Saturday, June 28, 2014

A&P – Little Silver, New Jersey (And More!)

Location:  507 Prospect Ave, Little Silver, NJ

Little Silver has one of the oldest A&P's still in operation today! We're talking pre-Centennial days here. Exact opening date is unknown but according the the historic aerials, the store has been up and running since at least 1957. Started out as a barrel-roof model and had a small expansion to the right side in it's early days. A larger addition was added to the left side when the store was converted to the Centennial format sometime in the 70's.

Judging from the current exterior design, one would expect to find an old decor package inside, perhaps similar to the one we saw in the classic Morristown A&P. Turns out this location has been extensively remodeled with the second version of the "Fresh" format. Why they couldn't scrape together a few more bucks to convert "Food Market" to "fresh market" is a mystery.

Differences in brick color along the front appear to indicate the seams between the original building and the Centennial retro-fit.

The door configuration is a little confusing from this side. The vestibule has only one door on this side which serves as an exit. The main entrance to the store is the rather nondescript door on the left side of the photo. I would imagine plenty of unfamiliar shoppers head toward this side's exit door. At the other end of the vestibule, there are side-by-side entrance and exits doors.

Maybe a nice "Welcome" sign up in that window would help this lonely door out a bit. Right now, it is in no way conveying "Main Entrance"!

There may have been entrance and exits doors here at some point. I didn't think at the time to look for a magic carpet scar under the plants.

Heading inside for a look at the rather impressive interior...

So A&P took the full-scale, second version of their "fresh" concept and crammed it into this small store, minus the Pharmacy.

The deli and cheese departments were moved onto the sales floor directly across from produce, stealing a significant amount of space from the center store. They even managed to fit in a juice bar, pizza station and prepared foods! Must have cost the place a good 3 grocery aisles. The store now tops out at a measly 7.

A look toward the front-end from the prepared foods counter.

For the second version of the "fresh" decor, A&P gave up on naming the store's departments, relying instead on product photography. Pretty great photography at that. We will be reviewing all 3 fresh market formats after we wrap things up in Little Silver.

The lighting here is very similar to Acme's original Premium Fresh and Healthy stores. Light focused directly on merchandise with very little serving to illuminate the store in general. This store in particular is very dark. Almost gloomy inside. I had to pump up the lighting in Photoshop just so we could see everything clearly.

Bakery all the way in the back. This store isn't far from Acme's Fair Haven location which is similar in the sense that it is very small but has been maxed out with as many modern amenities as possible. The approach leaves both stores very crowded with merchandise. This place must be a nightmare when it's busy.

The view toward the front-end from the bakery.

The blue seafood sign is quite striking.

Aisle 1 with the left side lining the wall behind the fresh food departments.

Some classic air vents down this aisle!

The columns are most likely where the wall of the original store was located. Not sure what aisle this is exactly.

The 7th and final aisle...

Additional frozen food in the front corner.

The second version of the "fresh" concept saw the A&P sign losing the orange and yellow sections. 

The ceiling in this section is in need of some help.

Scars from the magic carpets that were once here. This section of cement appears to be original to the building.

Newer cement further out from the doors.

There was some activity happening back here so I didn't venture around for any more pictures. You'll be able to see some more details in the aerial views.

Aerial Images...

The arched-roof section in the original store with additions done to both sides of the building.

The barre-roof model had a second floor to the rear. Very similar to how Acme pitched-roof stores were set up.

Historic Views...




Centennial retro-fit and expansion completed by 1979.

The parking spots originally ran parallel to the A&P. They were switched to run parallel to the strip mall by 1979.

The addition to the left side was completed by 1963.



Bonus Content:
A&P's Fresh Formats!

Version 1: "Fresh Market"

Location: 125 East Main Street, Denville, NJ

The Denville A&P was the very first "fresh market" store, opening in 2004. The Centennial store that was originally located here was torn down to make room for this much larger store. At the time, "fresh" was a catchy approach and certainly brought A&P a lot of attention. It wasn't long after that it seemed like every chain was attempting some sort of
fresh makeover.

