Photos courtesy of Rob Ascough
Location: 125 Bound Brook Road, Middlesex NJ
Kicking off the 4th of July weekend with this red, white and blue themed Acme in Middlesex, New Jersey. Great look on the exterior of this aging store. Leaps and bounds better than the green treatment so many Acmes got back in the 90's. You can see examples of that treatment in Newton NJ and Stevensville MD. Rob visited the store back in March 2010 and reported that the exterior, while looking pretty good from a distance, could use a fresh paint job at this point. The store overall, however, is in pretty good shape considering it's age and lack of interior remodel for nearly 20 years now. I've been wanting to get to this store prior to doing a post but unfortunately have never made it there.
Middlesex opened back in November 1955 making it one of Acme's oldest stores still in operation today. We'll see in the collection of historical aerial views how this store has evolved from it's early days.
One of the first clues I always look for at a suspected former Acme are the protruding brick columns along the sides of the building. You can see one to the very right of this photo and more in the photos below. While front of the building seems to indicate that this store was a 70's era, 33M styled building, the side walls clearly show evidence that the building is from a much earlier era. I was pretty confused by it all when I first saw Rob's pictures. As mentioned above, the store was in fact built in the 50's and was later retrofitted to the 33M format. The store, however, isn't quite 33,000 square feet. I would guess it's in the 25,000 square feet range. We'll see in the historical aerial images that the building started out as rather odd building compared to the standard 50's Acmes.
Receiving docks on the right side of the building. Classic Acme trailer parked at the back of this classic Acme!
The logo seen on the trailer was short lived in Acme's history. Never quite became official within the company and never made it's way to the main signage on stores. The logo here may have originally been the fish-eye logo. It appears that the change was made to make "ACME" larger within the "fish" shape by dropping the "eye" in the left corner. Around 1985, the fish shape was converted to an oval which did become the official new logo for the chain. Hey, check out that chimney! Also interesting is the lack of windows around the entire store. Could the breakroom be in the basement here?
Emergency exit down by the Bakery. These doors became common with the pitched-roof model and were then standard in the 33M models. Ready for a look inside?
Checkerboard Arch decor! This decor remains in only a handful of stores today and is one of my personal all-time favorites. The look was rolled out in the early 90's immediately following the 80's remodel. Some stores received this decor just a few short years after having the extensive 80's remodel done. You can see the 80's checkerboard flooring still here in Produce. One of the failings of the ambitious 80's remodel is that many stores appeared dark and dingy not long after the remodel. The beige paint used throughout the entire interior was mostly at fault for this. This next decor package saw everything painted white, with bold checkerboard patterns on the walls. Light boxes were also added throughout the store to improve lighting. This new remodel involved a decor change only. Cases were left as is since they were relatively brand-new in most stores. Does anyone if stores held "Grand Reopenings" when the Checkerboard Arch decor was put in? These remodels rarely saw the addition of any new services. I found it puzzling back then as to how stores were getting selected for this upgrade. For example, both Morris Plains and Succasunna got the new look but Rockaway, which was equally successful... if not more so, was skipped. Same was true in the Philly area as some small Acmes received the new decor while larger stores were passed over. Even that tiny old store in Washington NJ got the new look.
Many of the interior shots for this post may look familiar. They were used for Acme Style's Decor Directory last year.
Aisle markers here (seen in the upper right hand corner) were probably brought in from a remodeled 90's Red/White/Blue store. The Checkerboard Arch decor package did include specifically designed aisle markers which is something Acme hadn't really had since the 70's. You can see one of the custom aisle markerst at the Manasquan store. They have since been removed there and inexplicably replaced with aisle markers from an Industrial Circus store. You can see a picture of that here.
Rare site here! Cursive lettering in the Deli and Seafood Departments. This type treatment was usually reserved for the Bakery. As we saw a few months ago, American Stores rolled out this decor for it's Star Markets as well. Acme received the more deluxe version as the checkerboard arch pattern was used sparingly in Star Markets. You can see a great interior shot of an abandoned Star Market here. Notice the cursive lettering for all the service departments. Notice too how naked the arches look without the checkerboarding.
80's checkerboard flooring still in place. You can see in the Star Markets image that those stores received a specific floor pattern to go along with the decor. Acme wasn't about to start replacing floors that had only been redone a few years earlier. Plus, the 80's checkerboard floor worked quite well with the newer decor. You can see a row of darker tiles along the right side of the aisle. Could be due to the aisles being moved at some point after the 80's remodel.
Some stores had only the blue and green colors used throughout. The ultra-deluxe version of this remodel had lights added along the tops of all the cases around the permitter of the store to illuminate the walls. It created a very cool effect.
10 aisles here at Middlesex. Some stores had the blue light boxes above the Frozen Food cases.
Cursive lettering above the Bakery. Additional lighting added above the Bakery cases as well.
Blue light boxes above all the checkouts and Customer Service.
Now to the aerial images...
The Middlesex store stands alone like so many old school Acmes. Huge parking lot included, although it was expanded a bit when another small store on the property was torn down.
See any hints of an addition?
No windows along the back or the sides to indicate a second level with a break room, bathrooms and manager's office.
Lots of historical aerial images available for this location...
And there we have it... the original building prior to be expanded in the back left corner. Question is... was the whole building always the Acme or was the section on the left another store?
You can see the shadow of the huge Acme sign out at the street. Looks as though it no longer stands on the property.
Thanks to Rob for the excellent pictures of this classic Acme store!