Friday, October 19, 2012

Soon-to-be Former Acme – Glassboro, NJ

Location: 731 Delsea Drive North, Glassboro, NJ

After years of closing smaller, outdated stores, Acme is starting to drop the ax on the huge stores of the 90's. Both the Glassboro store and the "fortress" styled Morrisville store are on the list this time around. I believe the only other 90's stores to have closed are Quakertown, Cinnaminson and Collegeville. Morrisville and Quakertown being the only two being built from the ground up during Acme's new store construction boom of the 90's.

I've been hearing for a while that Glassboro was in danger. Kept postponing a visit since I didn't know much about it and was't aware of any interesting aspects to its history. When the closings were announced recently, a visit became a top priority.

What I had expected to find here and what I actually saw turned out to be two very different things. I had imagined a tired, old store which had been in decline for years. The ShopRite across the street opened in the early 2000's so I figured the Acme had been in serious decline since then. We all unfortunately know what a ShopRite can do to an Acme... total destruction. After touring the store, I was shocked at how nice it was. Not only that, service departments were fully up and running including Seafood. Produce was stocked beautifully as you will see in a couple of pictures below. I very well know when I'm in a store that's in trouble. Besides being somewhat of a mess, there's just a sadness hanging in the air. I didn't find that here in Glassboro. After a good decade of going head to head with ShopRite, I'm not sure what has gone wrong. I do know a Bottom Dollar opened recently up across the street. Are people really turning away from traditional grocery stores in such mass numbers for these randomly stocked, off-brand stores? I haven't been in a Bottom Dollar yet. Feel like I've seen it all when it comes to those types of stores after being in an Aldi and several Sav A Lots. Back to the Acme...

We'll head into the entrance on the right...

Albertsons Marketplace decor here with plenty of left over 90's Red/White/Blue decor items throughout. The original box lights hanging from the ceiling remain in place. Newer, taller cases have been installed. No longer do they extend across the entire back wall.

You can see from these pictures that the produce was stocked beautifully. Too bad there weren't more people shopping here to appreciate it.

A look down the front-end before proceeding. 90's light boxes still above the registers, painted cream now.

Newer letters mounted onto the former 90's Bakery sign.

How the Bakery looked in the 90's.

What's this? Something that actually says "ACME" on it? I could barely believe my eyes. A while back I took a picture of these fresh baked cookies when SuperValu first made the switch to the plain white bag. They used to come in colorfully designed, "ACME" branded bag. The plain bags had a round sticker placed on the them that said the kind of cookie inside with "ACME" no where to be found. This all came about around the same time Essential Everyday products were being rolled out and the "ACME" name was being wiped away from stores. Looks like the it's making it's way back! To some degree anyway. Too bad the packaging is so lame now. The cookies are surprisingly good.

One of the first departments to go in a troubled store is Seafood. It's still up and running here and looking really good too. These cases seem to be newer than the Albertsons Marketplace decor package. In fact, they look brand new.

Unlike most 90's stores, Deli and Seafood are in the corner while Meat is at the center of the back of the store.

Wow! What do you see on the walls?

The keystones from the former fake windows that used to be here! Love it! We'll see more of these around the store.

As this area would have looked in the 90's.

Premium Fresh and Healthy aisle markers. In jet-black here AND with the Albertsons' leaf.

90's floor still in place showing it's age in many areas. Overall the store was impeccably clean.

Newer cases on the right. The ones of the left are looking relatively new. It seems there has been a decent amount of investment in this store in recent years.

Next aisle over.

One aspect of the store needing some help were the ceiling tiles.

An impressive 21 aisles! The aisles are not split like in most 90's stores. I'm not sure at what point this building became an Acme. We'll see evidence in the satellite images that it did not start out as a grocery store. Acme may have taken over at a later date and either expanded the store in the 90's or possibly just arrived in the 90's. I'm sure our helpful commenters will fill us in.

