Skip to main content

TOUR: McCaffrey's Food Markets - Princeton, NJ

McCaffrey's Food Markets
Owner: Jim McCaffrey III
Opened: 1992
Cooperative: none
 301 N Harrison St, Princeton, NJ
Photographed: January 2021
Welcome to the town of Princeton, NJ! Its most major attraction, of course, is the second McCaffrey's Food Market here in a 32,000 square foot building in a very strange mall just outside of downtown. Oh, and perhaps a person or who comes to the town for Princeton University, too, I suppose. The university is located right downtown in the center of this beautiful small city of 31,000 people, and this supermarket is about a mile and a quarter northeast of the central town area. Harrison Street intersects with Nassau Street just south of this mall, which then becomes the main thoroughfare through town.
Princeton is decidedly a college town, but it's also a cultural and commercial hub for the area. There's a lot of pharmaceutical business going on outside of the downtown area, and the college naturally serves as an artistic center featuring one of the state's top theaters as well as its own art museum, both of which are highly recommended. In addition to this McCaffrey's, the town of Princeton is served by a Whole Foods (formerly a Pathmark) and a Wegmans both south of town on route 1.
Here's a look at this mall's unusual setup. There are two rows of stores with an anchor at either end, and there's a large grassy concourse in the middle. I'm not sure whether this is very heavily used, as the rear row of stores seemed a bit desolate. But it is definitely attractive, if strange. Parking lots surround the whole setup. McCaffrey's has an entrance facing the parking lot (shown in the first picture and below), and then a second entrance facing this outdoor mall area that takes customers into deli/bakery and the liquor store in the back (shown in the second picture).
We're going to tour the store from the front, starting with produce in the front left corner. We move on to meat in the first aisle, with service seafood and deli on the back wall along with a large prepared foods department. Dairy is actually in the second aisle here, with frozen foods lining the last aisle to the far right of the store.
I don't know if this store was previously another chain (or independent) supermarket before becoming McCaffrey's, but it does look like we've had some remodeling since opening. The polished concrete floor and fixtures here, for instance, look much newer than the 90s.
I'm struggling a little bit to understand the layout of the store with this produce department, which as we see is in the front left corner of the store but only has one entrance to the main supermarket, which you can see under the wall-mounted light to the right in the above photo.
Floral is between the entrance and the front-end area. I assume the area behind the floral department, which does not extend as far back as the rest of the store, is backroom space.
After floral is customer service on the front wall, and the front end beyond it.
The first aisle has packaged meat and produce. It does look like these fixtures are original to the store's opening in the 90s.
But unlike the produce area, it doesn't look like this flooring has been replaced after the original decor package, and it seems to fit in nicely with what's on the walls.
Service butcher in the first aisle here, and I believe the produce department is located behind it. As we can tell, this store is certainly a higher end-positioned store.
Very streamlined dairy department here in the second grocery aisle.
And to really get a sense of the store's upscale positioning, we can see the gigantic service seafood and deli departments extending across the entire back wall of the store. We'll get to the deli area in more detail shortly.
McCaffrey's has again a more upscale positioned center store but we also can see that there's a selection of the basics with Essential Everyday and Wild Harvest storebrand items from UNFI.
Notice the shelving that looks so much like what we see in 90s A&Ps. I do believe that the same design firm was responsible for that era of A&P stores as that era of McCaffrey's, and we'll see more evidence of that at our next McCaffrey's.
Like many of the larger and more upscale stores, there are separate counters for the sliced-to-order deli and salads, shown here, and sandwiches, and prepared foods, and so on.
Lots to choose from and I love the graphics on the walls!
We move on to the back entrance of the store, seen here, with cheese in front of it. The entrance to the cafe on the second floor is in the back here, and liquor and bakery are in the room next to that under the cafe.
Looking back towards the cheese department.
Here we're standing in the liquor store looking out towards cheese.
Beautiful merchandising here! And I love the floor. The bakery department lines the front wall of this section.
For one reason or another, the bakery is the only department to get its own department sign. And clearly this is quite a priority department for McCaffrey's, again like all of the perishables departments.
Frozen foods in the last grocery aisle. As we see, this store is an extremely upscale if a little older supermarket, and has been maintained beautifully. There's barely even a need for renovation here.
And here's a look at the front end before we head out. Tomorrow, we head out a little bit east for our first of two days in Plainsboro, for one store here on The Independent Edition and one over on Grocery Archaeology!


  1. Wasn't this store formerly a department store, like Bambergers?

  2. Years ago, I attempted to locate and pin every old Acme location according to a list I was given, and finding the Princeton store's place in this strange mall was so much of a challenge, my records show I never found an answer. I suppose it's possible it was this building but for some reason I'm inclined to say it's not, perhaps because it's too large for an Acme of the era?

    I'd love to finally get an answer, because there was definitely an Acme in this mall at some point.

    1. Andrew and Rob, those are very interesting questions and I wish I had an answer for you. Rob, take a look at some aerial photos of this mall. There's a clear division of the space that's now McCaffrey's and the rear part of that divide is roughly 18,000 square feet. Does that not put it exactly in the range of 1950s-60s stores? It would be a bizarre setup and an exterior that, admittedly, looks a lot more like a former department store than a former ACME, but no other space in this mall has access to a spot that could be used as loading docks like the back/left half of this McCaffrey's. What do you think?

    2. That's what always confused me, Zachary- the design of the shopping center didn't create many opportunities for traditional loading docks. I know there were grocery stores of the era that didn't have them, so maybe that was the situation here?

