Monday, August 16, 2010

Jersey Shore Acme, Fair Haven, NJ

Classic postcard courtesy of Patrick Richardson

Guess this strip mall was a big deal in Fair Haven back in the 50's. Featured in it's very own postcard! Look closely and you can see the original Acme Markets there in white with blue logo painted across the front. The Acme is still open for business but at double the size you see here. Unusual seeing a "Main Street" model as part of a strip mall. Thanks to Patrick for sending in this image!

Modern day images courtesy of Rob Ascough

The Acme today. With a most unfortunate facade treatment. The store was expanded into the section with the yellow awnings in the old postcard. Judging from the old satellite photos, it appears that the expansion happened not too long after the original store opened.

Google street view with a broader shot of the shopping center as it is today. Would have been nice if Acme fashioned a facade more appropriate for this charming small town. The interior of the store is quite nice and is among Acme's smallest stores still open for business. Albertsons did this small store serious justice with it's early 2000's interior remodel. Can't say the same for the exterior.

Unlike most Acme's of this size, the aisles here run parallel to the front of the store with checkouts lining the right side. There is another entrance at the back of the store. Was the store always laid out this way? Not sure myself but I wonder if the aisles ever ran front to back, matching more closely with how Acmes were laid out back in those days. The Meat and Deli Departments remain along the back of the store. Traditionally the checkouts would then line the front of the store. At this location, Frozen Foods now line the front with the front windows mostly blacked out.

A view from the back. The current layout of the interior makes this the most logical entrance. The "Grand Aisle" runs along the back of the store just through the doors under the Acme sign. The two story section appears to have been added on during the expansion back in the late 50's/early 60's.

Inside we go...

This is a pretty spectacular smaller Acme. Scaled down Albertson's Marketplace decor. The decor is essentially miniaturized as we will see shortly.

The impressive Grand Aisle... very large produce department for such a small location. The addition of this huge department bought the grocery aisle count down to 7. There were probably more like 9 aisles back in the day.

Albertson's Markteplace wall treatment converted to a most attractive hanging plaque.

The "back" of the store, lined with grocery shelves and some frozen cases. Meat and Deli are along the far wall. Notice the how the lights run front to back... another indication that the aisles may have run the same way.

The Dairy alcove. Looking towards the front of the store here. The cases to the left here form an island... you could turn to your left and walk out into the rest of the store.

Frozen Food cases along the front of the store.

A substantial In-store Bakery department. It looks as though the Albertsons remodel focused on increasing fresh offerings and reducing grocery and general merchandise offerings.

Very rough floor plan here to give you an idea of the layout. Created from memory so I don't have many labels as to where items are located. The floor plan graphic looks a little sad but you get the idea.

This Acme is a must-see destination for serious Acme fans.

Aerial images of the shopping center as it is today...

Historical aerial images as the shopping center over the decades...

No Acme.

The original Acme now open. You can see how the two-story section to the rear doesn't exist at this point.

By 1963, the major expansion appears to be complete.

By 1979, new loading docks and backroom space have been added.

Probably around the time of the Albertson's remodel. I can't find any information online about the store's Grand Reopening.

Close to water, but still a good drive to the the beach.

Fair Haven isn't quite a beach town and the Acme probably doesn't see a huge increase in sales during the summer. A lack of competition in this area is a big reason for the Acme remaining successful all these years despite it's small size. There is a Foodtown over in Red Bank. Stop and Shop also had a store there. I believe it was a relatively new store that closed a few years ago. A Super Foodtown moved in but they only lasted a short time in the location. It now sits abandoned.


  1. That layout looks pretty similar to what I remember to be the layout during the checkered decor.

  2. Is the small street sign unusual or is this fairly common for Acme stores?

  3. The street signs were standard issue for Acmes back in the late 50's through the 70's. Signs were placed at each entrance of the parking lot.

    Here are some other examples...

    Haddon Heights:




  4. "Main Street"? Early strip malls were basically streetcar strips with a parking lot, so store designs evolved from those premises. Where there was pedestrian, streetcar, or bus traffic, there often was a shallow front parking lot, with another in back--early urban locations for most chains often had this configuration unless there was space for a parking lot on the side. Anchor stores like supers, drug stores, and variety stores would have entrances on both sides. This became less common as the 50s wore on and more suburbs developed beyond the reach of traditional transit lines and at lower densities.

  5. Yep..."Main Street". That's a nickname commonly used to refer to the model of store you see in the postcard. Literally Main Street? No. Point was... this model of store is not commonly seen as part of a strip mall like in the Fair Haven image.