The one department already winding down is Floral. Once an eye-catching feature here with windows over by the entrance. I visited about 10 Acme's on this day and I saw Floral barely hanging on in many of them.

The windows now blocked with displays.

They did get the big fancy store directory!

Not sure if I've seen this in any other store before. I liked the signs back in the days that I worked for Acme much better... "Your Store for Low Prices!"

This looks like a parking lot sign from the 50's. I'm not convinced that it is. At least not from an Acme.

Kmart at the end of the shopping center.

And now for the aerial tour...

Get a load of that parking lot! Looks like business was pretty good just a few years ago. What happened? You can see on the roof that a newer section was added to the right side. We'll see down in the historic images that the first two thirds of the building were built along with the center. It does not appear that an Acme was in the space at that time.

Additional back room space added to the side of the store with a sloped ceiling.

A look at the competition. SuperFresh originally across the street in an A&P "Future Store" styled building. Changed over to Food Basics, probably in the early 2000's.

Now closed and gone as many are. A failed concept that arrived on the scene with so much fanfare. A&P touted it as its saving grace there in the beginning. Probably more to scare the unions than anything else. Food Basics is void of all high paid service employees. Everything except produce comes in prepackage. I've read online that the format here was tweaked over the years. Apparently some service departments were added near the end to help business. The location in North Bergen too has undergone many incarnations, the latest of which was a downsizing of sales floor with yet another round of new decor. I believe the format is basically dead at this point. As mentioned in the recent Glen Rock Bonus Store post, only 11 stores remain open.

Super Fresh/ Food Basics - Glassboro, NJ
Image above courtesy of Josh Austin

Josh caught a picture of the store as it was being transformed into a Bottom Dollar. Is this what finally did the Acme in? They survived SuperFresh, Food Basics AND ShopRite but finally had to toss in the towel with the arrival of this place?

Acme may have this place beat on size but they've got Acme beat on prices. It's too bad Acme has never figured out a way to compete. Question: why is Jewel-Osco in the midst of a huge price cutting ad campaign and Acme isn't? They've "lowered everyday prices". Why can't Acme get a piece of that action?

Jewel-Osco commercial explaining new lower prices. They have been advertising sweeping prices changes throughout their stores both in advertising and in their circulars. Acme is participating in the "Gotta Love Great Deals" campaign with the unusual strategy of featuring one item per day at a super low prince.

Through the years...



So here's the million dollar question... was this an Acme back in 1995? It's impossible to tell from this image. What would lead me to say no is that the building appears to have the same four air conditioner units that it has in the 1970 image below. These units would seem to indicate that that building was a big box store instead of a grocery store.

Update 10.21.12: oA comment left by Bill Haines sheds some more light on the history of the store...

" I believe that this store was originally one of the Pantry Pride stores that Acme purchased in 1979, just as Skaggs was buying the company. From my collection of "Trumpeter's" I found this reference: Glassboro was enlarged with the new facade in 1995, and received the Red, White, & Blue decor package. The grand reopening was held December 5, 1995."

The Kmart had yet to arrive as of 1970

A closer look. 

Construction just beginning in 1965. You can see the outlines of the stores.

And now for a broader look of the area through the years.

SuperFresh was there but was Acme? No ShopRite. 

So few shopping options back in 1970. Kind of a simpler time. 

Just a brief look at a former Glassboro Acme. Opened way back in January 1943 at the intersection of College Ave and Academy Street. I didn't venture over that way since there isn't much to see these days.

From one former Acme to a soon-to-be former Acme...

Sad to see a place like this go. I've read a lot of comments online from people who are mystified that this location is closing while the nearby Clayton store remains open. (As a crazy Acme fan I say "hands off the Clayton store people! Gotta keep that classic open!!") Found an interesting letter to the editor of alluding to the fact that rent increases here may have affected Acme's closing as well as other stores in the center. Click here to read the letter. Updates to this post will be made as more information comes in about its history.