A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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Andrew T.
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A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Post by Andrew T. » 29 Oct 2007 15:29

Is anyone familiar with the background on a grocery chain in the southwest Virginia/southern West Virginia area called Acme Markets? I believe this was a different Acme from the Ohio- or Pennsylvania-based chains of the same name.

Speaking firsthand, I wasn't familiar with Acme until the early '90s, when they acquired a number of local grocery stores and chains (such as Allen's and Big A Food Center, aka "A-Mart") and ultimately re-branded the stores as their own. I suspect that they might have operated only in Virginia before then, although I'm honestly not sure. In the late '90s, they rivaled Kroger in their omnipresence in this area.

In any case, this chain seems to have gone kaput. I went on a shopping trip to one of the Princeton, WV stores in mid-2002, and noticed that the shelves were about one-third empty. An employee nonchalantly remarked that the store was "refinancing" as though that were a routine activity, but all the Acme stores seemed to close within a few months of that.

Here's a local newspaper ad from September 1983...unfortunately, no locations are given on the page. Note also that they sold Red & White products at the time:

Image
(click to enlarge)

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Post by krogerclerk » 29 Oct 2007 23:13

I recall an Acme in Wytheville, VA in the late 70's. I remembered it's name being the same as the supplier of the Coyote in the Warner Bros. Roadrunner shorts and it always stood out to me. I wanted to go in and see if it sold the "gizmos and gadgets" that the coyote ordered, I was probably 10 or 11. I'm pretty sure this is the same chain, and the store was still there in the early 90's. I seem to recall they were having financial difficulties in the early 90's and had somehow come to be under the same ownership as the Community Cash grocery chain in the Greenville-Spartanburg/Upstate South Carolina area, which went under around around 92 or so. I believe another chain in the Fayetteville, NC area was also involved the financial crunch of the early 90's. I'm surprised they survived until 2002. I believe most of the stores of the three chains were castoffs of chains that had left or relocated to more modern locations.

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Post by Andrew T. » 30 Oct 2007 00:00

Hi krogerclerk,

Wytheville, Virginia is just south of where I live, so I'm sure it would have been the same chain. I actually didn't think to make the connection to the other Acme company of Road Runner fame at the time, although I did think of it as an odd name for a store!

Here's their '90s era logo, scanned in from a grocery sack I just happened to have next to me:

Image

A lot of onetime-Acmes in the area have reverted to independent grocery stores, while others remain empty and still others have been converted to other ventures: The Beckley, WV store on Route 19 is now a Schewel's furniture store, for example.

rich
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Post by rich » 30 Oct 2007 00:23

It's interesting that the typeface they use in the ad you posted is much like the o9ne that Philadelphia Acme used in the 50s.

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Acme Markets Of West Va

Post by maynesG » 30 Oct 2007 16:06

Acme Markets of Philadelphia had stores in West Va and in Va until the early 1980!s as part of its Baltimore Division. In fact on the front cover of the current Eastern Shore contract book with local 27 it spells out that if Acme goes ba
.ck into these areas that these stores would fall under this contract.
The ad sure looks like an Acme Markets ad of the 19801s in Philadelphia. Today, only nine stores of this division are still opperated by Acme
Most of the Eastern Shore group was supplied by Acmes Kearny N.J. warehouse as I remember the Va stores were supplied by a wholesaler out of Richmond , Perhaps that is why the Red & White Label.
is seen in that ad.

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Post by Andrew T. » 31 Oct 2007 10:43

How confusing! If fascinating...

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Post by krogerclerk » 31 Oct 2007 20:45

Everything I've read indicates there was no relation between this Acme and the Philadelphia Acme, dispite having stores withing the same states, Virginia and West Virginia with a few hours drive of each other. They likely developed similarly to the Landover, MD Giant and Carlisle,PA Giant chains being relatively close to one another, though Giant-PA uses the Martin's banner in markets closest to Giant-MD's Washington, DC base, though they are now both units of Ahold.

