Friday, May 23, 2014

Acme – Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania

Thanks to this RICLO ad, we're getting a look at the original Clifton Heights Acme! This store was one of the very first pitched-roof store prototypes. Acme began rolling out these models in 1957 to compete better with Penn Fruit's unique, arched-roof stores. Both the architectural style and signage of these stores would undergo several incarnations before a final prototype was chosen. The one shown in the RILCO ad was made with wooden arches. This allowed for the store to be free of support columns allowing for more flexibility with the store's layout. The final piched-roof stores would be made with steel arches and have support columns in the store. It would be interesting to know why the switch was made. Cost? Longevity? As far as I know, none of the wooden stores exist today.

Look Mom, no columns! Check out all those registers!!

Not much effort put into the design of the sign. No awnings across the front on this early model. There are flat-roofed wings on both sides of the store. Hard to tell in this photo.

Some other early models...

The photo above is from a Plexiglas ad from 1957 posted on the blog back in 2009. No mention of the location of the Acme in the ad. The store appears to be made of wood but it's difficult to tell for sure from this photo. Slightly better sign than the Clifton Heights store.

Unknown Acme location. The store was featured in the "Check Acme Fast" advertisement. Architecturally similar to the store in the Plexiglas ad above but with another version of the Acme sign.

This postcard appears to be showing the Acme in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania but according to a comment in the store's post, this is not the Shickshinny Acme. Not sure if the store seen here was ever a real location. It may just be a rendering of a planned store.

After several rounds of prototypes, this is the model that won out!

Photo courtesy of Rob Ascough

South Plainfield still looking great in the late 90's! Today this location is an Aldi. For additional coverage of this classic, please click here

Now for a look at the current
Acme of Clifton Heights...

Location: 5300 Baltimore Pike, Clifton Heights, PA 

The original pitched-roof model, along with the entire shopping center, was torn down at some point. This 90's "fortress" model was built at the opposite end of the property from where the Acme once stood. A Home Depot was also built on the property.

Snow and ice falling off of the awning here.

I don't know if that is Plexiglas but that's what I want to call it. Pathmark used a similar type of awning in their 90's stores. I believe this is the only Acme to have this feature.

The welcome sign looks to be left over from the 90's Red/White/Blue decor package. We're standing in the right side entrance here but will jump over to the left before going in...

I saw this sign at a couple of Acmes on this particular road trip. The stores smelled like chicken too!

The deluxe Albertsons Marketplace remodel here. Love the tube lights in Produce.

Quick look across the front-end. Check out how high the ceiling is!

A world of difference from the poor remodels that just had letters stuck on the walls.

Apparently no one could come up with a couple of descriptive words t put under the Seafood and Meat sign.

90's tiles still in place.

Almost all new frozen food cases.

Not sure if I've seen this before… dairy cases on both sides of the last aisle. This store could really use the new PF&H aisle markers. The ones here are looking a little busted.

Center aisle over to the Bakery.

This is a huge store!

The massive sign up at the road. The shopping center is located down a huge drop from Baltimore Pike.

Aerial Views...

The Clifton Heights Acme has it's share of competition.

Historic Aerials...


The pitched-roof Acme is on the left side of this photo.






Does anyone know if the unique, possibly one-of-a-kind pitched-roof store lasted until this replacement store was built?


  1. I believe that Newtown Square is wood-frame, however, it is hard to tell since it has a new façade and a drop ceiling. I don't think there are any poles in the middle of the original section, though.
    Back to Clifton Heights- Originally, where this shopping center is, there was a huge market called "the Bazaar of All Nations" Additionally, I think the sign out by the road was original to the Pitched roof store.

  2. The PriceRite (owned by ShopRite) shown in your zoomed out map view was an A&P for a long time, then a Super Fresh for a relatively short time. Here are some other "before and after" examples of retail buildings in the vicinity of the Acme in Clifton Heights:

    1. The Burlington Coat Factory is a former Penn Fruit store, and was a very early Burlington store, opened in 1977 (the chain started 1972 in Burlington NJ, but waited until the 80's to start expanding all over the USA). Penn Fruit being here is notable because a number of former Penn Fruit stores were taken over by Acme but not this one.

