Friday, March 11, 2011

Former Acme, Philadelphia PA

The 80's Remodel Lives On, Part 2

Location: 501 Adams Avenue, Philadelphia PA

You would be in for quite a surprise if you were to shop at the "Farmer's Best Supermarket." Two surprises actually. The first being the selection of groceries inside. The store is stocked almost entirely with Asian products. It's former name, "Hong Kong Supermarket", gave prospective shoppers more of a clue as to what was inside.

The second surprise... it's still an Acme on the inside! The 80's Remodel was never removed and is still in really good shape. Now, I didn't stumble across this by accident. An email came in back in September tipping me off to the decor in this store. That was even before I had confirmation that Sharon Hill still had the 80's look, so at the time I thought this may be the last living location with the 80's decor. I visited this store on the same day I went to Sharon Hill. 80's overload! Brought back a lot of memories of those exciting days in Acme's history. Never before had the company launched such a massive and extensive remodeling program. Remodels during the 60's and 70's focused largely on sprucing up the look of stores while keeping fixture replacement to a minimum. The 80's remodel was a floor to ceiling makeover essentially reinventing every aspect of the Acme shopping experience. There was one holdover from the 70's however... the aisle markers. They were not switched out for a more attractive design. You can see the old aisle markers in this picture from the Mantua store. 

The entrance to Farmer's Best is Acme's old emergency exit on the right side of the storefront. The original Acme exit on the left side of the building and is still in use while the old Acme entrance is blocked off. So let's head inside...

The front corner of the store is now occupied by a small restaurant which is over to the right in the image above. The blue checkerboard area would have been the concourse between the grocery ailses and the checkouts. The interior entrance, which is shown, here lines up exactly where the Acme's grocery aisles would have started. You can see the transition from blue to tan tiles along this interior wall. Gold Bakery tiles are off to the right of the photo but didn't make it into the picutre. If you look all the way back to the rear wall you'll see "Quality Meats". Again... this is deceiving as the majority of this area is now the produce department. Acme's Dairy aisle would have been over to the right but has been walled in creating back room space.

Here we have entered Farmer's Best and turned to the left where we see Acme's old office and CSR stand area. The "Customer Service" lettering is from the Checkerboard Arch decor and was added when this store saw it's CSR stand eliminated in favor of a more traditional service desk. Back in the CSR stand days, there was no signage on the wall indicating where customer service was located.

It appears that the walls were repainted at some point. They seem to be in far too good of condition to have remained untouched since the 80's. There was most likely a blue stripe/window where "Customer Service" is now. Something similar to this. The original entrance would have been to the right of Customer Service. 

You can see how the store was flipped when Farmer's Best moved in. The Floral/Produce department is now frozen foods. There is no Floral department today. Acme's entrance would have been back along the where the cardboard boxes are stacked. 

It is interesting how the department names managed to survive on the walls. Generally when Acme closes a location all department names are removed. Decor items sometimes remain while other times everything except the paint is stripped from the walls. You can see at the old Woodstown location how everything was removed, while the old Newtown store had just the lettering removed.

It's really hard to believe how good the walls and graphics still look here. It's like the Acme never left. I don't have a date of when this Acme first opened but the building is a classic late 70's/early 80's building.  Acme's old lights remain in the ceiling throughout the store. These hood lights were standard in early 80's Acmes. Farmer's Best added the flourescent tube lighting in recent years. I found a review online that mentioned the new lighting as a great addition to the store which had been previously quite dark.

"Fresh Seafood" along with the ship steering wheels would indicate that this was a remodel that happened in the late 80's. Earlier remodels had less flourishes here and looked more like the Seafood department at the Sharon Hill store. There is a small "Deli" sign on the orange stripe and a larger Deli sign on the upper wall. Didn't get a picture of those.

Check out the arrows taped on the wall directing shoppers to the Seafood department which is now located next door. Farmer's Best has expanded into the neighboring store space which is several steps up. There is also an entrance to this expanded area in the "Floral" department. Farmer's Best retiled the new space with a similar checkerboard pattern to match the rest of the store. Not sure whey they didn't just do away with all this decor.  Certainly could not have cost much to strip the wall elements away and repaint the joint. 

