Friday, March 25, 2016

Acme – Tinton Falls, New Jersey

Today's Tinton Falls post is
being brought to us  by
an Acme Style contributor. 

A final visit to the Shrewsbury store is included as well.
The post was written prior to this week's announcement
that the Shrewsbury store will be closing.  

Location: 990 Shrewsbury Avenue, Tinton Falls, NJ
Opening Date: November 11, 2015

The new Tinton Falls Acme opened in early November 2015 – a mere three days after it closed as an A&P Fresh. I don’t have an opening date for the A&P but Historic Aerials leads me to believe it was constructed between 1995 and 2002 and the building definitely resembles stores that the company was opening at the time. This doesn’t seem to have been a replacement for another A&P such as a Centennial like the ones that were being replaced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Due to this store’s proximity to the company’s former Little Silver location (also now an Acme) it stands to reason that A&P felt that was strong enough to survive the addition of this one to the Red Bank area.

Unlike some other “new” Acme stores the façade of this one looks great – the letters aren’t comically small like those in Montclair, enormous as in Manahawkin or mounted too low as found in Woodcliff Lake. One could question why the horizontal mounts for the old A&P Fresh sign weren’t removed while someone was in the air mounting these letters but that’s getting a little nitpicky because this is one of the more pleasing exteriors created by the company’s recent expansion.

Even the roadside sign looks good. Well, almost. The huge letters are hard to miss (which is good since the store can’t be accessed directly from Route 35 – the main road through the area) but the rusty supports and dented Sonic sign aren’t doing it any favors. Despite sharing a parking lot with an adjacent strip mall, it seems Acme and Sonic aren’t considered to be part of it. The strip mall (Tinton Falls Plaza) is older than both so perhaps it was easier just to build a new sign instead of adding the two new tenants to the existing one on the other side of the entrance to the parking lot.

With this new Acme even the old Pharmacy letters were replaced, which is something that didn’t happen at all new locations. The façade of the building wasn’t repainted (which would have been nice since the faded pinkish paint isn’t very visually appealing) so it’s easy to spot the covered holes and label scar from the old Pharmacy sign. But that’s enough of hanging around the parking lot, so let’s take a look inside.

I visited the store back in February and took some additional photos. 

It doesn’t appear that Acme replaced the produce department lights as it has done in so many other former A&P locations. This might be a result of the original lights hanging very low because of the pitched roof above (and therefore not rendering the section a dark cave). This looks like a good compromise – personally I liked A&P’s dimly lit produce sections because I thought the subdued lighting gave them an upscale look but can understand why they were deemed too dark for many shoppers. Every new Acme I’ve visited has featured beautiful produce sections – neatly organized, well-stocked and extremely clean.

On a side note, a few former A&P stores like this and the closed Woodland Park/Little Falls location featured a section of pitched roof like the one shown here. While a lot taller than those Acme was building in the 1960s, the general effect is remarkably similar. It’s likely that it was never A&P’s intention to pay homage to its competitor’s (now) iconic architecture but in spite of that it’s something noteworthy.

The A&P logos on the wall décor have been covered with the kind of white labels seen in coverage of many other new stores. Since there are many former A&P locations that are either relatively new or were remodeled within the last ten or fifteen years, I can imagine that future remodels of these might be limited to the repainting of walls and replacing of décor as there is likely nothing wrong with the actual equipment. If so, that would explain why Acme has implemented these kinds of temporary solutions to erasing traces of previous tenants.

In addition to Acme logos plastered all over the wall décor and aisle markers there are also hanging signs throughout the store reminding shoppers of where they are conducting their business. It makes the space above look a little cluttered, which is the opposite of the sales floor that features a minimum of floor displays. I’ll note that this is common to many new Acme stores and not just this Tinton Falls location.

Kitchen Shop still intact here and is still used for its original purpose! 

Upon their re-openings the new stores were immaculately stocked, almost to the point where someone might have felt a little guilty taking an item from a shelf (but hopefully not too guilty). It was also reasonable to wonder if they would continue looking so beautiful. More than a month after reopening it appears that a lot of attention is still put on making sure the shelves are stocked and organized. With the exception of a few missing cartons of organic milk everything looks nearly perfect- and this photo was taken in late afternoon about an hour into the “after work rush” (and the store was quite busy, despite the absence of people in most of these photos).

