Friday, November 30, 2012

Acme — King of Prussia, PA

Location: 320 West Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia PA

After all these years, I have finally made my triumphant return to the King of Prussia store! This store been on my list ever since I started Acme Style back in 2009. My very first visit here happened completely by accident sometime in the mid-90's. At that point it had been a good 5 years since I had worked for Acme and I was pretty much out of the loop as to what was happening with the company. The last new store I had seen was the Dupont Highway location in Dover, Delaware back in the early 90's. An identical model to the Hockessin store seen here. Now sporting the block letter logo, these stores started out with the red-oval logo up on that slab above the greenhouse styled vestibule. They were built with the 80's Remodel decor but were a big jump forward in size and exterior design.

A few years after visiting the Dover store I would stumble upon the King of Prussia location. I had made the trip to the Delkalb Plaza for the Tower Records which once existed there. Upon pulling into the center, I could not believe my eyes... the biggest Acme I had ever seen! CD shopping was gonna have to wait. I had to get into the Acme immediately. The new block letter logo was on front, in red, which I had seen at some point a few years earlier on a Checkerboard Arch remodeled store but not yet as separatly mounted letters. I assumed the interior here would have the Checkerboard Arch decor as well. To my surprise, the interior was a completely new... the 90's Red/White/Blue package! I was blown away at the time. A completely new look for Acme from floor to ceiling, including custom designed aisle markers and check-out stand lights! It was a lot to take in. I may have been hyperventilating. I remember exploring the entire store, going over to Tower and then coming back for some more Acme time. I would continue to come to this shopping center a couple of times of year for the rest to the 90's. Always spending some quality time in the Acme. It was thrilling to see such a huge, clean store with all the bells and whistles of the time.

Since I've started Acme Style, I've heard from that this Acme isn't what it used to be. Which ones are at this point? Maybe that's why I waited so long to return. Couldn't bare to see another old favorite fading into oblivion. I would say that this was once among Acme's most successful stores. It was always extremely busy when I was there. The extensive Albertson's remodel in the early 2000's would indicate that things were still going strong a decade ago. Tough competition has moved into the area in just the past few years... Walmart and a new Wegmans on one side and a Giant converted Genuardi's and new Bottom Dollar on the other. The Wegmans/Walmart combo near the King of Prussia mall has undoubtedly dealt a series blow to this once mighty store.

Let's head inside to take a look around...

The decor package here is the higher-end version of the Industrial Circus. The signage uses a cursive font and copper and wood accents rather than corrugated steel. I believe this version came towards the end of the I.C.'s lifespan. It's not seen in nearly as many stores as the original decor package.

The remodel here was quite extensive. It's the first 90's store I've seen with the "Grand Aisle" format. Produce was moved out of it's alcove in the front corner and spread across the right side of the store killing off an aisle or two in the process.

The Reading Center is just to the right of the entrance, occupying a small portion for the former Produce alcove. Magazines are dying off about as quickly as Acmes these days. I've noticed these sections getting downsized in other grocery stores.

The Cheese Shoppe Boulevard just beyond the Reading Center. Never could figure out why they started renaming departments as if they were streets. A bit too much of a mouthful. Produce cases lined this wall prior to the remodel.

The Deli now occupies the former Produce Department. Windows to the outside were along that back wall. While outside, I completely forgot to turn the corner to get a picture of what's left of them.

The Bakery remains in its original spot but appears to be expanded slightly into the former Meat Department.

Have to say, Acme is running some of the nicest Bakery Departments of any chain these days. The variety far exceeds stores like A&P, Stop & Shop and ShopRite. The ShopRites near me don't even offer fresh baked wheat or multigrain bread. The do have plenty of the crappiest white bread you can find.

Grocery aisles to the left, Bakery over to the right, with the Produce Department in between. Wild Harvest is located in an odd spot to the rear of Produce. The first time I was here, the health food department was the along the first aisle using shorter shelving to draw attention. It was the first time I had seen a desginated health food section in a traditional gorcery store. There actually have been times in Acme's history when they've been ahead of the curve!

Very few stores seems to have gotten the updated Wild Harvest signage. You can see it here in the abandoned Cinnaminson store.

