Friday, January 24, 2014

Acme — Audubon, New Jersey

Location: 100 Black Horse Pike, Audubon, NJ

Time now for one of the most unique Acmes out there! This one-of-a-kind store owes it's usual characteristics to the original tenant here, Penn Fruit. That chain met its demise in the 70's after Acme launched a vicious price-war against its competitors. You can read all of the fascinating details of Penn Fruit's history in an article posted on You'll visit a time in history when Acme was the one crushing the competitors instead of the other way around. Acme acquired several Penn Fruit stores as the company went bankrupt. The Audubon store is the last of the Acmes operating in a former Penn Fruit location.

Update 1.26.14: PennFruitFan provided a link to this ad featuring the Audubon Penn Fruit supermarket before it opened. This image is shared from JSF0864's flickr collection which you can visit by clicking here.

Acme has expanded into all of the space on the right side of the Penn Fruit building. The flat-roofeed section on the left side may have been part of the Penn Fruit store. It's hard to tell at this point. We'll see in the satellite images that the footprint of this shopping center has not changed since 1956. Acme now takes up a majority of the complex.

Signs welcoming shoppers of the Pathmark in Camden which closed last September. The Pathmark was about 2 miles away on Ephraim Avenue.

Heading inside...

Chalkboard Market decor package here… without any chalkboards. They may have existed here at one point, possibly being removed from being faded and messed up over the years. Also missing are old black and white photos of local landmarks along the walls which are occasionally seen with this decor package. The last remodel would have happened in the late 90's when American Stores was rolling out this remodel to many locations. Alberstons would soon be ditching this look in favor of their Industrial Circus decor. It is remarkable how flawless this store looks having been remodeled so long ago. Other upgrades have happened in the meantime as we'll see when we tour the store.

A look across the front-end just around the corner from the Bakery. A preview of the arched ceiling which is still beautifully intact!

Looking towards the Produce Department at the front corner of the store. Deli is to the right and Floral to the left.

A pass-way to the grocery aisles between the Bakery and Deli, possibly home to a Starbucks at one point. The floor underneath the soda display looks to have been added after something else was removed.

The whole store was stocked beautifully.

Salad Bar closed on Saturdays. Not sure if it's open during the week.

All of the service departments reside in the building that was next to thePenn Fruit store. They even squeezed the Meat Department in rather than running it along the back of the grocery aisles.

Looking back at the Fishermen's Net as we head to the grocery aisles.

Aisle 1 is all deals. It's a little closed in as walls run floor to ceiling behind the shelving on both sides.

Low ceiling for the first few aisles. The aisle markers were adapted for the low clearance.

The arched ceiling begins at aisle 5 and extends over to aisle 12.

What's interesting about this section of the store is there are no department signs from here on out with the exception of the Pharmacy. I mentioned the old black and white photos missing from the store because they would have been a nice addition to this back wall.

The ceiling no longer has a full arch across the store. The original structure has been retrofitted with light and ceiling tiles creating a flat section over the very middle of the store. Still a far better decision than putting in a flat drop ceiling across this section. Makes for changing light bulbs a little tricky though.

I was impressed with how streamlined this store is. The place was sparkling clean from floor to ceiling!

New Dairy cases have been put in.

The Pharmacy is the only department to get a sign outside of the service department aisle. I did appreciate this store's enthusiasm
for Halloween!

The 90's Red/White/Blue decor light boxes still above the registers...

Aerial Views...

The lighter colored roof section on the left is home to several stores.

So here's the bad news… Walmart. It wasn't yet opened when this satellite image was taken so it may have been here for less than ten years no. Check out Acme's jam packed parking lot at the time. A big chunk of those shoppers are about to quit the Acme. I personally think it's an American tragedy what Walmart has done. Their business practices are deplorable. Their low-paid employees are a huge drain on government assistance programs. Estimates are that 80% of all Walmart employees collect food stamps. Low prices? Yeah right. They keep their prices low by paying horrible wages which us tax payers get stuck making up the difference.

Historic Images...








Fortunately the store busier than the parking seems to indicate. When I pulled in I was expecting to find a completely dead store, which wasn't the case at all. The store must still do relatively well to receive the upgrades and maintenance is has received in recent years.