The deli cases have been pushed back from their original location. The darker tiled area would have been the employee zone at the Acme. Grocery aisles have been extended further back as well. As great as the walls still look, the rest of the store is in some serious need of help. 

It was tough getting pictures of the back wall since the aisles extend all the way to the lowered ceiling section along the read wall. Security seemed to be keeping an eye on me as well. 

Heading back outside...

Acme's entrance is now painted over. 

Farmer's Best has expanded into this store which is probably a former drug store.

These images have been added recently. Formally the store had the letters H and K here which you'll see in the satellite images below. 


This is the only historic aerial view available. Appears to have been a manufacturing facility. 

This Acme is about 4 miles east of the Farmer's Best store. (Check out that packed parking lot!) The building to the right looks like it could have been a 50's Acme. It is missing many clues that would indicate it being a former Acme from what I can see in the aerial images. I passed by this store as I was leaving Philly but didn't stop. Farmer's Best was my last planned destination of a very long day and Roosevelt Boulevard is absolute murder. Traffic and a sea of stop lights makes going a mile or two last an eternity. I had my fill of Acmes for the day and needed to get back to Jersey! There's always next time.

Well... mission accomplished! The 80's remodel lives on in stores and here at Acme Style.


  1. Hello Acme Style! You are correct in stating that the store across from the Harbison and Roosevelt Blvd. looked to be a former Acme. It closed in the late 70's to the grand opening of the new Harbison Acme #1704
    The traffic in that area was ALWAYS very heavy, so the only time I went to that store was when I needed to purchase a new pair of AMERICAN MADE work shoes Knapp Shoes. (Long closed) The old store became a CVS.

    Someone stated several weeks ago that they thought it could not happen that Acme would vanish from the area as many seem to be thinking. Well, that person may very well be living in Disney's Fantasy Land. Take a closer look at what SuperValu has been up to. (ask ANY Acme employee)The House That Quality Built has a crumbling foundation. (SVU)

  2. Very interesting find. The 80's remodel was the best decor package of any supermarket period!

  3. Interesting store, not to mention the fact that the 80's remodel is alive and somewhat-well. I wonder if it was built with those four loading dock doors? If so, it must have been a very high-volume location at one point. I wonder why the soffet was angled in the corners instead of rounded, as was the case with many late 70's/early 80's stores.

    There was indeed an Acme across the street, but for some reason I was led to believe the original building was demolished and replaced after Acme moved. Anyone know more?


  5. After the Harbison Ave Acme moved across the street (into a former Food Fair/ Pantry Pride), CVS moved into about a third of the building with Staples later taking up the other two thirds. Staples later moved to the Northeast Tower Center in 1995; CVS expanded into the entire building and for years was the largest store in the company, at 26K square feet (there are now some former Longs stores in CA that are larger). It also has the prestige of being one of (if not the) busiest CVSs on the east coast; I've heard they fill around 1000 - 1500 prescriptions a DAY. From what I understand the Acme is also one of their highest volume stores, so it must be due to the densely populated area.

  6. There's another Acme exactly like this that became a Chinese supermarket. It's in South Philly on Oregon Avenue, next to the Toys R Us. I actually have a picture of it I took two years ago.

  7. The Acme at 501 Adams Ave near Rising Sun was a 1970's replacement for an original Acme at 781 Adams Ave, near Sears on the Boulevard. The original store opened in 1938 (July 28) as the first Acme in Philadelphia and was rebuilt in the late 1950's to look like the prototype of that era. It has since been demolished. The new store was built on the site of the Exide Battery factory.

    Up Roosevelt Blvd at Harbison & McGhee, a very successful Acme opened in 1961 (June 14th). When Pantry Pride closed next door in 1978, the Acme was absolutely mobbed. The company was able to acquire the larger Pantry Pride at auction and it reopened as an Acme in 1979. From the aerial photo it is clear that the building has been expanded from about 40,000 sf to about 60,000 sf and twenty years ago was the first Acme in Philadelphia to do $1 million per week.