    2. The Red Lobster nearby is on the site of a former Food Fair/Pantry Pride that was demolished. Acme also opened at a number of former Food Fair/Pantry Pride sites.

    3. The Modell's Sporting Goods was once a General Cinema Corporation theater. It opened in 1966 and I'm not sure when it closed, but seems like it closed in the 80's, long before the rest of the GCC chain was sold to AMC in 2002.

    4. The Planet Fitness is a former Gaudio's nursery store that later was a Frank's Nursery & Crafts. Gaudio's was owned by Penn Fruit, but the two stores coexisted at this site for a relatively short time. Penn Fruit opened their Clifton Heights store in 1955, but Gaudio's opened in Clifton Heights in 1970, right after Penn Fruit bought the chain (but Penn Fruit would have a major bankruptcy in 1975, closing a number of stores, then a second bankruptcy in 1979 that it would not survive, closing all stores by 1980).

    5. The United Furniture store between Acme and The Home Depot is a former "Costless" store owned by Lechters Housewares, which was a chain of mostly mall stores that went out of business in 2000 after a bankruptcy. One of their very few stores outside of a mall but with the Lechters name was in the West Goshen Shopping Center in West Chester, PA which has been anchored by Acme for over 50 years. Back to the Costless in Clifton Heights, after closing it was a "Value Warehouse" furniture store. The only other Value Warehouse that I know of was in the former Acme building on Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia. That Acme opened in 1964 with the pitched roof but was expanded in the 70's and given a new facade to disguise the pitched roof, but had a new and larger fisheye sign (complete with the tiles that originated in the 60's) added in the deal. After Value Warehouse closed this store became an Asian supermarket called Oregon Market, returning to its supermarket roots.

    Also notable about United Furniture (the current tenant of the former Costless) is that their only other store ever was at a former Rite Aid site in Sharon Hill, in the same shopping center as the former Acme from 1959 which now is an Amelia's Grocery Outlet. Not sure exactly when or why United Furniture closed at that site.

    Also the Costless building was a Halloween Adventure store for at least one October. Sort of ironically, another year (I believe more recently but don't remember the timeline) a slightly smaller Halloween Adventure was in an empty building less than a quarter mile east in Springfield. I forget what this building was originally, but it now is a Wine & Spirits store that in 2005 replaced both the original one in Springfield (across from a former A&P at Baltimore Pike and Saxer) and one in Clifton Heights behind where the original Acme stood. The former Wine & Spirits in Clifton Heights now is a HobbyTown USA store, which in a strange twist relocated from a smaller store directly across from the current Wine & Spirits (which shares its building and entranceway with a Block Jewelers store). Also the former Springfield Wine & Spirits was later a comic book store, but that closed and the store is now offices of some sort. The former A&P across the street was later a Super Fresh, but then was split into Michaels and Tweeter around 2000. The Tweeter electronics store closed around 2010 and now is a Party City store.

  3. This is off topic... Is PriceRite supposed to be an Aldi-like version of ShopRite? Does ShopRite use PriceRite in lower end areas or is it a franchisee system outside the ShopRite cooperative?

    1. Price-Rite is probably more like Save-A-Lot but they do have quite a bit more 'well known' brands whereas you probably never heard of most of the brands at Aldi. They use "Price-Rite" for most of the private label merchandise with some "Shop Rite" products (some meat and produce) as well.

    2. PriceRite is owned by Wakefern, which is the cooperative group that also offers the ShopRite name to others under a franchising agreement.
      Wakefern also operates some of the ShopRites itself, under the SRS (Shop Rite Stores) subsidiary - the biggest chunk of these being in NY where they took over a former franchisee (Big V) a number of years ago when the franchisee was bankrupt.
      Up until recently all the PriceRite stores were owned and operated by Wakefern (excepting the couple in CA mentioned elsewhere, which, I beleive no longer exist).