  1. The road sign has two things: one, the "Audobon Commons" sign vaguely resembles the Red/White/Blue decor; second, the Acme block logo is off-model.

    1. Wow, you're right about the Acme logo. I didn't notice how off it was.

  2. Is the Walmart a Supercenter? Or is it in the process of being expanded? You mention people "about to quit" Acme.

    1. I'm not sure. I didn't drive over to the shopping center to see. I mentioned people about to quit Acme below the aerial shot that shows a big crowd in Acme's parking lot and the Walmart not yet open for business.

  3. That Walmart *isn't* a Supercenter (7am-11pm S-S)

    1. You've got to wonder how long until that Walmart expands. There is space to the left of the store that could be used. Incidentally, I don't think that Walmart is a death knell to traditional grocers if there are multiple established players. I live just west of DC. There are three Walmart Supercenters within an easy drive of my house. There are also multiple established grocers - Giant, Safeway, Shoppers, Harris Teeter, Asian grocers. The only casualty has been Food Lion and they weren't strong even prior to the Supercenters. I split my grocery dollars between Walmart and Safeway. Walmart just doesn't have the quality in meat and perishables that I look for. I understand the concern in rural areas where there might be only one other grocer pre-Supercenter. But I think a well run Acme or Shop Rite can compete with Walmart. It is just that the competition panics upon arrival of Walmart. The customers ultimately come back at some level because Walmart just can't be everything to everyone especially to those who are looking for higher quality and some level of service in the grocery area.

    2. Well, Walmart does have the potential to be the death knell for weakened grocers like Acme and A&P. In the first 5 years of SuperValu's reign, Acme sales dropped by $55 million. Their market share plummeted. Probably wouldn't have dropped much more if they just put signs in the windows that said "Please don't shop here". Walmart, and Target, have certainly picked up a nice chunk of Acme's business. Even Walmarts that are not currently supercenters have had their grocery offerings increased significantly. Now that Acme is being run by a company who is actually making an earnest effort to change its price perception, shoppers will hopefully come back. Word is that is exactly what is happening.

    3. Odds of Audubon Walmart becoming a supercenter are pretty low for the time being. They're putting their money into expanding much older stores into Supercenters. The Audubon Walmart is at most 10 years old, probably closer to 8, and there are Supercenters in Deptford and Turnersville, as well as a second regular Walmart in Woodbury (5 miles from the Deptford store), and Cherry Hill, a roughly 15 mile radius for all of them excluding Turnersville. That Acme is one of the ones that has managed to do very well in spite of changes in the area and a Shop Rite nearby.

  4. I'm certainly glad to hear that the new owners of Acme are investing in the chain and making it more competitive. One thing we don't need more of in this country is homogenization of grocers after they get bought out by nameless, faceless corporations. I'll give Walmart the pass on this because that has been their MO from the beginning and you can either shop there or not. However when the local chain get eaten up and converted into something no one has a connection to is it ny wonder the customers flee? Supervalu turned Shoppers Food Warehouse into some sort of pseudo mid-level grocer. They took their price competitiveness away so that now they are just another place in a crowded field. Ahold has turned Giant-MD, who had 50 percent market share, into a Stop and Shop clone with no local management. I could go on but I won't. I wish Acme all the best. If the new owners are successful I can see it being Acme vs Shop Rite with Walmart and Aldi as the super price impact options.

  5. I remember the Audubon store when it was Penn Fruit's highest volume NJ store. Acme was delighted to get this location and closed nearby stores in Gloucester and later Haddon Heights. The big store to the right was Channel Lumber. That store is totally part of Acme today. I was last in this store 18 months ago and it sure looks like it has had a repaint both inside and out. The PF&H aisle signs are new and the dark paint at the front and back is also new. Perhaps the LED lit frozen and dairy cases are new too. Customers from the closed Camden Pathmark really don't have anywhere else to shop conveniently. Behind the Acme is the Audubon Shopping Center which used to be anchored by JCPenney on the left and E J Korvette on the right, with FW Woolworth in the middle. The center killed downtown Camden when it opened in the mid-1950's.

