Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Former Acme — Toms River, NJ

Photos courtesy of dougbalt

Location: 1 Route 37, Toms River, NJ 

And here we are with yet another "return" to a store that has been previously covered on the blog. This time around, we're getting a look at things from ground level. The original post contained aerial views only as I was attempting to wrap up coverage of the Jersey Shore stores. At time, I wasn't even sure that this exact building was the former Acme of Toms River. Turns out it was. It is now divided into a Mandee, Carter's and a third space that is currently not leased. The Acme ended just before the clock tower which has been built over a driveway which runs along side the building…

The former Acme on the left. I would assume that the doors towards the rear were used mainly for produce deliveries. This section was part of a measly 15 foot addition that was added in the late 60's. Bill Haines shared that information in the comments section of the original post. Looking at the aerial images, the addition is quite evident. It also included a second floor for compressors. I have no idea of what the layout was here but I would guess this addition provided for a produce alcove here in the front corner. According to the historic aerials, the building on the right arrived sometime between 1963 and 1972.

A closer look at the doors along the side before we swing around back which is chock full of Acme goodness.

Delivery doors with NO docks! Check out the compressor room door up on the second floor…

Completely sealed up but the lifting beam remains intact after all of these years.

These awnings are up so high they probably didn't do much to shield the delivery areas from the rain.

Aerial Views…

A view of the whole shopping center as it is today. Notice the little building in the lower left-hand corner. Doug got a shot of it's sign which looks very similar to an old Acme sign…

Back to the Acme...

The stores seen here in this aerial shot have been replaced except for the party store who's space is currently empty. You can easily spot the former compressor room in this view.

Today Kohls and Foodtown are to the right of the former Acme.

Foodtown is currently taking a hit from a brand new ShopRite across the street.

To this day, you can still see a faint line the runs along the roof where the addition joins the rest of the building.

Historic Aerials… 

Acme opened in December 1954 and as of 1956, it remained the only building on the property. Judging from the shadow in the upper-right hand corner of the store, there appears to have been an elevated sign next to the building. 

More stores added to the left side of the Acme. No addition yet to the right side. 

Massive buildings added to the right side with an alley between the Acme building and the new section.  

As far as I know, the Acme was long gone by this point. HUGE crowd at the Foodtown.

And now for the comment left by renowned Acme expert, Bill Haines, under the original post:

The Toms River Shopping Center store replaced a metal front Acme on Main Street in downtown Toms River. The store was expanded in the late '60's with about a 15' addition on the right side, which can be seen in the photos. The signage was changed at that point from the signature to the fisheye logo. The massive building to the right and in the rear was W. T. Grant/Grant City. Back in 1961, when the Barnegat store closed, being the last Asco Service Store in Ocean County, the groceries were transferred to Toms River. ShopRite was across Rt 37. It closed about ten years ago, and ironically, a new Saker ShopRite is being built on that site today, even though the other ShopRite's in Toms River are Perlmutter stores. Not sure how they work things out on that score!

Want to have a look at the original Acme on Main Street?

Click here and look over on the left edge of the photo. Doug and I have been trying to pinpoint exactly where the original Acme was located on Main Street. This is where I'm placing my bets...

This is approximately 22 Main Street. The Acme, along with the building to the left of it, have since been torn down. A 7/11 now sits in there spot. A Chase Bank is now located where the Mobil gas station originally stood. You can see the Mobil in the old Acme photo if you look very closely. And if you're not careful, you can get lost in that old photo for hours!

UPDATE: Yes! That is exactly where the Acme was located. Doug was able to track down yet another old photo which confirms the location. In the photo, you'll see the 3-story Ocean House which was somehow located on this property as well. It was literally on top of the Acme.  By 1956, the Ocean House was relocated to another part of town. Below is a link to the second classic photo of this Acme. The link will take you to a full photo collection (a direct link is not available). The Acme is in the 9th row down, 4th photo over. The thumbnail won't look like it's the right one but it is. Click on it and the scroll back to the top of the page were it can be viewed at a larger size. Here's the link…


Thanks to Doug for his on-the-ground coverage and extensive research of the former Toms River Acmes!


  1. Thank you, Acme Style, for posting my pictures and also for providing so much thought provoking feedback about the history of Acme in Toms River! You got me thinking about where the exact location of the Main Street Acme must have been. Nothing evokes more excitement for me than finding vintage photos of Acmes and discovering secrets about their history.