      They were also (as mentioned) generally in areas outside the ShopRite territories, but some overlap started to develop as ShopRite has expanded (for instance, ShopRite owners taking over some Shaws in CT when Shaws pulled out of the state put those new Shoprites in close proximity to existing PriceRites, as did the SRS expansion in the Albany area, which built a couple of their new ShopRite stores only a few miles in different directions from an existing PriceRite in Schenectady).

      Additionally, just recently one of the ShopRite franchisees in NJ opened a Price Rite, and has plans to open a second one. I believe in this case that they are either smaller locations (not large enough for a regular ShopRite and no room to creat the larger store) and/or lower income areas where the cheaper options would be a benefit to the area.

    3. What was left of Motts, an old ShopRite franchise in Connecticut (based out of Hartford) are PriceRites.

  4. I want to say sometime in the mid or late 70s the store was expanded and the wooden frame was hidden and drop ceilings were installed. Something like they did with the 3rd and Oregon store where they added to the existing A frame and then made it look like a unified building by adding the drop ceilings and front façade. It was like 2 small stores under one roof. You could tell where the addition was added because the ceiling was lower in the newer section than the older one. The old store closed in October of 1995. As indicated above, the store in Newtown square is very similar. It has been expanded 3 times and the pitched A-frame is still buried somewhere in there.

  5. Price Rite is owned by Wakefern and not part of a co-op; they primarily open them outside of Shop-Rite's operating area (in PA they have them in Harrisburg, Reading, York, Scranton, and the Lehigh Valley). The Secane one pictured above is the only Philly-area one; the only Delaware County Shop-Rite is some distance away in Eddystone, outside of Chester.

    1. Actually that isn't the only Delaware County ShopRite. It was for almost ten years, but The Fresh Grocer Drexeline store in Drexel Hill/Upper Darby converted to ShopRite less than a year ago.

      Also two historic Delaware County ShopRite stores have disappeared. The first was in Folsom and opened in 1967, but broke off to become one of the first Pathmark stores in 1968.

      The second one was at the former Food Fair/Pantry Pride site in Broomall, but ShopRite closed there in 1993. This store then became a relocated Acme store to replace a very old, small Acme at the other end of Broomall. Surprisingly Acme didn't move to the former Pantry Pride when they had their first chance in 1979, as they did at a lot of other former Pantry Pride stores. The old Acme now is a CVS, but another CVS is in front of the current Acme.

      Also the Pathmark in Broomall that opened in 1970 and closed in 2010 is still abandoned, but Giant plans to move to that site sometime in the next few years. Sort of ironically the current Giant in Broomall is at a former Two Guys/Jefferson Ward/Bradlees site which is attached to a former A&P (and A&P now owns Pathmark). This A&P was later a Drug Emporium but after that chain went out of business is a fitness center.

  6. PriceRite is separate from the ShopRite stores, mainly by market: they mainly populate area such as other areas of PA and New England where ShopRite isn't, though Wakefern still operates the stores. They even operate a couple of stores in California, via licensing. It should be noted the PriceRite name was previously used for Wakefern's attempt to compete with Costco and such by converting older ShopRites into mini-warehouse clubs; this crashed and burned quickly, mainly because the small size of these stores was not suited for warehouse-style shopping.

  7. You didn't get any pictures of the Penn Fruit up the street? Tsk tsk.

  8. Great article; Thanks very much for again mentioning Penn Fruit's influence on supermarket architecture; some Food Fair and Grand Union stores of the era also resembled PFs.

    But that influence went beyond the Northeast US. Andrew Turnbull's blog ( digging/kohls.html) notes: "...after observing a Penn Fruit store in Philadelphia, Mr. Kohl [Max Kohl, founder of the Midwest supermarket chain Kohl’s] was inspired to adopt an arch-roofed design with prominently-visible structural members. The first Kohl's store implementing these elements was built in 1950. Dozens of arch-roofed buildings were built in the company's trade area throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s." See Andrew's blog and also the Kohl's pool on Flickr ( for photos -- the resemblance of some of the arched Kohl's stores to those of PF is amazing.