A&P stores of this style (and there are many) all had a relatively similar layout with produce and other departments in the first/”grand” aisle followed by a wellness section before groceries. The Tinton Falls location changed things up a bit with the wellness section near the far end of the building immediately before the dairy section. I happen to like A&P’s approach to health and beauty items as the sections often felt almost like separate stores-within-stores. I wouldn’t mind if Acme followed this blueprint in the future as well as the overall look with overhead décor panels and low shelves.

The front end features the changes we’ve now come to expect from these very light remodels including the removal of self-checkouts in lieu of additional express registers (some former A&Ps had their self-checkouts removed and are only now seeing the installation of the replacement registers). While it can’t be seen in this photo, the new registers don’t have numbers, suggesting that stores will receive new front ends (or at least more significant changes) sooner rather than late.  
A photo of the registers has been added below...

Also typical of these new Acme locations is the removal and subsequent lack of replacement of the former’s logo. An Acme logo following “Thank you for shopping…” needs to quickly appear because the company has every reason to be proud of stores such as this one. Welcome to Tinton Falls, Acme. Not that you haven’t really been here all along…

1080 Broad Street, Shrewsbury, NJ
Opening Date: Sometime in the 70's
Closing Date: Soon

The new Tinton Falls store is literally across the street from the longstanding Shrewsbury location, famously featured here on the blog a while back in a very sad state. After having relocated to the area, I now drive by this one at least a few times a month and at night the Acme letters with their many burned out bulbs have not been a welcoming sight. Around the time that the Tinton Falls Acme opened, the sign on the Shrewsbury one was completely fixed, shining bright at the back end of the shopping center’s parking lot. Not having been to the store since 2010, I figured a visit was in order when I would hopefully find a venue for a much-improved shopping experience. I was unfortunately let down (and for the record, the Acme letters are starting to revert back to their old, half-lit appearance).

The last time Shrewsbury was featured on the blog, the former Starbucks/café area looked to be used as a makeshift extension of the produce section. Now the corner is stocked with bottled water so while it doesn’t make much sense (this isn’t the first spot in a grocery store where I would find myself looking for bottled water), it at least looks like it was planned instead of being an afterthought (and Acme has been running some incredible sales on bottled water).

As I mentioned earlier, Acme has stepped up their game when it comes to its produce offerings in its stores. While having a small section compared to the Tinton Falls location, it looks very tidy and maintained, which should make a positive impression on everyone walking in the front doors. Few things set the tone for a shopping experience more than an appealing produce section- who wants to give business to a store when this department is a mess? Kudos to Acme’s powers-that-be for recognizing this.

While the produce section is almost classy, the same can’t be said for the dollar section that took the place of the long-closed seafood department. It’s now nearly impossible to see the dormant cases behind a visual assault of discounted items and with the Fisherman’s Net sign having been removed, one would be excused for thinking the store never had a seafood department in the first place.

Lack of maintenance probably stemming from lack of business is taking its toll on the Shrewsbury once-nice store. Neither of the cases in this photo appear to be very old but the trim is in desperate need of repair that is likely never to come. This is a shame as the damage is not only unsightly but borderline dangerous to a shopper’s bare ankles. In this particular instance a little bit of black electrical tape might go a long way towards rectifying the problem.

When the Morris Plains store was last remodeled around 2000, its relatively new Hussman upright frozen food cases received new black panels to replace the previous red ones that matched the outgoing “Checkerboard Arch” décor (as the new “Industrial Circus” décor called for black cases). This store, also having had the “Checkerboard Arch” décor, probably had the same cases. When it came time for the “Chalkboard Market” remodel it appears a new coat of latex paint was used to change their color and if you zoom in, you can see they now have many coats of paint and are starting to look very sloppy- more evidence that the absolute minimum is done around here to keep things serviceable.

