When the New Jersey-based arts and crafts retailer announced it was going out of business in November, I felt one of the threads of my soul snap.
Maybe it’ll be replaced with a Michael’s, but it’s not the same. It feels silly to wax poetic about a corporation, but I have so many dumb and funny and good memories about A.C. Moore. It was a constant in my life as a Hamiltonian, even up to this year.
I spent a lot of time there when I wanted to try painting in middle school, and it was always the first stop for a school project. It was also Hamilton’s premier Book Sox destination. The stretchy textbook covers felt like a necessity, and A.C. Moore was always stocked every August.
A staple of my teen years was crafting with my bud, Nick. We spent hours using the money we made working together at a restaurant and then a summer camp to buy Jolee’s products—the fanciest and therefore priciest stickers we could find—so we could make scrapbooks marking the most important moments in our lives, like day trips to LBI, dressing up like the characters we created in the Rock Band video game and the time we made T-shirts to look like Buzz Lightyear and Woody’s outfits. We spent so many summers walking back and forth from our neighborhood to the Dollar Tree for candy and ice cream, Vito’s for the occasional mozzarella stick and then, finally, A.C. Moore, constantly crafting and decorating and making stupid gifts for each other. I think we had every single aisle memorized.
So I had to go in browse when the store’s going-out-of-business sale started last month. It was renovated a few years ago, but it always retained the smell of foam sheets, paint, Sharpie markers and florals. The shelves were packed with random items, everything on sale, and the store still looked pretty stocked, if a little disheveled.
The Hamilton Plaza, as it’s now known, has undergone serious changes over the last 15 years. Like with A.C. Moore, I think I could navigate the aisles of ShopRite pre-renovation better than I could now. I do still miss Blockbuster and Fezziwig’s a little bit, too—the former was always packed on a Friday night, and the latter was our go-to for a post-Steinert band concert or play performance meal.
The Hamilton I knew as a bespectacled nerd child is so much different than the Hamilton I know as a bespectacled nerd adult. The differences are even starker after moving to Bordentown last year, especially that stretch of Route 33—it has a new business, building or revamped strip of shops every time I drive it. I think it’s changed more in the last five or so years than it did in all of my 25 years as a Hamilton resident.
But I think the same could probably be said by anybody about their hometowns. Consumers’ needs (or what corporate executives perceive as our needs) have changed so much, so businesses will follow. No municipality, especially in New Jersey, looks exactly the same as it did a decade ago.
But it’s weird! Change is weird! It feels strange to even be writing this column. The “soon-to-be defunct” designation on the A.C. Moore Wikipedia page is wild! I’m feeling emotional—though that’s almost certainly due at least in part to the fact that I’ve been blasting “Born to Run” on repeat for the last 20 minutes while writing this.
I miss Fezziwig’s and the old ShopRite bakery aisle by the entrance and trying to pick out a movie to rent with my pals at Blockbuster (“What, you guys don’t want to watch Fellowship of the Ring again? Come on!”). And I will miss A.C. Moore. The Hamilton of my youth is gone, but I’ll always have those memories. And Jolee’s.
Sam Sciarrotta is a native Hamiltonian, and a senior editor at the Hamilton Post.