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Post by drpep » 31 Oct 2007 21:18

There are also Acme stores in the Akron, Ohio area. http://www.acmestores.com

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Post by jimbobga » 01 Nov 2007 11:17

Southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia had a lot more population in 1940 and 1950 due to coal mining. There were also a variety of grocery chains in the area at that time. While Acme may have been a big name in the northeast, the VA/WV stores were a small chain headquartered in North Tazewell, Virginia. By the mid-fifties Acme stores were located in "downtown" North Tazewell between the river and the railroad; the Bluefield store was located west of downtown at the intersection of US 19/460 and US 52 where the Bluefield Daily Telegraph offices are located today. The Princeton store opened in the very early sixties, and was located about a block off Courthouse Square, and this building, which still stands, seems to have branded Acme, BigA, Allen's, and then Acme again. In the mid-sixties, Acme built Westgate Shopping Center in South Bluefield. The shopping center almost straddled the VA/WV state line, and contained Acme, their 'new' AMart discount store, and an S&H Green Stamps store. I remember ads listing a store in Beckley, and at one time there was a store in Welch, WV, but a family member tells me it burned in the mid-fifties. In the late sixties, Acme joined Hills and GC Murphy in the wierdly-named BluePrince Plaza located midway between Bluefield and Princeton in the Green Valley community.

The Acme name seemed to disappear in the early seventies, and many of these stores were renamed Allen's or Grant's. The newspaper advertisements of the day co-branded these stores. The Wytheville store may have been a part of this group. In the mid-eighties, the Allen's/Grant's stores were rebranded Acme. The stores were in downtown Princeton, east of Princeton at the Athens cut-off, and on highway 20 in the Glenwood community. While the 50's version had some sort of appeal, the eighties version didn't, as it seemed to rely heavily on Red & White and some other off-brand merchandise.

In addition to Acme, the coalfields were also home to other local chains, including Deskins, with stores in Bluefield, Green Valley, Bluewell, Welch, and English, WV, and North Tazewell, Richlands, and Grundy, VA; and Jones and Spry, with stores in Kimball, War, Squire, and Jolo, WV. These stores competed with Kroger and A&P throughout the coalfields, as well as with the remnants of the "company stores," which morphed into quasi-grocery chains such as Island Creek Stores and Union Supply [Poca Fuel] Stores.

Originally from Keystone, WV, I'm in the Bluefield area a couple of times of year. If you want to take a road trip to see the former locations of these stores, we could easily have a day-long "used-to-be" tour.

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Post by Andrew T. » 01 Nov 2007 12:40

So that's the explanation for this local, otherwise little-known chain! Wow, all of a sudden everything makes sense.

I hadn't fully put the connection between Acme, Allen's, Grant's, and Big A together before, or known that they started shuffling around the brands quite a few years before I thought they did: The perils of being born in the mid-1980s, I guess. Oh well; I always liked the big plastic banana and grape moldings that used to be above the produce department in the east Princeton Allen's store!

Deskins is still around AFAIK, although most of the other names you mentioned seem to have disappeared into the sunset years ago.

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Re: Acme Markets Of West Va

Post by sbtinme » 08 Aug 2008 08:59

maynesG wrote:Acme Markets of Philadelphia had stores in West Va and in Va until the early 1980!s as part of its Baltimore Division.
There may well have been PHL Acme stores in Delmarva, at some point. However, it sounds as if the claim above is stating that ACME was also in Appalachia and WV! I have tremendous doubts about the legitimacy of this claim. I was in several of the BIG As and Acmes in Appalachia in the very early 1990s and then also in the Pennsylvania ACMEs a year later and I'm reasonably confident in stating that the two had absolutely no correlation whatsoever.

The Appalachia group was cobbled together with very dated stores of wildly varying sizes and appearances. Some small, some fairly large. Dated equipment and loose management -- in my estimation.

The PHL Acme stores were surely dated, but operated on a much tighter management style and had a thoroughly corporate feel about them.

Why on earth would ACME have operated stores in such varying conditions, used different logos for their storefronts, and used different private label suppliers across state lines?? It just doesn't add up. Unless there's a detail I'm not familiar with here, these chains were in NO way connected.

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Re: A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Post by maynesG » 08 Aug 2008 18:31

Hi, Such annimosity, If the person from West Virgina says these were not connected to the Acme Markets in Philadelphia I belive him now, I believed him months ago when he did post them. I found it interesting and verry much fun just like a good detective story,that this mystery was solved. This said, Acme did run stores to the verry end of Delmarva, they also ran stores in west Virgina, I have worked for Acme for over twenty Five Years and have run into
people who transfered into The Eastern Shore from there
Yes ! Acme has always ran their bigest and best stores in the Philadelphia market. But as any one in this business knows that up to five years ago in Markets other then Philly, Acme ran small ot dated stores generaly known as milking the cow untill she can!T give Milk any
more. Then at that point they close them and pull out of the market.
As far as big philly stores go yes I have b een a Department head in them I also was a Department head in places as the old Centreville MD. Store cir 1949 all four beautiful Aisles of it. Yes it has been replaced by a Super Store and local 27 still has jurisdiction if Acme ever goes back into those states, As far as these particular stores I have never in them or seen them.

