Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chalkboard Market

Welcome to the Chalkboard Market decor! This name will make more sense as you look through the pictures (most of which have been kindly provided to Acme Style by Rob Ascough).

My decor knowledge gets a little fuzzy around this era. Hoping someone can help fill in the blanks. I am not entirely sure if this was American Stores' last decor package for Acme or... if it was the first look brought in by Albertsons. These extensive remodels occurred in the late 90's around the same time Albertsons bought American Stores. New stores were also built with this decor in place from the start.

This decor package included two big changes for Acme...

1. A complete reinvention of interior lighting. Several different types were put up around the store to create a warmer atmosphere. Departments along the perimeter had track lights which could be adjusted to focus light directly onto merchandise. The grocery department had low hanging rows of fluorescent lights. The overall effect created a much warmer environment than in Acme's previous interior designs.

2. The creation of the market area or "grand aisle". All food service departments were moved to this area with Produce cases lining the other side of the grand aisle. This allowed for all sorts of high profit items to be displayed throughout this area.

This is a shot from the Rockaway store which had it's 80's interior virtually gutted during this renovation as were many other 80's remodels. The produce aisle was to the far right with a low reaching drop ceiling. You can see this in a picture from the Berlin store. This low ceiling section typically covered Floral, Produce and the Deli areas, and appeared again in the far corner of the store over the Bakery department. These sections were all removed to help open up the store. The Bakery and Deli were relocated along the right wall where Produce used to be. Most stores had a Starbucks added into the front corner where Floral was located. The Seafood department was expanded into the old Deli location with the Meat department remaining along the back wall. Health and Beauty Aids moved from a regular aisle to the corner formerly occupied by the Bakery. Customer Service was moved next to Health and Beauty from it's original location by the entrance. All of this allowed for the entrance area to feel very open and welcoming. The 80's Acme entrance commonly lead one into the Floral dungeon with virtually no natural light. The Produce departments were closed in by cases on either side of the aisle and were quite dark as well.

Rockaway did have the big hanging lights in the green section which you will see in other pictures in this post. They were replaced at some point with recessed flourescent tubes. Not sure why. Rockaway received a rather watered down version of the decor compared to other stores in the area.

The Shrewsbury store has the most chalkboards I have seen in a store. It was here that I decided on what I would call this decor... since I never found out how it was referred to in the company. Some stores received way more chalkboards than others. They were a nice touch which helped Acme to feel me like a local market than a big corporate chain.

The Haddonfield store is extremely small but has been remodeled very nicely with this decor package. You can see a few old black and white photos there on wall which later became the cornerstone of the "Neighborhood Store" decor (still to come). The photos were of old buildings and historical locations in the surrounding town.

As you can see here, Acme started getting serious with decor elements. Maybe overly so. I am not much of a fan of the fake flower arrangements put up on the cases around the store but these are some nice touches here.

The RETURN of Lancaster Brand Meats! Well they never really left but the signage sure did. The 70's "Lancaster Brand Meats" department gave way to the "Quality Meats" department of the 80's remodel. Took nearly 15 years for the Lancaster name to be once again displayed proudly.

Here you can see the new placement of the Customer Service and Floral departments. The beige ceiling area is above the grocery aisles. These remodeled stores also saw a reduction in cash registers down to as few as 5 checkouts from more like 12 during the 80's.

The decorative grids that were hung from the ceiling differed significantly from store to store. I'm not certain I've seen the same kind in two different stores! Regardless... I do think the grids created a very cool effect.


  1. Did this decor come before or after the princeton junction decor?

  2. It came before. The decor that was used in Princeton Junction will be the next post. The Chalkboard Market look was retired soon after it began but it did manage to make its way into alot of stores.

  3. I always liked this look- the combination of the ceiling grids, chalkboards and combination of light and dark woods gave stores a very upscale look. I remember hearing that the budget for the Rockaway remodel was cut because of Shoprite opening a store down the block In Wharton- typical Acme, running in the corner and hiding from the competition instead of stepping up their game to face it. Still, the store was in deperate need of an upgrade at the time and the remodel did the trick. Note that some stores featuring the Chalkboard Market decor have custom-made ceiling grids and not cheap drop ceiling grids minus the drop ceiling panels.

  4. I live in Florida and it does have a very albertsons feel to it. I visited an acme on a business trip to cherry hill nj and it felt allot like an albertsons. I got to visit an acme when I visited Nj and it was a very nice store with no one in there. I grew up in central pa with acme as a child which have all closed now.

  5. You know, I don't think I ever ventured into an Acme with this look. But I have been into stores with the previous set of decor and the next set of decor.

  6. I must say however, this store looks great!

  7. Hi,the store in Middletown DE has a similar lookbut we were told when they opened it that
    it was the Sante Fe package and it was Albertsons.I have seen it across the country.

  8. I have seen this decor package in several stores. I have seen a few stores move on from it too (Ridley, PA; Paoli, Pa; Fairfax, DE are some examples of stores that moved on to premium fresh and healthy)
    One store which has this decor package which I would like to know when they were re- modeled is Newtown Square, PA. They are an expanded store which can be seen from inside the store. From the side of the store, you can actually see the old pitched roof. They have a liquor store in there instead of a pharmacy. Some time, they were re-modeled to receive the chalk board decor, but they have the aisle signs which can be seen in the Collegeville post in stead of the maroon tan and white triangular ones.

  9. I don't know the history of the Newtown Square store but do have plans to feature it in an upcoming post.

  10. the new remodels seem to make the ceiling seem dark and endless.

  11. the hanging lights are replaced with fluorescent tubes because the hanging ones are less efficient and take about ten minutes to turn on, although, the hanging lights do look better

  12. Recognizing I am a few years late to the party, I think I can shed some light on whether the Chalkboard Market was the last ASC decor package or a short-lived ABS package. In 2000, Albertsons opened two stores in San Diego with the Theme Park package. In 2001, they opened one with Chalkboard Market. Until this time, West Coast ABS stores (Lucky) opened with either the teal and orange package or the Jewel interior (a precursor to the Albertsons Marketplace that debuted in 1997). That leads me to believe Chalkboard Market was a short-lived Albertsons design.

    Better late than never, right? Right?

    1. "whether the Chalkboard Market was the last ASC decor package or a short-lived ABS package"... I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. The Chalkboard Market was American Store's last décor package. It debuted in 1997 at the Jenkintown store. The next décor packages to be used came from Alberstons after they acquired American Stores in 1999.