  8. Actually, after Acme/American Stores acquired the Pantry Pride location, they demolished the old store (which was locted in front of the current store) and built the current store.

  9. This shopping center, Rising Sun Plaza, was built in 1979 as one of the last "mini malls" in the Philly area. MacDade Mall, Village Mall (Horsham PA), Village Mall (Burlington NJ), Woodhaven Mall (Bensalem PA), and Tri-Towne Plaza (Marlton NJ) were similar gems. All were built between 1969-1975 and were anchored by some combination of Acme/Super Saver, A&P/Super Fresh, Kmart, Woolco, and Thrift Drug/Eckerd, and in the parking lot, Burger King. Want to see a true mall from the 70's (with a few 80's touches) that is almost dead? Check out Granite Run Mall in Media/Middletown, Delaware County, PA. The Rising Sun Woolco did not last long, since Woolco went under in 1982. So this store was only open between the Food Fair and A&P closing periods. I think the Clementon NJ Woolco opened in 1978, second last, but it started as a Grant City.

    The Oregon Market in South Philly was actually an A Frame/peaked-roof Acme from 1964, remodeled and doubled in size in the early 70's, but never was a Super Saver. In between grocery stores, it was a "Value Warehouse" discount furniture store. Funny that Kmart and Pathmark always anchored the center next door from 1977.

  10. i'm an acme employee...and let me tell you i have nightmares almost everynight that supervalus goal is to eventually turn all locations they do not close into non-union discount stores. they want the unions out and it's apparent. it's such a shame. it's worse i have to dream about such a horrible thing, all employees where hoping kroeger would buy acme out. i seen some high volume stores that still have the same issues as the low volume stores i worked at! it's like a vicious cycle. all we can do is ride it out till whatever is meant to be will be. i remember years and years ago acme employees where going to actually "buy" the "acme" out themselves, but it would have meant a pay freeze, don't quote me on that information but i also think it meant a permanent one too...if that was indeed true. many employees told me that.

  11. Even though the building is in need to refurbishment its good to see that it looks well patronized. The stock weight also looks quite impressive. Goes to show alot of these locations obviously work need better management.

  12. Also, the empty store in Rising Sun Plaza that the supermarket expanded into was in fact a Rite Aid; it relocated across the street into the parking lot of the former Hechinger in 2006.

  13. Josh Austin beat me to it... it was a Rite Aid next door. The Woolco became a Clover, then a National Wholesale Liquidators, and now a Roses. The corner in the L-shaped shopping center had been a Channel Home Center, and I believe was also a Office Max or something like that. I believe the Rising Sun Plaza also had a Royal Auto, a Radio Shack, and Jerry's Produce located next to Woolco/Clover. Parking lot has a Wendy's that was a Roy Rogers.

    The old Acme building before the relocation of the Roosevelt Boulevard, while now a CVS, was correctly identified once again by Josh Austin (this guy takes awesome pictures, by the way) as a former Staples next to the CVS. Before that, the Staples had been a thrift shop (I bought some Scouting equipment there in my youth).

  14. I remember a Super Saver where CVs is now at Harbison and Blvd in the 70's.

  15. I just read the above comments with regards to the Harbison ave ACME. The store was not opened in 1979, it was 1980. The store was taken over from the Pantry Pride that was at that location and had closed down. It was 1704 store number. It is now 7704. Also, ACME did not demolish the store that was there, which would have been the old Pantry Pride. All ACME did was remodel the Pantry Pride. Across the street was the old ACME which closed down as the new one opened across the street. In the mid 80's the current store was expanded to its current size. The old ACME became a Staples and CVS. At some point the Staples moved out and the CVS took over the entire building. Harbison did at one point do a million dollars per week, but that was in the late 80s. The two top stores in the company at the time were Harbison and Aramingo Ave. which always traded positions as the number one. Unfortunately, the neighborhood surrounding the store has deteriorated over the years and the store is no longer the shinning jewel that it once was. In fact, it is currently very much on life support. BTW, I remember all of this vividly because I started working at the old ACME across the street three months before it closed down and worked at the Harbison one for 27 years.

  16. I remember the current CVS being Super Saver(ACME) in the late 70's.