The decor package in this version consists of back-lit letters for the the department signage and large, colorful sketches of fresh foods.

A&P incorporated more prepared food offerings in this format and added more gourmet products like fresh baked artisan breads and a gelato bar. I was here right after the grand reopening and had some of the gelato. It was an icy mess. The cases were clearly not keeping it at the correct temperature. They wound up getting rid of it.

Cases throughout the store are lined with montages of vintage A&P photos. A really cool feature that would be eliminated for the other versions of the fresh format.

Version 2: "Fresh"

Location: 125 18th St, Jersey City, NJ

A few years after the "Fresh Market" look was rolled out, it was completely ditched in favor of a new version. While we just saw this version in the Little Silver store, I'm including pictures from the Jersey City location which I took a few years back. I believe this store was remodeled around 2010. You wouldn't believe the place if you saw it prior to that. It started as a Waldbaums which was converted to A&P at some point. A&P did nothing to the store but change the name on the front. Inside was all 70's yellow from floor to ceiling. What was so incredibly bizarre… the department signage looked like it was painted by 3rd graders. Seriously. The deli was called something like "The City Deli" and had a very amateurish painting of a city skyline. Equally amateurish signs were above all the other departments as well. This area of Jersey City really started to take off in the early 2000's. I figured A&P was just letting this store die a slow death, which is exactly what it was doing. An insanely busy, yet nasty, ShopRite is located about 8 short blocks away. A&P finally showed some faith in this place and gave it an extensive floor to ceiling remodel. Business exploded! In the early years, they had to bring in portable registers to help handle all of the business on the weekends.

You can see the layout here is very similar to Little Silver.

Frozen Foods was moved from the center of the store to the dairy side.

The Pharmacy is the only department that gets a name!

The Pharmacy was moved from the entrance over to this corner. The Health and Beauty Aid aisles were located where the deli and prepared foods departments now stand.

Not much was done to the outside here except for some new paint and sign. You can see from here the parking lot gets pretty full. Certainly a major success story at this location!

Version 3: "Funky Fresh" 

Location: 2101 Route 35, Holmdel, NJ

We'll be taking a look at the third (yet not final) version of the fresh format in the extensively remodeled Holmdel store. The interior here is pretty extraordinary. The astronomical cost of this version was a contributing factor to A&P's bankruptcy in 2010.

Each department here assigned an icon which were tied into the website at the time. That's no longer the case. You can see the flower icon next to "fresh floral".

I've been to the Holmdel store several times. From what I've seen, I can't say business is booming here.

Check out the product photography. See anything interesting there? Each sign is in the shape of one of A&P's logos!

I personally think A&P need to overhaul its bakery selections. I thought there were be some great new items to be seen here in this store's bakery. There really wasn't.

Ambitious layout here. The whole store is set-up more like a gourmet market than a supermarket. Aisles run every which way which is pretty confusing.

Even the cleaning supplies get treated like their own separate department.

Most of the aisles are much lower here.

Dairy in the round.

Frozen Food is pretty cool. It's located in a large alcove in the front corner of the store.

A simplified version of this decor was used for the short-lived Pathmark Sav-a-center remodels.

Center aisle.

More icons for these departments...

Very cool concept here and definitely worth checking out. Would I like to do my weekly shopping in this crazy concept? No. Fortunately it is no longer being used. Once bankruptcy was declared, this version of the "fresh" format was terminated. In a strange twist, A&P reverted to the the first version for their newly built store in New Providence, New Jersey. It was also used in the new North Liberties Superfresh in Philadelphia. That store was originally planned to be a Pathmark but switched banners after the two companies joined forces.

And this concludes the tour of A&P's fresh formats! Have a favorite? Mine is, hands-down, version 2!