Saturday, February 1, 2014

Former Paramus Grand Union!





Location: 859 Route 17, Paramus, NJ 

I received an email a few weeks back letting me know of this Stop&Shop/virtually untouched former Grand Union in Paramus and how it would be a good store to cover for the blog. It was just the kick-in-the-butt to finally do it! I photographed this store back in 2010 but upon looking at the results, I realized I would someday need to return for a reshoot. The interior pictures turned out particularly bad but that was about 3 iPhones ago. I returned just a few weeks ago with the latest, greatest iPhone which is proving to do the best job yet at taking interior pictures.

I've actually been familiar with this store since 1999 when I had a job in the Paramus area. You'd often find me here at lunch hour hitting up the Grand Union's salad bar, which was always among the best of any supermarket chain. Actually any excuse I had to stop in here was a good one. I fell madly in love with Grand Union during their remodeling phase in the mid to late 80's. They went from being an outdated, dumpy chain to be the absolute best around practically over night. While Acme's 80's remodeling was more of a catch-up strategy, Grand Union shot itself far into the future. Aside from the beautiful new interiors, the quality and selection in the service departments was as good as it gets. I've mentioned before how great their in-store bakeries were. One of the few chains back then where the baked goods tasted as good as they looked!

Grand Union certainly had its share of troubles over the years. 2000 proved to be the year the chain reached the end of the line. The company's finances were in such dire shape, there was no other option than to liquidate. It was devastating news. Soon after that Stop&Shop stepped in to acquire a large number of their stores. Paramus obviously among them. At that point I'd already had enough of Stop&Shop after Edwards got nixed in favor of the traffic light themed banner. My hope was that they would leave some of Grand Unions best qualities intact. They did not. This store closed down for a few days in 2001 while the conversion was made. The place was never the same again.

Before we move onto the photo portion of this post, I just want to comment a bit on the interesting similarities Grand Union and Acme had during the 80's and 90's. Both chains were lagging behind their competitors in the 80s. When the mid-80's arrived, both companies launched the most ambitious remodel plans in their respective histories. By the end of the 80's, both Acme and Grand Union saw their sales reach record levels. Then came the 90's and a knock back down to reality. Competitors had started building larger stores. Acme and Grand Union both had a fleet of nicely remodeled stores but the stores were rapidly becoming undersized. Acme in particular was still operating a large number of stores in the 20,000-30,000 square foot range. GU was in a little better shape with stores in the 30,000 to 40,000 range. As the 90's wore on it was becoming more evident that neither chain was expanding existing stores or building replacement stores fast enough to starve off sinking market share. American Stores threw in the towel in 1999 and was swallowed up by Albertsons. Grand Union gave it one last shot, launching yet another ambitious remodel plan in the late 90's. One that was equally impressive as it's 80's remodel. Problem was… they weren't in a position to invest so heavily in their stores. While business at remodeled locations increased significantly, it was too little, too late. I seem to remember that spending in general was out of control at Grand Union, particularly with the remodels. By October 2000, Grand Union was done. Never again could I stroll in and buy just one chocolate chip cookie from the bakery that just so happened to be one of the best money could buy. Some Grand Unions remained opened as they were spun off but they were never the same. All that's left today are a handful of locations that have been largely untouched since 2001, like this one in Paramus.


The photo above is from a few weeks ago. The one below is from August 2010. You can see how "STOP" was replaced and is now bigger than the rest of the logo.



This just in >>>


Classic picture courtesy of GUman
A couple of pictures of the store as it looked back in the early 90's! Kindly sent in by GUman for our enjoyment.




Even though this facade is over 20 years old, it's still looking pretty cool. It has aged significantly just between my two visits when you compare the above two pictures with the very first shot.




We're headed in to see the 80's remodel still very much intact...


The hood lights over the checkouts were so futuristic looking back in the 80's. The frames were originally painted red which you can see in the photo below…


This a picture from gustores4ever's flick collection of the former Grand Union it Hamilton, New York.