  6. I believe the small street signs were not introduced until about 1964. Into the early 70's, some 50's stores were given them.

  7. It was a real treat coming across this store. It's relatively tiny and hard to believe that it was even smaller when it first opened! It's also one of the chain's nicest older, smaller stores. I find it hard to believe that a lot of now-closed Acme stores from the 50's and 60's couldn't be modified this way (grand aisle with high-profit departments and fewer aisles with the most popular grocery items) and be very successful in neighborhoods where people don't have the time to spend two hours in a gigantic supercenter. After all, Kings seems to make that format work very well, and it usually enables them to justify their higher prices.

    Personally, I would prefer an exterior with more character, although the exterior of this store looks absolutely beautiful if you compare it to the exterior of other older stores like Middlesex and even Sea Isle City. It's understated but maybe that's what the town wanted since "Main Street" in Fair Haven isn't very flashy. Besides, the mediocre exterior doesn't matter once you get inside the store and see how Acme has given it lots of attention throughout the years.

  8. I grew up in Fair Haven in the 1960s and 1970's. It does not sound like the layout has changed. The last time I was in there was probably around 1988. The shopping center looks about the same. It was a decent store and very convenient. Sometimes less is more; a smaller store has its merits. Ever shopped at a Super Walmart? It can be exhausting.

  9. Lately I’ve been on a tour of historic Acme locations, of sorts. There have been many references to the Fair Haven location, so I couldn’t help but driving the 40 minutes to get there!

    It was an experience driving up to it. The town of Fair Haven is actually quite upscale, so this location might be one of the most upscale Acmes, if not the most upscale one around. It’s a picturesque town, with quaint, old houses. Then you can tell you are approaching the downtown, “Main Street” area, and VOILA! There’s the Acme!!! Wait a relief from all the lackluster highway strip malls!

    The other reviewers are correct, that the fa├žade could have more style to it. They should make it look like the Cape May Acme, for instance. The inside, however, is beautiful.

    The other reviewers are also correct that the upscale clientele at this location have very demanding work schedules, so they need to have easy access for groceries. They don’t have time to drive out to the highway and get lost in a supercenter, just to save a few dollars. For them time is money. Most of these shoppers probably don’t even realize how Acme is often a vestige of times past. To them it’s just convenient neighborhood grocery shopping.

    The clientele here also aren’t the type with large families. They tend to be devoted to their careers, so they don’t need to buy in bulk. The accessible size of this location suits to them almost perfectly. Fair Haven does have some specialty markets, but there are times when you just want basic eggs, milk, and bread, and not foie gras, camembert, and caviar.

    It should also be mentioned that access to competition is limited. Cheers to Acme for getting in early. You really would have to drive through Red Bank to get to all the grocery shopping in Shrewsbury. The Foodtown in Red Bank is great, but it’s comparable to the Acme in Fair Haven anyway. Albeit a beautiful town, Red Bank can be a bottleneck with all the roads coming together. Fair Haven sits on a peninsula, with two rivers and the ocean around it. Combine that with a demanding work schedule, and you do not feel like going anywhere for your groceries other than Acme, if you’re from Fair Haven!

    1. I'm going to have to start a new feature on the blog… "Where in the world is dougbalt today?"

    2. There have even been some Acmes across New Jersey that I have visited but didn't tell you about! Could you recommend any other historic Acme locations that I should definitely visit? Is Cape May worth the trip?

    3. I would have to say yes although I have never been to the that store myself. It was covered for the blog by someone else. I would say the Clayton NJ store is a must see! Most preserved pitched-roof store in existence today.

  10. Clayton Acme it is! I’m dying to see that unspoiled A-Frame store. Please let me know if you might need any additional pictures from that location. It might take me a few weeks to find the chance to get there.

  11. So what's going on in terms of the category markers (in dairy and frozen)? They appear to be identical in this store to those in the Media store's frozen aisle (, but that store has the Industrial Circus / Broadway design, while this has the Albertsons Marketplace / Santa Fe design. Considering Albertsons Marketplace / Santa Fe came after Industrial Circus / Broadway, was it that the same aisle markers were used in both because new ones were not made, or was it that Media has been updated with newer Albertsons Marketplace / Santa Fe markers? Or is it something else? (In other words, which decor package did these aisle markers come with, and why is it seen in two?)

    1. Good observation! The black and gold category markers were designed specifically for the Alberstons Marketplace remodels. They wound up being rolled out to other stores regardless of decor package. You can even see some along with the Red/White/Blue package in Willingboro...

  12. The abandoned Stop & Shop / Foodtown is now Ocean State Job Lot, which I believe was their first location in New Jersey when it opened.