    Here is another historic picture of the Acme on Main Street from a different vantage point.


    It shows a building right next to the Acme already have been demolished (which it turns out, was the entry addition for the Ocean House). If you look closely, you can see the ACME vertical sign behind the street pole. It was slated for demolition. The caption states that this was in 1952.

    This is the link that the Acme Style blogger mentioned in the update that confirms the exact location of the original Acme.
    This gives us yet another valuable piece of information. Now that we know that the original Acme was right in front of the Ocean House, it can be estimated when the Acme must have been built. Just look for the latest picture of the Ocean House that did not have the Acme in front of it.

    I would be very interested in anything Acme Style, Bill Haines, or any other long time resident of Toms River would have to say about these two Acme locations.

  2. Was the Foodtown once a Caldor? The entrance area looks similar.

    1. Good question. No, it has been a Foodtown for at least 30 years. Caldor used to be in the same complex, but it was in the location where Kohl’s is currently located. Before Caldor was there, I’ve heard that it was a Two Guys and before that a W.T. Grants. However, I’m not sure whether either of those two stores might have been on the other side of the complex. Reynold’s used to be located on the other side, as well, in the 80’s.

    2. It does look like Caldor (I thought that also) - maybe they just did that to give a uniform look to the stores if Caldor was next door.

      Since the other part was Two Guys before, didn't they also do groceries at some point - maybe the FoodTown part was their groceey area when they were there?

  3. The picture of Main Street, Toms River brought back a flood of memories. In 1950, when I was 7 years old, we would go shopping in downtown Toms River every Friday evening, because that was the one evening that all the stores were open. I'm not sure when the Acme opened, but I'm guessing in the early 1940's, particularly because the words "Self Service" apear on each side of the Acme logo. I had forgotten that the store was literally carved out of the Ocean House with simply a new front on Main Street! WOW! When the Acme opened in the 1940's, there was a service A&P around the corner on Water Street which promptly closed! It remained an empty store for decades. After the Acme moved to the shopping center, I don't believe that anything ever occupied the Acme space. The property was torn down soon thereafter.

    1. Bill - Can you tell us more about how the service A&P was set up. Did you walk into the store, go up to the counter, and fill out a grocery order? Why was the Acme, self service model more competitive? When you and your family went shopping on Main Street in Downtown Toms River, did you walk from your house, or did you drive there?

  4. Doug- I was never inside the Toms River service A&P, but my parents told me about it later. In Barnegat, where I grew up, we had an Asco service store. This store opened in 1943 in a closed service A&P on E Bay Ave. It lasted until 1961, so I clearly remember it. Groceries were stacked on floor to ceiling shelves along the right hand wall. In front of the wall of groceries was a long counter. Dairy was in a case with sliding doors in the rear. Next came the service Meat Department in the rear and along the left wall. This was followed by Produce in the front along the left wall. The trim on the front windows was painted chrome yellow with the American Stores Company logo attached to each plate glass window and the standard black sign with gold letters across the front. A screened door provided ventilation. Eight electric chandeliers provided the lighting. Hours were Monday-Saturday, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm and 2:00pm - 6:00pm. For groceries you went to the counter and told the clerk what you wanted, and they got it and placed it on the counter. Then they took an Acme paper bag, turned it over, and wrote the price of each item on the bag, and added it up. (No adding machine!) The total was punched into a big old brass National Cash Register and hand cranked in. Prices in a service store were higher by about 10%, compared to self-service stores. As a child I also remember Asco service stores in Beachwood, Manahawkin, and Ship Bottom. They were all gone by the late 1950's. My parents drove everywhere, but in the 1950's gasoline was 19 cents a gallon, so you got 5 gallons for a dollar!

  5. Those old pictures are really interesting! Being fairly familiar with Toms River myself, I hoped I would be able to figure out where it was myself, before reading the detail below the picture. I used Google Maps Street View, and here's the view I would bet is identical to the first photo.


    The tall building right past the Mobilgas station is behind trees in the current photo, right past where the cars are parked. The building with the slanted roof and the part sticking out from it is visible in both. But here's the major tipoff -- the building right next to (toward the camera) that in the old photo is labeled "Harris [something -- not clear enough to read]". The same building still has a sign (although different) in the current photo reading "Harris"!