Some Grand Unions were blessed with the awesome "Clean, Fresh, Good" stained glass treatment above the checkouts...
Photo courtesy of gustores4ever's flick collection 


Stop&Shop simply covered over the existing department signs with new designs. With such little investment in this store, one would imagine it is very low volume. That was not the impression I got when I visited the store. The place was very busy. Pretty surprising too since there is a relatively new Fairway just south of here on Route 17.


The store is quite small by today's standards. Stop&Shop clearly doesn't want to invest a penny into this place but I would say there is potential here if they did. There's a good amount of wasted space in the produce department particularly with the single tiered produce cases.


New cases all around would do this place a world of good.

Here's a look at the original produce sign...







Something Special is Stop&Shop's usual home to their service meat department. Now it's just used for additional produce cases.


Home of the former salad bar. Just some mismatched tiles where it once used to stand.


This shot is from 2010. The bottom of the sign has started to slide down. It's only gotten worse as you saw in the photos above.


Floral is an odd spot at the back of the store.

Update 2.3.14: As pointed out in the comment section by BillyGr, the "Pick A Bouquet" sign is leftover from Grand Union.


I can't remember if this store had the light structure that ran the whole width of the store with the aisle markers hanging from it. I think it may have. Drawing a blank on that one. If you know what I'm taking about, you know it was one of the coolest things ever. Can't find any pictures of it online.

This just in >>>


The aisle marker signs! Thanks to Jack Thomas for leaving a link to this photo in the comment section. Click on the photo to jump over to Jack's flickr collection to enlarge the view. It is a little hard to see in the photo since the store is so dark. Basically, a white plastic light box was hung from the ceiling and ran the whole width of the store. Plastic sheets with aisle information and photographs of food were hung on both sides of the light box. Quite a sight to see when the whole thing was lit up!


The deli and cheese department is in dead center of the store. I imagine this was shockingly ground breaking back in the 80's but now it's just weird. The deli has nice exposure out in front, right across from the checkouts. The other sections, however, get lost in the grocery aisles.












A look at the original Butcher Block sign from gustores4ever's flick collection 


The once uber-contemporary lighting isn't doing the the trick anymore. All of the cases around this section seem dark and lonely. Such a far cry from how fresh offerings are displayed in featured in today's supermarkets.




The deli out in front with the checkouts behind where I'm standing.








Dairy is located in its own aisle rather than running along one of the perimeter walls.


Nearly all of the cases throughout the store have remained since the 80's remodel.


Seafood is tucked away in the back corner.


I imagine this department was added in during the 80's remodel. Very odd location.


The bread alcove is located just before the seafood department.




The bakery in the front corner. It pales in comparison to Grand Union's bakery.






Stop&Shop did spend some money on the signage and decor for the pharmacy department.


One last look across the front-end.


The sign out by the entrance with the old Stop&Shop logo. Is this one of the very last stores in New Jersey to not have the logo and fruit bowl? They've been putting the new signage on stores whether they remodel the interior or not.






The parking lot is empty over this way since all the other stores in the shopping center are closed on Sundays.







A quick tour of the Kmart next door. Former home to Grand Union's Grandway store.









Arched ceiling still intact! These pictures were taken back in 2010. It was the first time I saw this retro orange and brown decor package. Thought it was very cool. Kmart has since abandoned this look in favor of bland and generic red signage. I've seen them put the new signage in stores just to close them a few months later.










This store was always busy when I was working in the area back in the early 2000's, I was never in here when I didn't have to wait in line at one of the many registers that were open. It must still do well, by Kmart standards anyway. No Target or Walmart in the immediate area.



Historic Aerial Images...


2008


2002


1995


1987


1979


1974


1970


1966


1954


30 comments:

  1. I think the second "Stop" is smaller because the first one was damaged, according to JoshAustin's picture; maybe Superstorm Sandy did it?

