were shuttered, leaving the new supermarket to service Wildwood, North Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and West Wildwood (other nearby shore area locations included Cape May and Sea Isle City, as featured previously on Acme Style.) Some locations were demolished over the years as real estate became extremely valuable during the post-WWII boom years, while others were repurposed. The former flagship location at Pacific and Maple Avenues is currently the home of Atilus Gym.

(Photo by Rob Ascough.)

Considering the structure hasn’t been an Acme store in approximately five decades, it bears many of the attributes it once had as a grocery store. The towering neon sign is long gone but the gym’s entrance is located in the same spot as the entrance to the Acme store and the seven windows along Maple Avenue are still intact. Even the small overhang over the front of the building remains, and the space once occupied by the sign tower is covered with the sign for the gym.

(Photo by Rob Ascough.)

As the Park Avenue store began to age, the location was modified with interior upgrades as well as a remodeled front canopy that included a caged area for the sale of beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards and toys during the busy summer months. A remodel in the early 1990’s brought the checkerboard arch d├ęcor that would end up being the last significant upgrade made to the location.

(Source unknown)

Update 9.5.10: The Wildwood Acme in the years before demolition! I saw this picture online years ago but when it came time to prepare this post, I could not track it down. Pretty sure it has vanished from the web. Rob and I have both been searching for a picture of this store during the 2000's and had come up empty handed. Fortunately the "Help Wanted" ad at the end of this entry got us the results we were looking for! Thanks to Trex354 for sending it in.

(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


By 2005, the once-modern store had begun showing its age. With the air conditioning system needing to be replaced and no obvious solution to the sloped floor that led to shopping carts taking on a path of their own when left unattended, the decision was made to replace the antiquated building with a new one. However, because of the narrow timeframe in which Acme had to demolish the old building and construct a new one, the project would prove to be one of the company’s most ambitious in recent years. Wildwood’s season typically ends long after Labor Day and begins around Easter Sunday, and with no additional land to work with, Acme had to move fast to make sure as little in-season business as possible was lost to Wildwood’s impending lack of an Acme location.

(Photo courtesy of the Wildwood Historical Society/
George F. Boyer Museum.)


The new store, much larger than the one it replaced, had the unique distinction of looking unlike any Acme that came before it. Constructed in the Neo Doo Wop architectural style that harkened back to the cutting edge architecture constructed in the Wildwoods in the 50’s and 60’s, the island’s new Acme supermarket featured a pastel blue exterior, chrome accents and a script logo that suggested the company’s past without directly copying it. Yet while different on the outside, the new store was very typical of modern Acme locations on the inside.































Old store still standing in 2002.








Of course the Acme wasn't here in 1933 but it's the next available image before 1956.



Super Fresh at 24oo Delaware Avenue with a former Centennial A&P next door.



Help Wanted: We are looking for a picture of the old Wildwood store prior to demolition. I've seen one or two on the internet in the past but can't track any down at this time.

Updated 9.5.10: A picture has been found!

8 comments:

  1. They should use that logo for all their stores.

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  2. Rob, thank-you so much for all your research and photos to tell the Wildwood story! WOW! How did one get product delivery in 1903, for starters? The tourists took the train to Wildwood, but did the groceries also come on the train?

    Of the five predecessor companies that merged in 1917 to form the American Stores Company, one was based in Camden, New Jersey. It was called the Child's Company. They had many, many stores in South Jersey, so I would guess that the original Wildwood store was a Child's.

    I grew up in the small town of Barnegat and have seen pictures of East Bay Street, with the Child's sign hanging over the sidewalk. In later pictures, it is the same sign, but repainted with the American Stores logo. I've also seen a photo of the Child's store in Mays Landing, hanging in the current Acme.

    The store at 3009 Pacific Avenue was a very early Acme, opening in 1940 (May 2nd). I have never seen a 1940 store with a tower, so perhaps it was enlarged around 1950-51 and the dramatic tower added. I remember seeing the store when it was open, and it was still open in 1970! In fact I have a note from 1969 that it had been repainted, so it probably closed a couple of years later, following typical "Acme Style!"

    Rob, thanks again for your major contribution to the tour of the Jersey Shore. It's been great fun!

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  3. Bill, thank YOU for the additional info. Nice to come across someone else with a sincere interest in the history of the Jersey shore. I'm particularly happy you were able to add to my spotty history of the 3009 Pacific Avenue store. Up until a few months ago, I had no idea it even existed, and I never would have guessed it operated through at least the 1970 season. I expected any remaining Acme locations in the Wildwoods to have been closed not long after the 5300 Park Boulevard location opened, although I suppose it makes sense the company wanted to maintain a "Main Street" presence.

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  4. Sometime in the 1970s and 80s, the script on the top was removed and the fish-eye logo was placed on the left side. The script logo, if I remember right, remained on the door handles. The location had Colonial decor through the 1980s; it skipped the 80s remodel.

    This store got the checkerboard arch decor and I presume the reworked "canopy" design on the facade around 1992. This was also the first store I remember seeing with the new block letter logo that the company didn't adopt until 1997.

    Also of interest: this area of Wildwood is located near back bays which are prone to flooding. If things got bad, local residents would move their cars to the Acme parking lot for safety. This isn't possible today; while the store was enlarged, the parking lot certainly wasn't, and it's painful to park here on busy days!

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  5. Parking was a miserable experience at the old, smaller store, and is worse now that the store is larger and takes up more of the block. As a life-long Wildwood vacationer, I don't remember the store prior to the updates in the early 90's. I guess I wasn't paying attention to that sort of thing. Is it just me, or did the majority of Jersey Shore stores get ignored by the 80's remodel? The Sea Isle City store never got it and I don't think Cape May did either.

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  6. are there any interior pictures of the old acme?!

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  7. I haven't been able to find any although I can support what Matt said about the store having received the checkerboard arch decor many years before the building was demolished.

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  8. oh those wildwood days, those wild wild wildwood days every day is a holiday and every night we shop at ACME- Bobby rydell

    I think this is how the song goes...

    ReplyDelete