    Again, Thanks!

    1. You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed it Penn Fruit Fan!

  9. Wow...what a really cool post. That wooden frame is beautiful. The design kinda resembles the one of those mid-century modern lounge chairs from Scandinavia. It really is a shame, when comparing it to the blandness of the Acme today. That foreboding "fortress" fascade looks like it was designed in about 5 minutes and with about as much flair as the current Acme logo. Ah well...such is the state of American tastes today. I guess we can chalk it up to the Walmart effect.

    Design aside, PriceRite is waaay more awesome than Aldi or Save a Lot! And they have a lot of high-quality lines, like Cento, and La Cena, dirt-cheap, as well as amazing produce prices and selection. I can't wait for the first North Jersey PriceRite to open in July!

    1. Thanks Dave! Would you say PriceRite is similar to A&P's Food Basic's? I've read that they don't have service departments and offer a limited selection of national brands. Do they supply bags at the registers or is it bring-your-own?

    2. My knowledge of Food Basics is limited to North Bergen and Belleville, but the two concepts definitely are similar-- in that they both don't have service departments, both offer a reduced SKU assortment, and they both try very hard to tailor their product mix to be extremely relevant to local cultural tastes.
      But while Food Basics feels sort-of like it could be a basic North Jersey Grand Union or even ShopRite from the early 80's (many of which tended not to have service departments other than meat and deli), when you enter PriceRite, you know you are in a discount market.
      For one, most items in PriceRite are
      displayed in cut-cases on the shelves and there are usually quite large amounts of product on display; also, the shelves, themselves, are configured in a more wholesale format and this leads to PriceRite carrying way fewer SKU's than even FB. The displays at PriceRite tend to be towering, in some cases floor-to-ceiling, which I find kinda cool. I think Wakefern uses its Can-Can merchandising mentality here to give the impression of "We bought the lot! Get it while it lasts".
      Lots of items are PriceRite-branded, which is the exact same as the ShopRite brand but with a lower price. They also carry other Wakefern house brands such as Farm Flavor and Value-Pak. But as I mentioned, the really cool thing about PriceRite is that they have a full line of high-quality Cento products; an even bigger selection than most ShopRites, at really good prices--and they often have imported stuff like Pelligrino, San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil from Spain, which they have purchased at a deep discount. So there is this bargain-hunt aspect to it also, which is fun.
      In that sense, like everything that Wakefern seems to do, PriceRite is less polished and less corporate-feeling than Food Basics. It feels kinda local and scrappy (in a good way.) Every time I have gone, there are at least 4-5 ShopRite-branded items stuck in somewhere, almost like the warehouse just ran out of PriceRite stuff and so they figured--whatever...everyone knows it's the same shit as ShopRite--and just shipped it anyway... Haha.
      Oh--and to answer your question, the bags are 10¢, but pretty decent quality.

  10. Where's the new NJ PriceRite opening?

  11. It's opening in the former Super A&P in Garfield, NJ...right near Route 21. It's actually quite big for a PriceRite--and they are taking the entire store.

    1. That's a good location for them, being right across the river from Passaic and Clifton; it's also different enough from the Lodi Shop-Rite that it won't hurt their business.

    2. There are so many markets in this area--the new Aldi is right up the road in Passaic, and they do not even try to cater to the huge local Hispanic, Polish, Turkish and Lebanese populations as all the others do. (I don't think the Europeans do multi-cultural very well, as a general concept). But there also is a brand new Wallington ShopRite being built at the former A&P Sav-A-Center/Food Basics--even closer than the Lodi store (and also an Inserra store). It will be interesting to see how things go down with Pathmark, Aldi, PriceRite, Walmart, as well as the many successful locally owned markets like Corrado's Family Affair, and Super Exito in Botany Village all within a few miles. One can only hope it hits Walmart the hardest.

  12. I also read that they took up residence in a former Shaw's in downtown Providence, RI; it's very large and upscale (including a fresh roasted-nut stand!).