Friday, December 2, 2011

Former Acme – Dover, New Jersey

Location: 23-29 Basset Highway, Dover NJ

A few weeks ago I mentioned my plan of doing a double post for November 18th. The plan was to pair the new store in Randolph with this former store in Dover. Turned out I went a little to crazy taking pictures that day and couldn't get everything up in time. So today we're returning to this area of New Jersey to check out the former Acme of Dover, which only recently was it confirmed to me that this was in fact an Acme. I had passed this building a million times back in the 80's and 90's. I suspected it might have been an Acme but the blue tile threw me off. I had gone inside a couple of times to explore and did see the classic Acme air vents along the ceiling. Still, I wasn't convinced. At the time I knew of the former Rockaway Acme over on West Main Street and had never heard a mention a former store in Dover. When the Rockaway stores went up on the blog, PennFruitFan mentioned this location in the comments section. I have been trying to get back here ever since. Finally made it while I was en route to the Randolph store. 

The Acme anchored the Dover Shopping Center, which extends to the left of they store. We'll be getting a look at that area below. Now for a look at PennFruitFan's informative contribution over on the Rockaway post...

"This Acme -- easily recognized from the blue panels and window-wall -- was one anchor of the Dover Shopping Center, a major downtown strip center built in the late 1950s. The center also included FW Woolworth, JC Penney, WT Grant, and (at the opposite end from Acme) one of the more architecturally-unique Food Fairs I have seen, in addition to smaller stores and a (now-gone) parking deck.

The entire DSC met its demise when the nearby Rockaway Town Center was built. The Acme was briefly an A&P when a nearby location of the latter burned; today it is a Goodwill-type store. The Food Fair exists today as a State of New Jersey Unemployment office -- with the original terrazzo floors! Most of the other buildings still stand, but the stores have been converted to agency and office space -- don't know if the second-floor bowling alley is still in business. The site is worth a visit if you are in the area."

We'll head down the strip in a bit to see the other buildings PFF is referring to. For now, a ton of pictures of this former Acme (maybe a bit overkill here but I love seeing these virtually frozen-in-time former stores)...

The original recessed lights still intact. Bread delivery door next to the entrance. The store also had an entrance at the rear. 

Looking in the windows to the left of the entrance. Notice the air vents along the top of the left hand wall. I would guess that the checkouts were along this side of the store. The Meat Department was along the far back wall there.  

Looking over towards the entrance and second set of windows along the right hand wall. 

Here we've gone around the corner...

Guessing again... the aisles of the Acme ran the same direction as these clothing racks. 

Meat Department is still intact...

The rear entrance. The rear parking lot is through the gate. Lots of activity going on at the back of the store. Appeared to be some clean up and repainting of the parking space lines. Didn't head in to take pictures of the back doors.

Back around to the other side...

Looks as though the Acme had windows along this wall. 

And now for the aerial portion of the post...

Interesting angle to the front of the store.

And for a look down the street...

I believe this store was the JCPenney. 

The former Food Fair. There are also some interesting stores to see across the street. The sun glare was making pictures taking a little difficult. 

Historic Aerials...



A full look at the shopping center as is today.

There was a drive-in movie theater to the rear of the stores. You can see the screen all the way to the left of the lot. A clearer shot of it below...


The Acme was the last to arrive on the strip.

The image above shows the proximity of the former Dover Acme to the now-closed Rockaway Acme. I imagine Dover remained in business until the new Rockaway store. The old Rockaway store in just south if this satellite image. 

The Rockaway Acme still sitting empty. The snow is leftover from the October 30 storm. Can't figure out why Whole Foods doesn't jump on this. Rockaway has all the low-end food retailers covered... from ShopRite to Costco, Walmart to Target. Whole Foods would do booming business here with the crowds that the Rockaway mall draws from all the surrounding areas. Clearly I'm not all that familiar with Whole Foods criteria for locations to open but it just seems to make sense. The closest Whole Foods to this area is half an hour away in Madison township. 


  1. Whole Foods? Funny, my friend from Coatesville PA told me yesterday that construction has stalled on the Whole Foods that was supposed to replace the Genuardi's there. Several other stores that closed almost two years ago (at the same time as this Rockaway Acme) are still empty in my area. For example the Kmart/Sears Essentials in Marlton NJ, the Thrift Drug/Eckerd/Rite Aid in Cheltenham PA, the Forman Mills in Morton PA, and the Blockbuster in Springfield PA. Also some other stores that vacated last summer were the Blockbuster in Media PA, the Ben Franklin Crafts in Tabb VA, the Eckerd/Rite Aid in Marlton NJ, and all the Borders bookstores. I was impressed how fast the Denny's in Coatesville PA became an independent diner.