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Re: A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Post by sbtinme » 09 Aug 2008 10:32

I'm not trying to interject any animosity into these wonderful historical boards. I am trying to ensure that what I post here is fully accurate. One of the most frustrating things about web bulletin boards is that "information" gets tossed out as declarative fact and that can really lead to even more misinformation.

I, too, have been in or worked in close to 50 ACME of PA stores myself when I worked for Kraft Foods and based in both Baltimore and, later, Harrisburg, PA. Yes, I've seen the old, ancient Acme stores in places like Sayre, Milton, Atlas, Pottsville in PA and also the now closed ones in places like Pen Yan, Watkins Glen, and Hornell in NY. I knew them well. They resembled in NO WAY the much smaller, much more loosely run Acme Stores in Appalachia.

I have no idea if Acme PHL was ever in WV, but if they were, I'd venture a guess that it would've been in the Pittsburgh marketplace in places like Wheeling or Morgantown. (If Acme of PA was never in the Pittsburgh market, then I can't fathom how or why they'd have been in any WV market.) Due to logistics alone, I can imagine no way that Acme of PHL could ever have operated stores in the very tiny and poor towns in the southern mountains of WV.

Additional research this morning bears this out. It seems that the Acme chain in question in this thread was founded in 1887 in Tazewell, VA. And, yep, it is the same small chain that purchased some old Krogers and a Lowe's Food in Fayetteville, NC (now that's just plain odd) back in the late 1990s.

See this link for an old press release on the organization:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... i_57783734

I also was successful in locating one photo of Acme of VA's more recent storefront upgrades. I am unable to determine which location this is (or might have been). Note the very different logo here when compared to Acme of PA's logo. Here's a link:

http://www.frontiernet.net/~manguselectric/acme.gif

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Re: A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Post by maynesG » 09 Aug 2008 15:55

Hey great to hear that their isn!T any animosity and that their is a kinded soul out in maine. But the truth of the matter is Acme of Philadelphia did have stores in West Virgina
at onetime in Berkley and Jefferson Counties. It is to be found as evidence in the Collective
Bargaining Book Local 27 for the Eastern Shore Acme Stores date 9/28/03to 9/27/08.
ATTACE MENT B CONTRACT AREA
State Maryland Fredrick,carrol, BaltimoreHoward,Anne Arundel,KentQueen Annes
Talbot, Caroline,Dorchester,Wicomico, Somerset, Worchester
State of Va North Hampton andAccormack Counties
State of De New Castle south of D.@C Canal Kentand Sussex
State of West Virgina Berkley and jefferson Counties

Even though Acme no longer has stores in many of these places it remains in the contract because they once did and in the event the company should reenter these areas in the future the union wants to retain jurisdiction.
If verification is needed call local 27 and ask to speak with Carl Mays the union president or perhaps I will just break down and spend the money on a new scanner.

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Re: A VA/WV-area Acme Markets chain?

Post by sbtinme » 09 Aug 2008 16:24

State of West Virginia: Berkley and jefferson Counties

Well, now things are beginning to make a little more sense. These two easternmost counties in WV are, effectively, a part of the greater DC market. With stores apparently in the Northern VA and Central MD areas at one time (anyone know when?), this would make more sense that Acme may have had stores in places like Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry WV.

Thanks for taking the time to look up the county names!

And, for the sake of accuracy on this board, one more question: is it possible that Acme may have bought a chain or grouping of stores that had distribution in these areas? OR, is it for certain that Acme absolutely owned and operated stores in these areas at some point? Not being an expert of collective bargaining, I'm not sure if those old clauses could've been amended into the current Acme contract when a smaller regional chain was bought out, say, in 1971. Just wondering.

I'm loosely familiar with other grocery labor contracts whereby the overtaking chain agreed to abide by many of the smaller "takeover" chain's labor agreements -- even when they differed from their own.

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