Friday, November 18, 2011

Acme — Randolph, NJ

690 Millbrook Avenue, Randolph NJ

The Acme in Randolph, which has also been referred to on the blog as the Mount Freedom store, has two strikes against it. First, it's a 2000's model. We have seen on the blog that many stores built in the early to mid 2000's have struggled with many stores of this recent era closing down. Second, it's located in North Jersey, which is an area that was once an Acme strong-hold but is now a region that Acme has virtually retreated from. Today only 3 stores remain in the northern most part of the state... Randolph, Morris Plains and Clifton. Former power house stores like Rockaway and Succasunna are gone, both surrendering to nearby ShopRites. Classic 50's models like Newton and Sparta which were institutions in their respective towns for 40-plus years, met their demise in the 2000's. 

Despite these challenges, the Randoph store is very successful. Certainly proof that Acme hasn't completely lost out on North Jersey just yet. The store also happens to be among the nicest Acme's I've encountered in my travels. Ten years after opening, it still looks brand-new inside. Impeccably clean and maintained.

 I first stumbled across this store by accident, way back in the early 2000's, long before this blog was born. Must have been right after the store had opened. My first visit here was the first time I had been to a an Acme of the 2000's era. At the time, the exterior was not as attractive as it is now. Actually I thought it was pretty ugly and plain compared to the 90's models. (You'll get a glimpse of its original look down in the satellite photos.) The exterior design is most likely due to the fact that this store was not originally planned as an Acme. It was going to be a Grand Union. Unfortunately GU went under before construction began. Rumors began to circulate that Acme would be picking up many Grand Unions but sadly wound up with just this location. Acme may have decided to keep GU's exterior plans for the building rather than design something different. It does match some other Grand Unions that were built during the company's final years. 

The interior here is an interesting version of the "Alberton's Marketplace". Rob Ascough had told me a while back that Acme's original plan was to put the "Acme Theme Park" (officially know as Grocery Palace) decor in this store but that plan was reconsidered due the decor package's high cost. We'll see some evidence of the Theme Park influence in the interior structure.  

The store is located at the intersection of Millbrook Avenue and Sussex Turnpike. This picture is taken from Sussex which sits higher than the store's property. 

This alley leads out to Sussex Turnpike. The clock is a nice feature here but would have been even nicer with a bit more design. 

Lettering here now converted to white. The interior has the Premium Fresh and Healthy aisle and category markers. The front of the store was also painted with a warm beige color which replaced white which remains along this side of the store. 

The ACME sign started off right where it is. It was then moved to the left to make room for the Sav-on sign. Sav-on has since been bumped down to the awning just to the right edge of this photo with ACME being moved back to the center. The pyramid topped box over the entrance was common in other Grand Unions built around this time. The pictures for this post were taken during two different visits which is why you see leaves in some and not in others.   

In we go...

Newly added ala carte station just inside the entrance. This shot is looking across the front-end of the store. Behind where I'm standing is a Seattle Coffee shop (formally Starbucks). This area of the store was very busy during my visit so it was difficult getting pictures. The coffee shop appears to be a huge draw here. It was very busy. 

Deli and Bakery line the left wall. Prepackaged deli foods and bottled drink cases are located in the front corner behind this shot. Notice the floor here... not the usual tiling for an Albertsons Marketplace store. We'll be seeing even more interesting tile treatments during our tour.
Bakery in the back corner. The structure seen in the corner very closely matches those of the "Theme Park" decor package. You can see examples here and here

Fresh Seafood has been tilting for quite a while. Guess it's not getting any worse. Holiday signage now hanging from the ceiling. Notice the Premium Fresh and Healthy store directory hanging down by Dairy. There is one in the front of there store as well. 

Oops. Category markers are all hanging backwards. The curved section should be hanging out over the aisle. Here's a look at Lincroft were they're having the right way. Nice to see the update "Wild Harvest" signage here. 

Interesting tile treatment in the soda and snack aisle. Many aisles here have unique tile treatments which is a feature seen in the Acme Theme Park decor.

Frozen Food with unusual category markers not matching the rest in the store. 

Snowflake tiles on the floor which we have seen in other stores. The more commonly seen floor in Frozen can be seen here

Very cool pet aisle tile treatments...

And onto the baby aisle...