  2. When I worked for Acme, I found an old district directory that listed the Dover location. I don't believe the building address is on the building (at least in an obvious spot) so in the days before Google Earth, Bing Maps and GPS systems, I could only guess the Salvation Army store was once the Dover Acme. Years later I would confirm that information.

    It surprises me this was constructed in 1957. I had always assumed it was a very large late 40's/early 50's store, but as it turns out it was a small late 50's store. It doesn't look much like the stores Acme was building at the time upon first glance, although a second look reveals the canopy across the front of the building and wrapping around the corner (although in this case it's the corner opposite of the norm.) The presence of both front and back entrances make me wonder if this one started out much like the Fair Haven Acme featured last year. After all, small as that location is, it was even smaller when it opened, perhaps about the same size as this one. I'm going to assume this building has a basement because there's very little space at the back end of the building. I was inside once many years ago, and I do remember something along the back that could have been a pass-through to a meat prep area. That was probably it for support facilities on the main floor.

    A friend of mine told me that the shopping center was a big deal at the time, up until the time the nearby Rockaway Townsquare opened its doors. It was probably around that time that Dover had already well established it's not-so-nice reputation, and it wouldn't surprise me if the (now-closed) Rockaway Townsquare Acme was a replacement for this one as well as the one on Main Street in Rockaway.

  3. Great post on this fine example of 1950s shopping center design -- Thanks for the follow-up!

  4. I worked 2 summers (1964 and 1965) at the old Dover Acme when I was in college, after working 2 previous summers (1962 and 1963) at the original Succasunna Acme. Dover was a strange store in several ways. The meat department was on the right wall and produce was in the rear. There was minimal parking for customers who were expected to use the 2-story garage across the street. Grocery storage was in the basement which meant that everything had to be brought up on a conveyor for stocking.

    I believe that Dover closed many years before the new Rockaway store opened in the late 70's. Rockaway was a fine store for many years, but Acme had a hard time attracting/keeping customers because of its pricing image. A few years before it closed Acme did a major remodel, but the store didn't gain much (if any) business. They had hopes of opening a pharmacy department but Thrift Drug had exclusive rights in the shopping center.

  5. As a Dover native, I remember the shopping center being built. IIRC the Rockaway River was diverted to help create the area for the strip. The upstairs of the first building west of the Penneys contained a bowling alley. We went there regularly on Saturday morinings to bowl. The Food Fair never did much business, being at the end of a dead-end street. There had been proposals to connect Bassett Hwy thru to North Blakcwell St, but that would have entailed another railroad crossing and thus went nowhere.

  6. The Dover Acme (now a Salvation Army) and the original Rockaway Acme on West Main St. (now a QuickChek) were both relocated to the new Rockaway Acme near the Rockaway Mall. Dover recently did improvement to its southern terminus of Rt. 15; they turned that intersection with Rt. 46 into a serious southern terminus which now can make motorists turn on Rt. 46; it also makes motorists safer on the road as it is now an intersection bridge (which may seem odd, but safer).

  7. As a high school sophomore in 1971 at Dover High, I worked at this Dover Acme - just as your photos indicated. It probably remained open a few more years, but when I was there in '71 it was already dying. I remember that I was in charge of the tuna fish/Spam and other canned meats aisle!!! Fun memories - especially of wandering around Dover (some dark alleys!) to find wandering shopping carts! Working at Acme was my first job!

  8. The original Rockaway Acme was actually at the end of Wall Street in the 50's. It was not a typical Acme building. The stone building is still there next to a tavern or restaurant. Don't know what business is in there now.

  9. I didn't remember the Acme in Dover. I remember the ShopRite Supermarket at a strip mall in Dover, NJ. Also, next to Shop Rite were Fashion Bug, Pizza Place, and Ames.

  10. OH, Does this bring back alot of memories/ I grew up in Dover, N.J. from 1950 till 1961 when we moved to Pennsylvania. I was there for the shopping center, bowling alley, the drive in theater etc. jj newberry even the old a7p which became a sears store.

  11. bassett highway killed Blackwell street. there were many good stores on Blackwell street that were doing well until the late 50's. my parents were partners in moglia's a stationary store. my dad opened a new store in denville, that did very well for many years.. a lot of stores on Blackwell street closed. not enough business for both. Harold fischbein

  12. The original Dover Acme was across the street from the one you're showing in what is now another thrift store. My grandfather was a butcher there in the 40's & 50's. The new Acme closed long before Rockaway Mall was built. It became an A&P in the early 70's when their building on E Blackwell burned down. Lastly, there was NEVER a ShopRite in Dover. The one refereed to is in Rockaway Twp but has a Dover mailing address!

  13. Whole Foods still doesn't jump up on this former Rockaway Acme, but the Rockaway Acme is now becoming a Nordstrom Rack. The Dover location and the one in Rockaway Boro were the ones that were relocated altogether to the Rockaway Townsquare location. Remember the Dover bowling alley?