With the rest of University City still slumbering before the break of dawn, one corner at 40th and Walnut streets came to life Friday at 6 a.m., with over a hundred Penn students and Philadelphia residents lining up for the Acme Markets’ grand opening.
Many Penn students and West Philadelphia residents said they were not only pleasantly surprised by the free giveaways and promotions but also at the quality of produce and general aesthetic of the store. Some Penn students and local residents, however, thought the prices were not very affordable, while others said the prices were cheaper than they had expected.
For local resident Ashley Iwu, the opening of the store nicely coincided with her recent move to West Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. Iwu said the store exceeded her expectations, praising the layout and cleanliness of the store.
Engineering junior Claudia Zhu agreed, comparing Acme to The Fresh Grocer’s notoriety for its health violations, which included rodent and insect activity and foodborne illness risk factors. Zhu, however, said the prices are much higher than those at The Fresh Grocer.
Iwu added that were it not for the promotions and sales, the prices would be too steep, and she would choose to shop elsewhere.
“It’s not the most affordable, but it’s definitely a good price to start with,” Iwu said. “The other places might have better prices but some of the prices are pretty decent.”
The supermarket, which replaced The Fresh Grocer after its closure in March, gave its first 200 to 250 customers $50 worth of groceries for free as one of many exclusive opening-week promotions. Other promotions include bags of vegetables and fruits called “buck-a-bags,” which will only cost $1 for the first week. Customers can also buy any grande size drink at the in-store Starbucks for $2 and get one free tall coffee with any one-pound bag of coffee beans, for the first two weeks after opening.
Both Penn students and local residents said that they are most satisfied with the convenience of the store’s location, previously having had to trek many blocks to the nearest grocery store.
“I live on 40th and Spruce, so I’ve been having to trek all the way to Heirloom or go to Trader Joe's which is kind of inconvenient just for simple stuff," Wharton sophomore Niki Miles said.
Giant Heirloom Markets is located at 34th and Chestnut streets, while Trader Joe's is located at 22nd and Market streets.
For West Philadelphia resident Pat Pearson, who praised the various promotions and affordability of the items, the store’s location also saves her valuable money and time. She described the convenience as “a treat.”
“If you live around here, we had to go really far to certain stores, and even though there was another market around, it didn’t carry really all of what you can find here so it’s really good,” Pearson said. “It was hard because I was going out all the way to 69th Street and getting my stuff and coming back."
She added that the free $50 worth of groceries was a pleasant surprise that will benefit herself and her grandchildren.
During the online semester, while campus is closed and in-person events are scarce, Acme’s grand opening was one of few anticipated events for Penn students living near campus. Students who waited in line to check out Acme’s amenities at 6 a.m. said they simply wanted to see what the store looked like brand new and take advantage of the opportunity to explore its amenities with friends.
Miles described herself as an early riser and so decided to stop by Acme before the start of her busy day. She said she was shocked to see about a hundred other students and local residents at the store browsing the aisles alongside her at 6 a.m.
“I thought I was the only crazy person who would [come to the grand opening at 6 a.m.] and then there were free groceries, and I didn’t even know about that,” Miles said.
Wharton and Engineering junior Robin Tan said that he decided to wake up early to visit Acme, because he wanted to be able to say that he was one of the first Penn students to buy certain items at the store.
“I came for the clout,” Tan said.
Ricardo Dimarzio, produce sales manager for Acme, said he did not expect to see such a large number of Penn students and local residents waiting outside the store’s doors before 6 a.m.
“Seeing the kids here at 6 a.m. when we opened up was pretty shocking, but it seems like it’s a lot of bright, wide eyes,” he said. “People were really shocked how the place looks really nice, and [we received] a lot of compliments, and they are shopping which is great.”
The supermarket features a variety of take-out stations including sushi and poke bowl, Asian hot eats, focaccia pizza, and BBQ. The Walnut Street location also boats Acme's first-ever Sally the Robot salad station, at which customers can input their salad preferences onto a touch screen, prompting the machine to make the salad accordingly. The store, which will operate daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., also has a bakery, seafood section, beer and wine section, and an in-store Starbucks.
“It’s so nice, and the prices seem okay, and it seems like a great place that’s close by, so I’m excited to shop here weekly,” Miles said.