Inside, there's a bit of graphic design that's been an enigma to me since childhood: the back of the ACME sign is deconstructed into a graphic that hints at but isn't a reverse image of the ACME logo. I've always wondered just how hard a sell it was for the designers to convince the client to buy that large illuminated sign twice; first, a readable version for the outside, and then another version that doesn't say anything at all for the inside. (If you have any information on the designer of the interior sign, please email me. I suspect that it was designed by Ellsworth Kelly, who did a similar architectural sculpture for the Greyhound bus terminal in Philadelphia at about the same time.)
This particular Acme, in Parkesburg, PA opened in 1969, and closed in May
of 2003; its last major renovation was in 1988. Probably at that time, sliding
half-silvered mirrors that separated the back of the house from the open
refrigerator cases around the perimeter of the front of the house were removed.
On the customer side, the mirrors gave the illusion of even more bounty,
on the service side they allowed the staff to see when meat and produce needed
to be replenished; a standard for that prototype in the 50s and 60s.
There are a number of reasons why this store couldn't be built today. While it was quite large for its time, today shoppers expect more variety, and that requires more space. More space means a larger footprint, and that means that a single peaked roof would be several stories high. That much volume would cost a lot to heat. Instead we now have the flat roof, steel truss version of "big box" retail: the days of soaring ceilings for a mere grocery store are over. More modern (and efficient) ways of designing HVAC systems wouldn't allow for such a simple, uncluttered exposed ceiling anyway. Eight different custom shapes of large glass for a single storefront? Two sizes should be plenty. Brick? Both for the outside, and the vestibule? You must be kidding.
It's still a pity to see such an honest building fall to changing times and more modern marketing strategies, especially since it didn't get modernized to keep up with the latest trend in commercial architecture. Parkesburg didn't need that kind of change for change's sake. I suppose it will eventually get re-purposed, and the high ceiling covered by a more modern drop ceiling. Why would you want to see exposed structure and fluorescent tubes when you can have a nice horizontal 2' X 4' grid? Surely the sign, inside and out, will go immediately.
All text and images © 2003 by Alan R. Turner.