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    1. The "Stop" had a huge tear through it and was like that for several months. I am not sure how exactly it got damaged but it was repaired late summer 2013. Why they didn't replace the whole sign with the updated fruit bowl logo is surprising as every Stop & Shop I know of got new signage in front. The florescent lights behind the sign weren't even replaced as only a few tubes light a small section of the sign. And the lights over sign don't seem to all work either.

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  2. Sears Holdings is willing to close any Sears or Kmart stores if another retailer expresses interest in opening at the property for a lot of money. Maybe Ahold has considered this for the Stop & Shop here but has decided to wait for Kmart to close on their own? A Stop & Shop at the Kmart site would easily be a Super Stop & Shop.

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  3. WOW! Don't get mad but it seems to me you covered this store much more extensively than some Acmes. Absolutely incredible photos. And as you mentioned in passing, GU ended up a former shell of itself and now that is no more as well since the remaining units were sold by C+S Wholesale to Tops Friendly Markets and what they didn't sell and/or close were rebannered Tops. R.I.P. GU-one of the greats.

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    1. Well I had a lot to get out about good ol' Grand Union! Haven't really had a chance to do it on the blog yet. And who knows how much longer this place will be around. Had to give the Grade A treatment!

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  4. This website has a photo of a long closed Grand Union in North Greenbush, NY that looked exactly like this store would have, amongst other classic Grand Union photos.

    http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Tops-sees-growth-in-North-Country-4643709.php#photo-4872033

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  5. My picture of the former Saugerties, NY location, now Big Lots. You can see the store width aisle marker sign in the background. This was one of the only remaining stores in the area I knew of that had this right to the end. http://www.flickr.com/photos/39251796@N05/8311943015/in/photolist-dEuT5k-dEw4Qr-dEBsFJ-dEuT1r-dEAg21

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    1. Thanks Jack!! Wasn't sure if I'd ever see one of those again. I'm adding it to the post.

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  6. Just a few (or so :) comments:

    While you noted the floral being in an odd spot, did you also note that it still has an original GU sign atop the case?

    Also you noted that this store had been remodeled at some point. Is it possible that in addition to remodelling, they also expanded the space used for the store, maybe into what had been back room or other store space? That might explain a couple of the odd placements of departments.
    Things I note on this - in the 1979 overhead shot, I notice that the red stripe stops before the end of the building - perhaps there was something else in that end of it?
    Also in the current shots, that corner has a different color roof, where in the older shots it looks to be part of the same roof as the rest of the GU.

    We had several of these "glass front" stores around here, but they were built new around the laste 80's/early 90's (as evidenced by the link Ross posted above which dates the N. Greenbush (ok, actually E. Greenbush) store to 1988.

    By the way - that link also shows (the 3rd small photo #4872029) the one later model (Mega Save) that they did open in the Albany area.

    A couple other links:
    - www.bigboxreuse.com/latham.html - This was a similar style store on Route 2 bewtween Latham & Watervliet, now converted to a church.
    - Amesfanclub.com/forum/index.php?topic=1265 - This is a Grand Union topic on that board (I know you've posted there). I took a look through the first 15 pages and found a couple interesting photos (add the .###'s below to the link to go to the particular page):
    .100 - Reply 100 is Manalapan, NJ (similar style) and Reply 115 last photo is Western Ave Albany NY (was also similar, but converetd by Price Chopper so slightly different now)

    .125 - Replies 138-140 - Photos of 2nd MegaSave in Poughkeepsie that never opened

    .175 - Reply 176 - Shows that Stop & Shop has done this elsewhere with odd lettering (in this case lit letters, but the placement and size mismatch is similar)

    .250 and .275 - Replies 251 & 281 both show other shots of the overherad aisle signs, only portions but a little closer perhaps.

    P.S. - I suggest checking all the pages for lots of GU and former GU photos :) If someone wants to start at Page 16 - Page 33 there may be other interesting shots (I didn't get to those).

