The first Rainbow store was located on 16th Street near Valencia (where Café Macando now resides)[sic], on what was then considered a “skid row.” Despite the rundown nature of the street, Rainbow’s location turned out to be auspicious as it was close to many neighborhoods populated by counterculture youth. Rainbow quickly became the busiest of the dozen or so community food stores launched in the mid-70s. Besides favorable location, Rainbow’s founders have pointed to the following factors to explain its preeminent performance among the Food System stores:
1) Service-orientation: as an outgrowth of their spiritual community, the ashram members viewed Rainbow as an outlet and opportunity for service to their fellow humans. Many of the more politically-motivated food stores had a disregard or even hostile attitude towards customer service. Even though Rainbow quickly grew to have a majority of workers/volunteers from outside the spiritual community, it retained a greater commitment to service than other stores.
2) Attention to business: While some of the other stores did not value business skills -- or were even suspicious of people attentive to business concerns – Rainbow valued and followed initiatives from those with business skills and/or backgrounds (in the first few years, particularly Bill Crolius, Nancy Crolius, Ryan Sarnataro, Patrick Smith, and Judy Brewer).
3) Superior product selection: Perhaps as a by-product of its commitment to service and its concern for business, Rainbow developed a wide selection of products -- whereas other stores were slow to move beyond bins of whole grains, etc. Rainbow was eager to introduce shoppers to a wide variety of healthy products they might enjoy – rather than operating from strict ideological criteria about what people should eat.
- Pot of Gold: Is California's Revolutionary Rainbow Grocery Supermarket Utopia?
- Worker Co-ops Down by the Bay - in Cooperative Business Journal
image from the Samaras Project