A center aisle no longer cuts through the entire store.

Former Deli and Seafood Deparments are now Meat and Seafood.

Fresh Meats along the back wall instead of in the rear corner beyond the Bakery.

Premium Fresh and Healthy aisle and category makers in the nearly impossible to read green and white combo.

Fresh Deli appears to have been packaged deli goods which has since morphed into dairy products.

Center aisle looking over towards Produce.

Florist moved from the front corner into the aisles. This is commonly the location for floral in "Grand Aisle" formatted stores.

Interesting twist here... Frozen Foods have been moved from the center of the store all the way over to the last aisles. Frozen cases even take up wall space along the Dairy wall. Back in the mid 90's this final aisle had a big selection of small household appliances. There was also a "Max Pac" (I can never remember if that's the right name) department in the back, offering selections that would be more commonly found at club stores like. Hood lights hung from the ceiling in this section. They're still hanging in Willingboro. Click here to see.

The Pharmacy was relocated from the front of the store to the the side wall where the Floral Department was originally located.

"Gotta love" that Acme gave up on those ads in the checkout stand lights!

WHOA! What happened here?? Whoever put these letters up didn't have a clue as to what they were doing. Half of the letters are crooked! They were supposed to mounted with a tilt, not straight up and down. And someone decided the "P" in Prussia needed to be lower case. The whole thing is a disaster. Compare this set-up to the one done correctly at the other entrance...

We'll head over to the former Genuardi's down below.

Tower Records was located in the strip in the lower left corner.

Of course trees are blocking our view of the former Produce windows!

Now for a quick look at the new Giant...

You think Acme is dead you should see this place! I'm stunned at how few people I've seen at the 3 Giants/Genuardi's I've been too. The one Weis/Genuardi's I've been in was even deader!

Felt the need to take some pics here even though we've seen a similar Giant in Feasterville. That store was upgraded from Genuardi's old decor package while this store was upgraded from Safeway's "Lifestyle" remodel. The hardwood floors you see here are from that remodel.

These back lit letters are all the rage now in grocery store design.

Fascinating sculpture signage above Health and Beauty.

Can't help but wonder if Giant will pull the plug on some of these stores.

Now back to Acme...

The Acme used to be located at the King of Prussia Mall, opening with the center in 1963. In the early 90's the mall underwent a massive expansion and transformation. I had the unfortunate luck of visiting the mall when construction was underway. How they were letting people in the place without hard hats on was beyond me. My shopping trip was cut short since the mall was a complete disaster at the time. I'm not sure when the Acme closed there. There may have been a few years where there was no Acme in King of Prussia but can't say for sure. Let's take a look at the original store...

**The Original King of Prussia Acme**

Photo courtesy of Pleasant Family Shopping

Even in black and white, the fish-eye logo sign is a beautiful, beautiful site. Check out the entrance/exit doors on both sides of the store! Nice stone work around the doors too. The upper windows appear to have been opaque. (Click on photo for a much larger view) All around, a very unique pitched-roof model. Thanks to Dave over at Pleasant Family Shopping for use of this incredible picture.

Thanks to these old satellite images, we can see exactly where the Acme was located. The octagon building started out as an amphitheater but became home to a Wannamakers in 1965 

Expansion to the rear of the mall just 2 years later. 


The pitched-roof Acme long gone by 2002. 

Walmart and Wegmans have built new stores on the west side of the mall. The Wegmans is still under construction in this image. It opened in May of this year.

Spirit Halloween store. Fun for shopping and usually an indication that the shopping center isn't doing too great. On the plus side, Acme was significantly busier than the Giant when I visited each store on a Saturday afternoon. And the newly opened Bottom Dollar just down the street has some dreadful reviews on yelp.

So much potential here for this store to remain in business. It's unfortunate that SuperValu is not in a position to make Acme more competitive. The crushing debt the company currently has is preventing them from lowering prices. Acme is essentially a prisoner of this failing company. The only option for Acme to be saved is for someone to buy SuperValu and turn things around. Cerberus Capital was recently showing interest but it appears now that a deal may not happen. Let's keep our fingers crossed that something happens soon.