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Your right about the "Pick a Bouquet" sign! I did an update to mention that. It does look like the departments along the last aisle reside in former back room space but I'm not entirely sure.
      Thanks for all the links to check out! After the overwhelming response to this post, I will be covering more former Grand Unions in the future.

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  7. There is quite a few other old UN-remodeled stop & shops in the area including butler and ringwood! they do have the fruit basket logo but are once again virtually untouched grand unions!

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    1. The Waldwick S&S (which is one of their smallest stores in the area) has also been pretty much unchanged since the GU days. Back in the late 90's the interior was remodeled with new lighting, paint, etc. but S&S hasn't changed it much. The exterior got the new logo but nothing else has changed in the front since GU remodeled it back in the early 90's.

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    2. Thanks for the tips! I'll make it a point to get to these stores soon.

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    3. Also, when you can, take a trip to the Foodtown on Beverwyck Rd in Parsippany/Lake Hiawatha. I know it's a former Grand Union, and it has a Grand Union-type feel on the inside. I have a feeling some or maybe even most of the decor is left from Grand Union, but I don't know Grand Union well enough to say how much. Anyway, it's worth a visit if you're in the area.

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    4. Photos of that store will be coming to the blog very soon. Nearly all of the decor is leftover from Grand Union!

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  8. Acmestyle, I really like how you prefaced this bonus store tying both the Acme & GU companies as in a similar quandry at this stage, both trying to stem the tide of larger format, price conscious stores, but GU did try to kick it up a notch while Sir James Goldsmith owned the company... back then, they were trying to do what essentially what Wegmans is now doing and competing very well. Wegmans of course is using much larger square footage and they really push their own brand as the quality brand, with an impeccable array of gourmet perishable departments. Back in the 80's Grand Union had developed some of the best deli & take out prepared foods in the industry, as well as baked goods, etc... and it is a shame to see the remaining former GU locations looking so drab now with no hint of the gourmet offerings they were known for at that time. Another location that evokes the same feeling is the former Lyons-Basking Ridge Grand Union which is now S&S; they do have the fruit bowl signage out front but the store is virtually untouched since they took it over, including the Red&White bakery self serve display cases and just about all the refrigerated cases all over the store!

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    1. I was going to stick in a comment about Grand Union being the Wegmans of its times. I used to shop at Grand Union while I worked for Acme. Felt like such a trader bur you couldn't get the same quality of prepared foods… or produce… at Acme or any other stores for that matter.

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  9. Here in Florida we had a supermarket called Kash n' Karry (which is now Sweetbay, and as of this week will become Winn-Dixie), and in what I believe was their 90's interior (not quite sure though) they had aisle markers that actually lit up from lights that were inside of them, illuminating the number and the labels, but this GU setup looks much cooler though (even though the markers themselves didn't light up). I can't find a picture of the Kash n' Karry setup online though.

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  10. Acme and Grand Union supposedly were going to merge in 1946, but that fell through. Also, Sears and Montgomery Ward were supposed to merge in 1932, but that also never happened. It's a shame because both Grand Union and Montgomery Ward went out of business in 2001 with little or no warning.

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  11. Some more unique aspects of this store when it was first remodeled in the early 80's; no doubt Grand Union spared no expense to make this store unique... because of its high visibility being on the busy highway of Rt. 17 near the wealthy communities of Saddle River, HoHoKus and Woodcliff Lake, this store had beautiful terraza tile floors and in the front entrance where you show the picture of the NFL soda & chip display (under the atrium windows) there were 2 fine wood crafted childrens "sit on"amusement animals... one was a little pony and the other was like a dolphin or something of that nature... these were in front of the fine oak wooden benches that GU usually featured for customers to sit and wait. I'm not sure if any other Grand Union with that store decor & facade had that but in the early 1980's, it was a nice family touch to the gourmet store it was! Unfortunately, I can't find a photo to illustrate... but maybe someone remembers!

