Sunday, April 4, 2010

Checkerboard Arches

One problem coming out of the 80's remodel was that stores began to appear dark and dreary. Something missing from the 80's remodels were improvements in the lighting. Added to that issues was tan color used on the walls. Many Acmes began to feel dull compared to other grocery stores of the time. Acme addressed these issues in the early 90's by rolling out the "Checkerboard Arches" decor. Walls were painted bright white, checkerboard patterns with rich, bold colors were put up, and new light boxes were hung from the ceilings. Stores that received the deluxe version of the package had lights installed along the tops of cases illuminating the walls. This is one of my favorite decor packages. It did a huge favor to smaller outdated stores by bringing much needed life and excitement to the look of the store.

Department names were moved up to ceiling preventing them from being blocked by merchandise placed on top of cases... something Acme was notorious for especially in their smaller stores back in the 80's and 90's. You could find park benches, bicycles, TV's, VCR's, beach chairs, microwaves, coolers, garbage cans, ferns, barbecues, air conditioners.... there was hardly an item in existence that Acme wouldn't try to sell.

The Checkerboard Arches went into some stores that were passed over during the 80's Remodel like here at the Washington store.

A sampling of some merchandise that could be found on the cases.

The Middlesex store is the only one I've seen with a cursive font used for the Deli. The cursive font was usually reserved for the In-Store Bakery.

The new light boxes over Produce and the checkouts. Larger stores also had them installed over the frozen food cases.

The blue light boxes over the checkouts. You can see some remnants of the 70's decor along the back wall... the orange and brown panels lined the Meat Department until multi-tiered meat cases were installed which covered the panels.

Many stores were done just in blue and green. The red and blue combination was more often seen along the back of the store for the Deli and Meat Departments.

Hanging lights were put into the Bakery and Deli departments. Here you can see the cursive font used in the Bakeries.

Faux awnings were also added to some of the service departments. It's tough to see the one in this photo there along the windows... might have been the plant and floral section here.

The death of the CSR stand could not have come soon enough. Checkerboard Arch stores saw the return of the Customer Service "department" often coupled with an express register to the side. The store safes were moved back off of the sales floor to more appropriate locations that were not within reach of the customers. Chances were much great of finding assistance here thant at the infrequently manned CSR stands.


  1. Central Jersey stores with this decor as of the mid 90s were manasquan, shrewsbury and fair haven.

  2. Hey Anonymous, do you know if the aisles in Fair Haven ever ran from front to back? They currently run from side to side... which may be due to the store having an entrance in the front and the back. But I also see alot of evidence that suggests they weren't always set up this way.

  3. I was in that store only a few times around 1994. At that time, there was an entrance at the front and the back, and the aisles were side to side.

    Has the store been remodeled since the checkerboard arch decor?

  4. It has indeed... and looks pretty amazing these days. It has a scaled down version of the 2000's Albertons decor. Where was the Produce deparment back in '94? It's now across from the meat and deli departments creating a mini "grand aisle". Looks as though all fixtures and cases have been replaced in the last remodel. Has a pretty serious in-store bakery for such a small location. The store will be featured in an upcoming post.

  5. Question:

    Did any of these locations use the red oval on their exterior or interiors? Or were these the first locations to use the block letters logo?

    I know the first time I saw this look was in 1992. Wildwood and I believe Cape May were the first to have been remodeled to it. Both no longer have this look - Cape May, a pitched-roof store, had its facade totally redone into the "Neighborhood Store" concept. Wildwood, a 50s design, was torn down and rebuilt - the outside is a neo-retro design, the inside is the Jewel/Marketplace interior, the smallest store I've seen with that. Both locations, amazingly, have the Script logo out front now!

  6. I have been thinking I need to update this post to explain the exterior signage situation for the Checkerboard Arch decor...

    The very first stores to receive the Checkerboard Arch decor still had the red oval logo on the exterior. I don't think the block letter logo had been designed yet. A year or two later Acme went back to these stores and began putting up the new logo. They also updated the facades by creating a pyramid-like awning over the entrance. You can see this in my pictures of the former store in Succasunna, NJ. I added the logo to the store front so you can see how it used to look. As the Checkerboard Arch decor spread further out from the Philly market, stores received the updated logo and awning along with the new interior design.

    Cape May"s "Neighborhood Store" interior is a top-notch custom design not seen in any other Acme . The store will be featured here on Acme Style in the near future. All New Jersey shore stores will be making appearances this summer. It's unfortunate that Acme did not create a custom design for the Wildwood interior to better match the exterior. There is a smaller store with that decor... Fair Haven, NJ. It's less than 20,000 square feet. Maybe even 15,000 square feet. The decor has been miniaturized to the point that it kinda falls into the "custom interior" category.

    Haddonfield NJ and St. Michaels MD also have the retro script logos.

  7. Much of the time I spent working in the Morris Plains store, it had the checkerboard arch decor and the red oval logo remained on the building until the remodel in the early '00s. Other stores in the northern NJ area that had the checkerboard arch decor (Union, Middlesex, Succasunna and Washington) had the new block letter logo. I'm wondering why Morris Plains never got any kind of exterior upgrade until the last remodel.

    The Beach Haven store also has the Jewel/Marketplace decor and that's a small store- it likely started out close in design to the one that stood in Wildwood until a few years ago. It's not as deluxe as the Fair Haven store but still a nice older location.

  8. This is the last Acme interior I really am familiar with ... only a couple of the stores in the Wyoming Valley got this remodel before 45 Acmes were sold off to Penn Traffic in 1995... (the Penn Plaza, Wilkes-Barre ... Pittston and the Midway Shopping Center are the three I can think of off the top of my head) ... the others had the colonial decor or the 80s remodel ...