Bold and colorful treatments in the cleaning supplies and health & beauty aisles... 

On to Dairy... 

Deli meat located all the way over in the Dairy aisle. 

This store tops out at 15 aisles. A much smaller store than Acme was building throughout the 90's.

Pharmacy in the front corner paired with a small Floral Department. Photo and Customer Service along the front behind the checkouts. 

Checkouts to the right of this photo...

Now to the satelite images...

The Acme is located in a largely residential area. The lack of nearby competition iHere we can see the original white facade. Zooming in closer just brings us to the current look...

A few historical aerials of the store...




The first 2000's era Acme I had ever been to. Just as impressive today as it was back then! 


  1. There's only one reason why I don't like this store: the exposed piping/HVAC units (which look very tacky and ugly). Do all--or most--stores with the Albertson's Marketplace decor have this characteristic? (To me, any Acme built with the Albertson's Marketplace decor is just an Acme in name only, anyway.)

  2. I forgot to add that I am surprised that this store does well, given that it is in a pretty remote area (and was hard for me to find). It likely benefits from not having a ShopRite in town. (Now that the Pathmark on Route 10 has closed, the only other supermarket in Randolph is the A&P--which opened in 2000--that's just a little bit further down the road.)

    I'm really looking forward to your profile on the Morris Plains Acme, as that store is a true gem.

  3. Hi Max...Randolph is only a few minutes from Dover and Rt. 10 and only the same distance from Morris plains. Target has a great deal on Garmin GPS systems ...just in case.

  4. Love the blog. But it drives my anal-retentive brain nuts every time I see you use "it's" instead of "its" for the possessive. (As in, "You'll get a glimpse of it's original look down in the satellite photos."). Sorry, just had to say it.

  5. I believe the its/it's are fixed now in this post. Hard to believe I graduated with an English minor! I'll keep an eye on this going forward. If Acme Style generated income, the first thing I'd do is hire a proofreader! Seriously. I am aware my writing can be a mess sometimes.

  6. I worked at the Morris Plains store when this one was announced. Being a few miles west of my store and considering my store was frequented by a lot of Randolph residents, there was fear Randolph (usually referred to as Mount Freedom because that's the part of Randolph in which it's located) was going to seriously hurt Morris Plains' sales. I'm sure there was a similar fear in Rockaway. Morris Plains and Rockaway were, by far, the two strongest north Jersey Acme locations.

    The site was originally approved for a Grand Union. I was always under the impression the Acme took so long to build because Acme made a lot of changes to the site. I don't think the building design was left over from Grand Union's plans because I think the site was supposed to be configured differently, but I suppose that's either not the case or Acme took GU's design for the building and moved it to a different part of the site. The tan treatment to the exterior was a huge improvement over the stark white, and I'm surprised Acme didn't take the time (or spend the money) to paint the Sussex Avenue side of the building as well.

    When the store opened, it took a lot of employees from Morris Plains, but Morris Plains was strong enough to survive without having lost a lot of sales. It ended up being a wise move by the company, getting into another wealthy area in Morris County while preventing a competing grocer from moving in and possibly ruining Morris Plains. Odd, since Acme wasn't known for making good decisions in the north Jersey area at the time. The new Clifton store that opened not long after was a failure, and that coincided with the company foolishly closing the old Clifton store all the way on the other side of town that wasn't doing all that bad for an old, outdated location. Then there's the countless opportunities Acme had to expand and remodel many of their other area stores (Jersey City, East Rutherford, etc.)... rebuild in Pompton Lakes... the list goes on.

    Anyway, nice to see this store not only hanging in there but actually thriving. I hear it does very well, perhaps because it's a nice store in a neighborhood that's willing to accept Acme's high prices? No doubt this is a store that Kings probably wouldn't mind getting its hands on if those rumors about them wanting some of Acme's remaining north Jersey locations are true, or have ever been true.

  7. Green ceiling here reminds me of Chalkboard Market.

  8. I agree with Anonymous above -- while this is a great website (and I've learned a lot from it!), even little it's/its drive me crazy!

    1. Posts from "Anonymous" commenters that offer no value to the blog drive me crazy, so I guess we'll just call it even.

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  11. Weis Markets is taking over the former A&P supermarket in Randolph NJ.That might put a dent in MT Freedom Acmes business.