Friday, March 16, 2012

Acme – Jenkintown, PA

Location: 323 Old York Road, Jenkintown, PA

Today we will be taking a look at one of the most unique Acmes in existence. It also happens to be the location that kicked off the final, albeit short-lived, era of American Stores. We did take a quick look at the former Acme in Jenkintown back in March 2009. The gloriously preserved pitched-roof building is now home to a Whole Foods. The current location seen here was shown in satellite photos but did not receive full coverage until now. 

The interesting exterior here is due to the building's origins as a Lord and Taylor department store. You can see a picture of the building, from the opposite side, circa 1962 by clicking here. I'm a little sketchy on the details here but at some point Lord and Taylor was replaced by Bloomingdales. Once the Willow Grove Mall was built, about 4 miles north of Jenkintown, Bloomingdales left this location to join the mall in 1982. It remains at the mall to this day. Fast forward to 1997, Acme made the move from its pitched-roof location to this building. In the original post, Bill Haines, one of out resident Acme experts, commented that a farmer's market had occupied a portion of the building just prior to the Acme moving in. Bill explained that American Stores developed a brand-new decor package specifically for this store with the goal of acheiving a similar ambiance to the former tenant. That decor package became known on the blog as the "Chalkboard Market Decor". Not the best name, but I couldn't seem to come up with anything else back when I was doing the decor directory. When I read Bill's comment it seemed like no-brainer to call it the "Farmers Market Decor". Oh well. The Chalkboard Market name stuck so I stayed with it. Here's his comment from the original post...

"The Chalkboard Market decor package was developed by American Stores Properties especially for the Jenkintown Acme, which opened June 27, 1997. The previous tenant, after Lord & Taylor left, was a farmer's market, so the goal was to create a similar ambiance. The two story location has underground parking, second floor preparation and storage areas, and four freight elevators. This was the first store that grouped all of the perishable service departments together."

Acme took the concept developed here and quickly swept it to other stores. The 90's Red/White/Blue decor and layout was retired in favor of the Chalkboard Market decor and "grand aisle" layout. Once Albertsons took over, the Chalkboard Market Decor was put to pasture in place of their already established Industrial Circus Decor package.

This looks to have been a main entrance to Lord and Taylor. For the Acme, it is the pharmacy side of the store. 

The doors lead right into the store. There isn't any kind of foyer that leads to other retailers in the building. 

The second floor is occupied by Burlington Coat Factory. 

The less spectacular entrance to the Acme is the main entrance leading into Produce and the fresh service departments. 

Looking towards the front corner. The entrance is to the right of this photo. The store has been remodeled with the Premium Fresh and Healthy decor. Some elements of the Chalkboard Market decor remain including the grids hanging from the ceiling in the grand aisle. This store also has several deluxe touches not found in other stores. Clearly a premier location for the chain. 

Looking towards the back of the store just inside the entrance. Bakery and Deli lining the left side. As Bill mentioned, this was Acme's first store to have this type of layout. Registers and grocery aisles over to the left. The Bakery here has one of the most extensive selections I've seen in an Acme. 

Fully operating salad bar on a Saturday which is unusual.

Floral just beyond the Salad Bar and right before the Butcher Block. 

Cool metal swirl holding the track lights. 

The Deli directly across from Floral. 

Butcher Block in the back corner.

Aisle 1 of grocery. The lattice panels left over rom the Chalkboard Market decor. 

"Wild Harvest" natural foods department. Interesting structure suspended from the ceiling. Smaller version seen at the Feasterville store. The Wild Harvest department here appeared bigger than in most other stores. 

Looking towards the back of the store.  

Along the back looking down towards the Butcher Block. Not sure if the grids seen in the grand aisle here extended around the store like at other Chalkboard Market stores. 

Pharmacy in the front corner. This store is quite large despite topping out at only 12 aisles. I believe the Dairy aisle is number 13 but does not have a marker.  

Without a doubt, the most deluxe front-end I've seen in an Acme. Very unique lights above the registers. 

Self checkouts over by the Produce entrance. 

Back outside...

I'm missing shots of the front side and left sides. Have to rely on satellites to fill in the blanks.

There is no access to the Acme from this side of the building.

Not sure what the curved building is. Too busy checking out the Acme to notice. 

Historic Aerials... 







Now we'll head north on Old York Road and make a right onto The Fairway. Arriving at the former pitched-roof Acme in just minutes. 

Location: 1575 The Fairway, Jenkintown, PA

Acme opened here in the early 60's. I don't have an exact date but it was prior to 1965 as we'll see in the satellite images. Also seen in the 1965 image is unusual additions made to the building. 

While Whole Foods has made significant upgrades to the building, they have left the original structure intact. One of the best repurposing of a pithed-roof store ever! 

Pretty spectacular inside. Not much of a surprise for a Whole Foods. Confused though as to why aisle 1 is labeled aisle 8 as this side has the only entrance to the store.  

Acme's produce aisle would have been on this side as well.  

Center aisle through the store. 

Cut out windows up on the "mezzanine". This photo doesn't quite capture how cool they looked. At first I thought they were light boxes with glowing orange lights. Further inspection revealed they were windows to the second floor offices. 

Looks as though Whole Foods added the extension on the left.

Heading back in time...



Expansion out the fight and rear sides happened back in the Acme days. Parking lot looks to have been repaved and reconfigured around this time. 


This is odd to me... additions made to the store as of 1965. Not something we've seen often, if at all. The Jenkintown Acme must have been a big hit from day 1!


Both the current Acme and the former pitched-roof location are must see for the serious Acme fan!


