Location: 300 Ryders Lane, Milltown NJ
The Milltown Acme was referred to as the company's latest prototype on opening day in March 2001. According to an article on Highbeem.com, the company described it as "the most modern and unique food and drug superstore in Middlesex County" with such amenities as a Sushi Bar, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme donuts. All these years later... the Starbucks is gone, no more Krispy Kreme and the Savon Pharmacy has been eliminated. Joining these defunct departments are the Video Department and the Reading Center, yet their signage remains.
The Pharmacy here was closed back in 2010 at the same time as Clifton's. In the post covering the Pharmacies, I wondered if both stores were in danger of shutting down but after several rounds of closings, both stores remain open. The Clifton store faced tough competition from several nearby including a new Trader Joes. The replacement store there opened after Milltown but has aged terribly. I was pretty horrified the last time I was there but that was back in the SuperValu days. Things may be improving now as they are at many locations.
I've alway found Milltown to be immaculate and well stocked for the frequent visits I've made in recent years. One thing that seems to be missing from this store… shoppers. Hate to say it but it's a ghost town every time I'm here which is usually on weeknights. Maybe the crowds show up on the weekends. The store does show signs of doing a good business with it's fresh food offerings. The Bakery is always stocked to the ceiling and has a huge variety of goods. One of the first things to go in a lower volume store is always the selection in the bakery. The closing of the Pharmacy certainly wasn't a good sign though.
The darker colored section next to the Acme sign is where the Savon sign used to be. "FOOD" over this entrance is deceiving as this side is mostly non-food merchandise. The entrances and exits here are are a convoluted mess. It's especially confusing where to exit once you've checked out. I always find myself heading back to the entrance areas which is not how you exit. I much prefer the American Stores buildings from the 90's where the entrances and exits share large, distinctive vestibules on either side of the building. Interestingly, the Yardville store opened after Milltown but has an American Stores exterior. The two stores share the same decor package which we will take a look at now...
The decor package here is what I referred to as the "Acme Theme Park" package. I put that name to it back when I was developing the decor directory here on the blog. Turns out the company referred to the package as the "Grocery Palace". Whatever you call it… it couldn't have been cheap with all the props and the highly customized signage. Pictures from Milltown were used for the directory but the store has never had a full post on the blog.
The layout of this side of the store is awful. The cheese case completely blocks shoppers from making a straight shot into the store. You have to either make a sharp left to the Deli or a right to walk around the cheese case to head into Produce.
The Meal Center sign was rotating the night I took these pictures. I'm pretty sure I have never seen it spin in previous visits.
A Kosher Deli is located just beyond the regular Deli with plenty of obstacles in the way. The flow through this section of the store is challenging. It seems the theory of this layout is "if the customer crashes into it, they'll buy it!" It's the complete anthisies of the "Premium Fresh and Healthy format that came just a few years later. You can have a look below at the Limerick store which was more streamlined...
This shot was taken when the store was preparing to close so it's is pretty empty of merchandise. You can see how the self-serve cases all run parallel to the full-service departments rather than being angled every which way like they are in Milltown. Signage was also drastically minimalized for this decor package.
No clear shot back to the Bakery.
This back corner is sort of tucked out of the way. The Delis along this wall in the front half of the store create an alcove here in the back.
The bottled juice cases run along the left wall back in the alcove.
So now we'll jump back to the entrance, making a right at the shopper-blocking cheese case...
Along the front wall is the "Acme Reading Center" were reading is no longer done. This area has been changed to the deals department. I would think removing the signage would be an easy fix.
The former Starbucks is now Bucks County Coffee. Not sure why they don't just elimate it to improve flow in the front of the store. I've never seen anyone working the counter.
A look across the front-end just around the coffee stand. Produce is just to the left. We'll now head to the first few highly- themed grocery aisles...
This section of the store is pretty wild. Crazy props, big colorful signs and special flooring. With each aisle highly customized, significant store resets are virtually impossible here.
If you look closely, you can see a water sparkler sticking out of the bottom to the bowl!
All these themes yet no Wild Harvest aisle and now Shop Around the World department.
I do love how they designed this Bakery to feel old fashioned. The tin tiles along the back walls are particularly a nice touch. The Milltown Bakery is about as deluxe as any other Acme out there.
The Albertsons Quality seal can be seen all over this store.
So I may have been a little harsh with my comments at the begging of this tour but things improve dramatically in the grocery aisles. The rest of the store is nicely organized.
The packaged meats department is in its own alcove in the back.
Packaged Deli and Dariy are merged into one department just beyond the fresh meat counters. Dairy runs along the back as well as the last aisle of the store.
A look at some more of the extensively themed aisles…
It can get a little sign-overload in this store.
A big old barn full of milk! Not sure how many other stores got this treatment. Yardville did not get a barn. You can take a look at their milk signage by clicking here.
The former pharmacy covered over with shelving. They could have done this same treatment with the signage over the Reading Center… at the same time.
Video Department is now a hollow shell. Random merchandise now fills the area. TV monitors removed from above the department.
Fun graphics remain on the floor!
The Acme and the strip of stores next to it are part of the Ryders Crossing Shopping Center which includes a Target and Home Depot. The Acme and its neighboring stores are located in a different, more secluded section than the main shopping center. We'll have a better look at that down below.
The store here at the end is currently vacant.
New Jersey Turnpike directly behind the shopping center. An Acme sign faces out to the Turnpike but there's no obvious route from the Turnpike to this store.
Another Acme sign on the left corner. This one faces the southbound traffic on Ryders Lane.
The Acme seems to be in the back of the shopping center. It's completely out of view for people heading to Target and Home Depot. I wonder how much of an impact Target's recently expanded grocery selection has had on the Acme. The Target always seems to be busy.
1995This building was removed to make way for the Acme.
While the Milltown Acme may no longer be "the most modern and unique food and drug superstore" around, it still remains are very nice store. Hopefully the changes Albertsons has made with pricing in recent months will help draw more customers to this grocery palace.