    1. Really miss the Audubon Shopping Center.

  6. MANY THANKS for showcasing this classic Penn Fruit! In its later years the building also housed a location of PF's discount foray called "Dale's Family Center". The same long-arch design with the beams extending out and down into the ground was also seen in New Jersey at the Essex Green center in West Orange (long-demolished). Finally: a pre-grand-opening Penn Fruit ad from Flickr showing the Audubon store in its soaring glory -- a delight to behold! Again, THANKS!

    1. Glad you liked the post PennFruitFan! Thanks for leaving that link. I added the picture to the post. Spectacular looking store back in the day!

  7. The Lenola Rd. store in Maple Shade NJ still has some of the chalkboards up if you are looking to see them.

  8. Acme has exclusive rights to grocery in this center. The Walmart has some items (maybe four rows) but that is about it. When Walmart decided to come into this center, acme sued to block them. The result was that Walmart could not carry groceries or expand as a super center as long as acme is in business.

  9. This Penn Fruit had an odd roof shape even for a Penn Fruit. It looks to me more like a former A&P than a Penn Fruit, so I wonder if maybe it was planned to be an A&P but they backed out and Penn Fruit opened at the site instead. Considering the A&P across the street was a Centennial, I guess if the Penn Fruit indeed was planned to be an A&P, then A&P decided it was a mistake to abandon their original Audubon project and built an Audubon store within a decade of the Penn Fruit opening in 1955. The former A&Ps in Aston (was later a Drug Emporium and now is a Big Lots), Downingtown (has been a Cadillac dealership for a long time), and Cheltenham (became a tiny Super Fresh and now is an ALDI) in PA were all A&Ps that looked like this Penn Fruit but were later expanded/remodeled to the Centennial format. Also the former A&P in New Providence NJ had a Penn Fruit-like design but was remodeled to the Centennial format AND expanded/given a new facade sometime in the 70's. And A&P had two stores in Newark DE, one of which looked like a Penn Fruit and was remodeled into a Centennial but not expanded, now a Toyota dealership, and the other of which that was built as a Centennial with a flat roof and survives as a Super Fresh to this day, after being given a minor expansion seemingly in the 70's.

    On the subject of A&P, it's a mystery to me why their Centennial store in New Castle DE was either expanded/remodeled if not completely demolished and rebuilt sometime in the 70's. Could there have been a fire that destroyed the original store? The store appears as a Centennial with weathervane in an aerial view from 1970, but looks nothing like a Centennial anymore, though the last time it got a major update appears to have been long BEFORE it was converted to Super Fresh, and that was over 30 years ago! It wasn't too unusual for A&P to replace Centennial stores in the 60's and 70's, but I don't know of any other cases of A&Ps staying in the exact same spot but having their Centennial features completely erased through any methods.

    Also, I found an archived newspaper article from the 50's saying the supermarket anchor at Barclay Square Shopping Center in Upper Darby, PA was planned as a Penn Fruit, but this article was written before any construction started on the project. The current Save-A-Lot at the site (which was an IGA and Thriftway before) appears to almost certainly be a former Food Fair/Pantry Pride instead, and one from the 50's, from long before Food Fair happened to merge with Penn Fruit. I read Penn Fruit was considering a sale to Food Fair in 1957 but the deal fell through, so perhaps the ownership of this site was switched somehow due to that conflict? Or perhaps there briefly was a Penn Fruit but it burned down and Penn Fruit decided not to rebuild, but left the site to their arch rival Food Fair? Even more confusing is that an older man who grew up in Upper Darby once told me Penn Fruit was definitely at Barclay Square at one point but he didn't remember when, but someone else from Upper Darby vividly described a Pantry Pride being on the site. I know some Pantry Pride stores were converted to Penn Fruit in the 70's, so just maybe Penn Fruit was at this site twice with Food Fair and Pantry Pride (the two of which were the exact same company but with a mysterious name change around 1964) being there in between?

    1. A&P built stores with arches secured to the ground from one side to the other? I've never seen one like that.

  10. As of 10/27/2016, the store is being totally rearranged and it's very difficult to find anything. New black shelving is getting installed, but I'm not sure if this is a full remodel. Time will tell.