  1. The curved building is The Pavilion, apparently an office building / community center / Heavenly Spa.

  2. You know what else is amazing about this building (not necessarily to do with Acme though)? There was once an Eckerd in part of it that opened in 1997 but closed in 2000. I'm not sure but I think it might be the Applebee's now. The amazing part is that last I checked, less than a year ago, there still is a painted over Eckerd sign on the plaza sign by the road. Perhaps I could take those home for free if the landlord could remove them for me? I did that with a Lechters Housewares canopy sign at that short-lived company's store in West Chester PA, one of their only stores not in malls.

    Ironically, there was also a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper today about the new Whole Foods in Glen Mills PA, which was a Genuardi's. Kind of strange how the Thrift Drug/Eckerd/Rite Aid next to it (and Nextel/Sprint store I believe) are still empty.

  3. It turns out the Bloomingdale's was up the road further at the 500 block of Old York Rd; this location was apparently only a Lord & Taylor. In the 80s it was turned into a small mall which included the original Thrift Drug and farmer's market; the Thrift had to move to a pharmacy-only trailer for a year while the building was reconfigured for Acme and it's new store was built on the outside. The original upstairs anchor was Good's Furniture; Burlington opened in the last five years or so.

  4. Thank-you for your kind comments as a "resident Acme expert!" My sources were copies of "The Trumpeter" which I had saved from the late 1990's, before Albertson's killed it! With regard to the pitched roof store, Acme 1711 opened in May 1959, and was successful from day one. The addition to the right was done prior to 1965, and the addition to the left was completed by 1969. As I commented on the "Finest Bread" ad, Acme did not want to install in-store bakeries because Bakery #1 was so profitable, so to add something special, after the expansion in 1969, a Hanscome's Bake Shop was added. Hanscome's had a chain of 40 quality bake shops in the Philadelphia area, but not many in the suburbs. Mrs. Hanscome shopped at this Acme and was supportive of a test. The only other store to get a Hanscome's was the original 1957 pitched roof store in Newtown Square. Hanscome's was sold to Stouffer's in the early 1970's, and the fresh bake shops were soon eliminated.

  5. Hello Acme Style,

    Josh Austin is correct. This building was never a Bloomingdale's. Lord & Taylor's full line store opened in 1964, was converted to a Lord & Taylor outlet in 1989, and closed in 1990. The 'reason' for the closure was that Lord & Taylor was in the process of negotiating a move to a suburban mall. Eventually, this happened when their new store opened in the fall of 1995 in King of Prussia.

    Several 'twins' of this building still exist as Lord & Taylor stores. One example is the Washington, DC location. If you'd like me to tell you about others, let me know.

    Mike P

  6. The Friendship Heights and Falls Church L&Ts in DCwere similar as was the one in West Hartford, CT (Bishops Corner). Friendship Heights still operates as a Lord & Taylor. Bishops Corner has been turned into a multi-tenant store and Falls Church recently was demolsihed.

  7. Yes, I am familiar with the old West Hartford Lord & Taylor. It was identical to the Bala Cynwyd store near Philly which is still open. The West Hartford one was open from 1954-1984 and moved to Westfarms Mall. They split the old store between a Marshalls and an early Barnes & Noble which surprisingly is still there. I also don't get why the Bala Cynwyd store coexists with the King of Prussia one. Also, Lord & Taylor briefly had a store in Center City which was a Wanamaker's and now is a Macy's. Surprisingly the nearby Strawbridge's (which opened in 1927 and had been extensively remodeled in 1997) was rejected by Macy's. The Jenkintown Strawbridge & Clothier was also a real oldie, and now has been converted to an Outback and offices. This store matched the Suburban Square store which is kind of hidden in Ardmore, and survived to become a Macy's. Not to mention the Target in Abington is another interesting conversion from an old department store. It was a Sears.

    Interesting someone mentioned Falls Church, Virginia. The Lord & Taylor there is now a Sears. Coincidentally, Falls Church was one of the few communities in Virginia that once had an Acme, and a Food Fair/Pantry Pride for that matter too. Falls Church feels so much like Philly or NYC to me even though it's in a Southern state!

    I was unaware of the Good's Furniture here. The only Good's I remember was in an off the beaten path complex in Wilmington DE. That chain shut down in late 2004 (right before Frank's Nursery). But the Burlington here was up and running by summer 2006. They were closing stores in the area from 2002-2004, but have made a comeback.

    Also, a really interesting retail relic along 611 is a restaurant. It started as a Church's Chicken, which closed in the late 90's when they exited the Philly market (but have since returned), and strangely was converted to a Burger King. But in the early 2000s, Burger King was having franchise issues in the Philly area, and it closed. Later it was a soul food place called Halal Bilal, but has since been renamed Brother's Steak & Pizza. There still are clearly elements of both Church's and Burger King.

  8. There Is another Lord & Taylor Operating
    In Bergan County NJ (NOT PARAMUS)
    that also looks like this store.

    1. Anonymous, that beautiful mid-60s Lord & Taylor is part of "The Fashion Center" mall, just across the Paramus border in Ridgewood. For many years The Fashion Center also housed B. Altman and other upscale retailers, but now hosts Best Buy and a large supermarket (L&T still there); Altman's was divided for use by other big-box retailers. An outparcel contained one of the last locations of Best & Company (built 1970, never opened), which later became Toys R Us. Across the street to the north: a small former Acme.

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  10. Penn Fruit Co. Was the market for perishables in the 60s n 70s. Remember the William Penn gift shop?

  11. An interesting tidbit is that when the new Acme store opened, for a few months it kept the old store open as well due to a petition from the old folks home next door. They tried it out with a limited staff and when there wasn't enough interest, finally closed the original location. Whole Foods came in and opened in late 1999 I believe.

  12. The drum lights inside the store have been replaced with those new-fangled fixtures they're been rolling out.