  3. The McCaffrey's building indeed started life as a Bamberger's. Per Michael Lisicky's outstanding book on Bamberger's, its Princeton store opened on September 9, 1954 and closed in May 1980 (which obviously was before the chain took the Macy's name on October 5, 1986). In spite of this store's close proximity to the Bamberger's at the Quaker Bridge Mall, the two stores coexisted for four years.

    Not only did the Princeton Bamberger's close in 1980, but that store's lease was transferred to Bamberger's long-time competitor in Morristown, M. Epstein Department Store. Around the same time, Epstein's closed it's Livingston Mall location and Bamberger's relocated its children's department to that space. (I believe that the former Livingston Mall Epstein's-turned-Bamberger's/Macy's annex was located on the mall's second floor, roughly halfway between the Bamberger's/Macy's and Hahne's/Lord & Taylor buildings.) The Livingston Mall Bamberger's was so successful that even after the annex opened, the main store completed an expansion in 1982 that increased its size by about 30%.

    In September 1990, Epstein's relocated its Princeton location from the Princeton Shopping Center to the MarketFair Mall (which is actually in West Windsor, though it has a Princeton mailing address). McCaffrey's opened on the first floor of the former Bamberger's/Epstein's in August 1992. (Per Wikipedia, the building's second floor "has a McCaffrey's eating area and also the locations of a yoga facility, a ballet school for youngsters, and other offices.") Based on the photos Zachary uploaded, the store looks absolutely gorgeous. It somewhat reminds me of Kings, though McCaffrey's seems like a much nicer and better run store.

    While the Bamberger's opened a few months later, both Acme and A&P opened with the Princeton Shopping Center on June 3, 1954. Although I have not verified this, JoshAustin610 stated (on Flickr) that the Acme closed in 1990 and is currently a Walgreens. Josh also stated that the A&P became a Super Fresh in 1983 and closed in 1997; per Josh, that building is now occupied by an Ace Hardware store.

    --A&P Fan

    1. I remember when Epstein's expanded, and I wonder if that's what killed the company? Either that, or greed- I think they saw the opportunity to redevelop their Morristown site and they did, reaping the benefits of residential sales on The Green.

      I really need to get to this shopping center one of these days to poke around. It seems so antiquated- hard to believe Acme hung in there until 1990 and Super Fresh until 1997.

    2. Rob, it's great to see you participate on this blog. Before I continue, I want to thank you for all your contributions to the Acme Style website over the years. (FYI, I had the privilege of participating on Acme Style, although the comments I wrote were under the name of "Max.")

      In response to what you wrote, it's certainly true that the information Josh provides is not always correct. (That said, I don't mean to be critical of Josh in any way, because his Flickr photos and Filckr companion site are absolutely amazing, and I learned so much from all his hard work.) But just to clarify, everything in my original post--except for the last two sentences--was not based on anything Josh wrote. I have found that is a great research tool; the 6/3/54 opening date for both the Acme and A&P can be confirmed by going to the 5/16/54 edition of The Central New Jersey Home News, which is available to subscribers of that website. (To be more accurate, that bit of information was gleaned from The Sunday Times of New Brunswick, which was a predecessor paper to The Central New Jersey Home News.)

      I unfortunately could not ascertain any information (independent of what Josh said) regarding where the Acme and A&P/Super Fresh were located in the Princeton Shopping Center. I also could not determine closing dates for those stores. However, the Acme was still open on November 8, 1986 because that day's edition of The (Daily) Register (of Red Bank, NJ) mentioned that the "Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament" was planning to bus Central New Jersey residents back and forth to "The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament" (held on 11/15/86 in Washington, DC), and that the buses would depart "from the Acme end of the Princeton Shopping Center." Regarding the Super Fresh, I found an employment ad in the May 4, 1995 edition of The Messenger-Press (of Allentown, NJ) for that chain's Princeton store located at North Harrison Street. (While it's possible that Super Fresh relocated elsewhere on North Harrison Street, I don't know where else it could have relocated to, based on modern-day aerial images available on Google Maps.)

      When it comes to Epstein's, I think that what really killed the business was that, sadly, family-owned department stores were becoming a thing of the past. (By the 1990s, even the big department stores were struggling, as consumers were doing more and more of their shopping elsewhere.) The company's expansion certainly didn't help, but I don't think it was among the biggest factors in Epstein's demise. Apart from being a family-owned department store, I think that Epstein's was badly hurt as the result of Macy's closing its Morristown store in 1993; honestly, all of downtown Morristown never recovered from that closure. (And now that Century 21 has shut its doors, much of downtown Morristown resembles a retail ghost town.)

      In 1994, Epstein's closed its three remaining branch locations--at the Somerset Shopping Center (in Bridgewater), The Grove at Shrewsbury, and Princeton's MarketFair Mall--in an attempt to focus all its resources on keeping its Morristown flagship store operating. But in June 2004, the flagship closed for good. (By the way, Josh was incorrect when he wrote that Epstein's Morristown location closed in 2001.)

      While the owners of Epstein's are likely making a lot of money on their residential sales, I don't have any ill will towards that company. Their Morristown flagship was one of the most beautiful stores I've ever shopped at, and their customer service was second to none. They sadly were in a dying business, and that was even before Amazon became a major force in retail. They lasted longer than just about any other family-owned department store (of a similar size), and they likely would have lost a ton of money had they tried to operate for much longer.

      --A&P Fan

    3. As usual, thank you both for your detailed comments! A&P Fan, you'll be happy to know that I have subscribed to, although since I write my posts in advance, you may not see some of the details that I've gotten for a while. Agreed that it is very surprising that ACME and SuperFresh lasted as long as they did here!

    4. Zachary, thanks for letting me know that you subscribed to Hopefully that website will provide you with many hours of enjoyment and tons of fascinating information.

      --A&P Fan


Post a Comment