The dropping “photo” sign featured in the last post covering the Shrewsbury Acme is now thankfully gone from the wall above the customer service department although it regrettably took some paint along with it (whether the letters were removed by hand or eventually just fell to the floor will likely remain a mystery). Curiously the ever-present Rug Doctor section that is usually out in the open somewhere on the sales floor of stores has taken up residence in the old one hour photo section- perhaps to fill the empty space?

Now it’s time to ponder what happens. Acme currently has this market (Red Bank?) covered- in addition to this and the Tinton Falls locations, there are great little stores in Fair Haven and Little Silver as well as the gorgeous Lincroft store all within an approximate ten minute drive. Competition is scarce: 
- Trader Joe’s within walking distance (almost right across Route 35) 
- A Stop & Shop in Middletown, a Foodtown and a super busy Whole Foods in Red Bank (although the latter is referred to by the company as being located in Middletown), all immediately to the north 
 -ShopRite to the east in West Long Branch 
- A very nice Foodtown that seems to survive despite a Wegmans probably a mile or so down the road, both to the south in Ocean (home to the former Seaview Square Acme) 

Crazy as it sounds, that’s not a lot of grocery stores in a populated part of suburban New Jersey, especially since few of these are very close to one of the aforementioned Acme stores. The company doesn’t need this location but in their “Getting Better Every Day!” blog a company representative clearly stated there is no plan to close this one when someone posed the question about having two stores in the same area. That being the case, what’s the deal? Is Acme not allowed to announce any closures right now? Does the company have a ridiculously good lease for this site? After all, the company was known for very long, very favorable leases on many of its older locations (in the area of 40 or 50 years), so maybe it still has a decade or so left on this one and doesn’t want to allow room for competition in the area? Or is there a plan to pour some money into this one? The latter is doubtful as it’s widely assumed that when Acme’s lease on this site expires, the store will close and the new Tinton Falls store will essentially take its place. It seems customers have already picked up on this. At a time of day when grocery stores normally see an influx of customers on their way home, the Tinton Falls Acme was quite busy while the Shrewsbury Acme had employees that outnumbered its customers- this despite the latter’s location in a strip mall with other stores that are often big draws. The Tinton Falls store is larger, newer and has a pharmacy- something Shrewsbury can likely never have because of it being adjacent to a CVS. So while we say hello to a new Acme, it might also be about time to say goodbye to another.

Well, the time to say goodbye to Shrewsbury is finally here. The classic store will close on or before April 28. For previous coverage of the store, please click here. 


  1. The sign thing is kind of similar to the Milltown Acme, where the store (and in that case 4 or 5 smaller spaces) are in their own part of the lot, and while connected to the rest of the stores (including Target and many smaller storefronts) are not really considered part of the same plaza.

    There are two other thoughts, though:

    1. It wouldn't have been that hard (seemingly) to give the supports a coat of paint while changing the sign out. But then again, since they couldn't do that with the pharmacy sign either (paint, that is)...
    2. From the way it looks, one has to wonder what happened to the Sonic sign to bend it, since there doesn't look to be any way anything would have gotten close to it?

    1. I would guess storm damage or the people installing it bent it. The latter is way too common an occurrence.

  2. I said this before and I'll say it again. The stores that got the first Fresh remodel look way too much like older Stop & Shop stores for their own good. Looks like Woodland Park on the inside.

    1. I don't see that at all. Are there any pictures of the Woodland Park store on the web?

    2. I don't know. But the decor package, at least, reminded me of that store.

      The Wayne store had it too but I really don't remember how that was laid out.

  3. Someone should look into the injustice being done to the employees from the Tinton Falls Acme. They are being told that they are being moved to alternate locations and cannot remain in this store. WHY is the question? Where is their union protection? Their store is not closing yet they are being pis placed. This is unprecedented No one is protecting their rights. Please look into this very bad situation.

    1. It may be due to the store absorbing the employees from the soon-to-be-closed Shrewsbury Acme.

  4. Lets not forget that acme kept over half the emloyees when a&p went out of business. So for acme to take care of there legacy employees is the right thing. Anyone complaining that they have to drive further or say its not fair, just think about the thousands of workers that a&p failed.