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TOUR: ACME Markets - University City, Philadelphia, PA

ACME Markets
Opened: 2020
Previous Tenants: The Fresh Grocer (2001-2020)
Location: 4001 Walnut St, University City, Philadelphia, PA
Photographed: December 2021
It's time to tour the newest ACME! This supermarket opened in 2001 as a location of Philadelphia-based The Fresh Grocer, which closed in 2020 after the supermarket's landlord, the University of Pennsylvania, chose not to renew their lease. My guess is that ACME probably saw an opportunity here to jump in, offer more money, and turn this store into one of their flagship locations.
UPenn terminated The Fresh Grocer's lease in 2016 after The Fresh Grocer didn't renew it on time, and announced in 2017 that ACME would be replacing The Fresh Grocer. After a lengthy legal struggle, The Fresh Grocer closed in 2020. ACME renovated the store rather quickly, and from what I remember (I visited The Fresh Grocer around 2015), they totally redid the whole store's interior. The Fresh Grocer was mazelike and dingy, while the new ACME is much more logically laid out and much more open. My Philadelphia source tells me that, while ACME is much more appealing overall than The Fresh Grocer, and the selection is better, she still finds it just as expensive as The Fresh Grocer -- so she sticks with Supremo.
As we will see, this store is packed with ACME personality. But one interesting thing is that they don't seem to be using the modified fish-eye logo anymore. It's not really present anywhere in this store, which is surprising given how prominent it was in the Quality Built remodels.
Our first shot, to give you an overview of the store, is from the second-floor cafe. As we see, the grand aisle with deli/prepared foods and bakery lines the left side of the store, with beer and wine in the first aisle, produce in the second, and the meat/seafood department on the back wall. Dairy is at the right with frozen in the front right corner. A Starbucks is between the entrance and the exit. This store bears more similarities to other new Albertsons stores, such as the Star Market at North Station in Boston, than other ACMEs. And that's not a bad thing.
Here's a look across the front end. If I'm not mistaken, The Fresh Grocer's aisles ran perpendicular to the current layout.
And here's a shot of the first-floor cafe area, with seating reduced for the coronavirus of course. Let's get down on the main floor to check out the new store!
We'll notice of course the same fixtures that are in renovated ACMEs, but with new decor we haven't seen before. It's only made its way into one other Philadelphia store, and even after this store opened we've seen ACMEs getting Quality Built, so it doesn't appear that this decor package is to replace Quality Built entirely (yet?).
Kitchen and Deli line the left side wall. I was here towards the end of the day, so most of the prepared foods selections were cleaned out. In addition to the usual sushi and hot food, there's also an Asian hot food bar next to the sushi counter and a few other prepared foods items (likely designed for the college students nearby) that we don't see in other ACMEs.
And here's a look over towards the cafe in the front corner. My first few pictures from the second floor were from right about where that arrow points.
And here's a look at the deli behind the Kitchen. Very nice decor! I just wish it were better lit (the lettering needs to be backlit to really stand out).
Here's the bakery on the back wall, in the back left corner of the store. I'm not sure how ACME's services and special features compare to what The Fresh Grocer had, but judging by my visits to other Burns Fresh Grocers (Burns being the family that owned this location), it's probably fairly similar.
Very attractive beer and wine aisle. We might notice that this store is a bit more cramped than the North Station Star Market and other new Albertsons stores, but that's because it's not a very large store. It's just under 35,000 square feet, so it's actually rather small.
And here we are in the produce department, which is in what amounts to the third aisle, if we consider the deli department to be the first aisle and liquor to be the second aisle.
I love this signage at the back of the produce department! As I said, though, the lighting needs to be improved here (as we see, these fixtures are hung too low and the department signage is not specifically illuminated, which I assume is a cost cutting measure).
Looking across the back wall. We can see dairy at the far end behind the guy in the black hoodie here.
The grocery aisles look a little different from other ACMEs, mostly because of the polished concrete floor and high open ceiling (mostly we see white tile floors and drop ceilings).
Here's some great historical photos and other graphics on the back wall in the meat department. Meat gives way to milk in the back right corner of the store...
I think the signage is exceptional here at this end of the store, with the oversized MILK lettering and the Creamery signage lining the last aisle. It's retro, but doesn't feel outdated.
Worth noting that this store also appeared to be rather high-volume, at least at the time of my visit.
To the left in the above picture is the frozen department in the front right corner of the store.
The best part of this department is the large windows, which we get the sense let in a lot of light despite the fact that it was getting dark when I visited.
Very well-done design in this area.
And then we have floral and customer service on the frozen side of the front end, with Starbucks on the deli side of the front end. Well, that wraps up this ACME! I feel obliged to editorialize a little bit: while this does seem like quite a good store, and a well-designed store, it's not a "wow" store. It doesn't feel exceptional, like the North Station Star Market I keep referring to (see here and here). I seem to end up at that store or the Prudential Center Star Market every time I'm in Boston, which is actually fairly frequently because I live part-time in Worcester. I'm not sure if that's just size, or if the Star Market truly is better, but I was honestly expecting better from this store and while it's perfectly adequate (and more than that), it doesn't blow me away. Anyway, this brings us to the end of this group, and tomorrow we'll move on to our next set of Philadelphia neighborhoods!


  1. This is a vast improvement over The Fresh Grocer. I used to stop into this store on occasion in the middle of the night if I needed something they had on sale and was in the neighborhood. Whoever decided on the previous store layout deserved to be fired. I've been to the store up on N Broad St also, which is also dingy and in a rougher area. They were convenient when they were open 24 hours but I now never have reason to visit either one.

  2. If you’re in Philadelphia, you should check out the Giant Riverwalk store on North 23rd St. Normally, Giant is basic, but that is their new flagship store and it’s very nice, with some features you normally don’t see in most supermarkets.

    1. I've really wanted to get to some of the newer Giants in Philadelphia, but unfortunately I haven't. I have visited the new one in Doylestown, which is quite impressive, and a few other newer ones but I hope to get back to Philadelphia to check out the Riverwalk and others, including the Heirlooms.

    2. Riverwalk is a nice store, but in my opinion is only notable for the escalator which carries carts between the store and street level. Multiple times I've bought produce items from their expanded selection, only to find they were already spoiled when we tried to cook them. I only go there if I'm in the neighborhood and need a few things.


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