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  12. GU's store inventory was probably more adaptable than Acme's in the 80s. GU had built very large stores for their time in the 50s and 60s--some even 45K sf! while Acme had built relatively small stores over the same period of time. GU had more experience with non-foods, an area where Acme was a laggard.

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  13. We just missed crossing paths, I lived in New Jersey from 97-00 and this was one of the stores I would service as a vendor.

    I always liked the uniqueness of this store, compared to the relatively boring stores in Waldwick, Wyckoff, and even the new (at the time) store in Franklin Lakes.

    Funny thing - I remember many times walking out of the back exit of the GU in Wyckoff to the back door of the A&P which sat back-to-back with the GU. The A&P died when the one in Midland Park opened, and was eventually shuttered. S&S still owned the property at that time (not sure about now). I did do some reading that indicated that ShopRite wanted the space, but there was opposition from S&S (no surprise) as well as some in the community. I haven't checked lately to see if it was ever built.

    I also worked part-time at the GU in Elmwood Park. Interesting location as it was also the site of the former GU HQ. The store was a dump by the time I started working there, and the HQ was in terrible shape. I believe they built a Pathmark in a big parking lot that was right next to the GU, and the Pleasant Family Shopping indicates that Walgreens built a freestanding store on the site of the old HQ/GU. The Walgreens was previously in-line with the rest of the shopping center.

    http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com/2008/08/twilight-of-grand-union.html

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  14. I'm surprised there's a museum piece like this left, usually Stop & Shop is on top of remodeling. There's a handful of former GU Stop & Shops on LI (Sayville, Deer Park, West Islip, North Bellmore), and IIRC, they've all been remodeled or rebuilt in the past few years - some better than others.

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  15. Grand Union had a number of stores in the DC area until they bailed in the late 1980s. There were two stores that retained the "Clean Fresh and Good" stained glass into their post-Grand Union ownership. The first was the Safeway on Belle View Boulevard in Alexandria and the other was the Magruders at Backlick and Braddock in Annandale. The Belle View Boulevard store was the highest volume Grand Union in the DC area. Unfortunately both are gone. Safeway completely rebuilt their store with the Lifestyle format and Magruders closed. Giant demolished the old Grand Union/Magruders and built one of their standard early 2000s stores. I never experienced Grand Union but I remember my parents telling me that they primarily shopped at Grand Union from 1968-1972. The store would have been somewhere in or near Beltsville, MD. In 1972 my parents moved to Gaithersburg, MD and the only grocery near them was a Giant. By the time I was old enough to know any better Grand Union had already switched to Basics and was basically on their way out.

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  16. Thanks for this blast from the past. I remember that great overhead lighting at the checkout and the rest of the design features from our GU store in Point Pleasant, NJ. When they rebuilt that store into the old Jamesway space (now Stop and Shop) it lost a lot of the character it had.

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  17. There is now a large tear in the "Shop" part of the sign. It was caused by the heavy snow and ice over the past month.

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  18. There actually is a Target in the area. It's at Bergen Town Center.

    I think the Fairway at the Fashion Center isn't doing as well now that they went into the old Pathmark in Woodland Park and siphoned away some of its business.

    As far as this store goes, S&S has four stores in the general area (Teaneck, Waldwick, Ridgewood, Hackensack) that they're concerned with as well.

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  19. Just found out that the Kmart (which, if I read correctly, is 91,000(!) sq ft) is closing at the end of the year. I don't know how big the Stop & Shop is (it obviously wasn't big enough to be a Super Stop & Shop if the signage is any indicator) but if the Kmart is that big, I would figure they'd try to move from one end of the strip to the other.

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  20. Two things...
    1. I was at this store about 1 1/2 months ago. The seafood department was closed, with only water in it's place. I also photographed the Kmart in it's current abandoned state.
    2. There's a small S&S/Former GU in Waldwick. I was there the other day and photographed it.
    If you like, I'll email the photos to you.

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