Rainbow Blossom is a grocery store bathed in good food, good lighting and good vibes. And in the center of it all is Summer Auerbach, a light in the Louisville business community, who is constantly curious and dedicated to promoting and connecting everyone. Rainbow Blossom is much more than a natural food market; it is a community. And while Summer never intended to be at the center of this local business run by her family, she has definitely made it her own. Today, we welcome her as our FACES of Louisville feature.
How long have you have been at the helm of Rainbow Blossom? Give us a little background on how you unintentionally started in this business.
I’ve been in this position for 11 years. I graduated from college in 2004. At the same time, my dad came down with a life-threatening illness and two national grocery chains came to town, which threatened the viability of our business. Overnight, we lost 50 percent of our sales. The store had always been a place of comfort and a hub of activity; I spent most of my time after school at the store, and most everyone that was in my life had a place in the store, whether as a customer or an employee. When I came back, the store seemed deflated and lifeless, and it was a constant reminder of my dad’s health and the insecurity of the store’s future. I agreed to stay for a few months to help out in a pinch, but once I got settled, I realized that leaving wasn’t an option.
Today, we’ve grown to five locations, and it is hard to imagine how my life would have turned out if I had taken a different fork in the road.
Why is Rainbow Blossom so much more than just a grocery store?
We’re committed to not just being engaged in the community, but to creating community. It is always a big part of who we are and what we do. We host events and a farmers market at our store, and we are constantly trying to make connections with natural practitioners and our customers.
Give us the spectrum of everything Rainbow Blossom does and offers.
We sell groceries and health and beauty vitamins and supplements, but I really feel like we are also selling an experience. We have a really friendly and knowledgeable staff. Sometimes people want me to make recommendations because they think I know more, but I’m always insisting that some of my staff are way better trained than I am at this point, because they are always attending trainings and learning more. We also have educational theme weeks, where we have a whole cluster of events around a particular theme. On any given month, we’ll have at least a dozen events, and we have a farmers market at our St. Matthews Market every Sunday from May through October from noon to 4 p.m.
What are some misconceptions about the organic food/grocery industry?
I think there is some consumer confusion around product standards and terminology. We have lots of competitors that market themselves as “organic,” “local” and “healthy” supermarkets, but the vast majority of their produce sections are made of conventional produce that is no different than you would buy at any other grocery store. We always take the high road with our product standards, and there isn’t a greater selection of certified organic and local produce than we have at our stores.
Along those same lines, there is confusion between the difference between local and organic. Being locally grown does not make a product organic, and there are plenty of products that meet our ethical standards that don’t meet our ingredient standards. For example, pasture-raised local pork meets our quality standards, but if the pork is used to make a sausage that contains preservatives or nitrates, we still wouldn’t sell it because it doesn’t meet our ingredient standards.
We have an 11-page document that outlines product ingredients and whether or not they are acceptable in our stores.
What is on the horizon for Rainbow Blossom?
Lots! We’ve just launched a corporate wellness program, and we are working on a private label for some of our local products. We’ve also started a wholesale buying program for local businesses and nonprofits, which helps businesses acquire high-quality items in bulk at a competitive price.
Full honesty here: Do you ever eat processed food? Junk food? Fast food? What’s your dirty secret?
I don’t eat fast food, but we do eat out a lot, and I wouldn’t always consider those to be healthy choices.
If you could have any other career, what would it be and why?
I love looking at houses and buildings, so I always thought that I would make a good realtor. I also plan a lot of events in a volunteer capacity, so I always thought I’d be a good event planner, but I don’t think I could give up my nights and weekends.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I hate networking. I’m a very social and extroverted person, and I love meeting people, but I don’t enjoy networking, and generally just talking, making small talk with strangers. I especially loathe having to go up and introduce myself to a stranger without being introduced by someone else.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
I never have the same day or week. It is literally different every day, which I find to be very enjoyable. I love freedom from routine.
Who are your mentors and what advice do you treasure?
My grandmother (Minx Auerbach) was definitely my mentor. She always pushed me to be a leader and really saw more potential in me than I ever saw in myself. She’d always say “I never started my career until my kids were grown; imagine what you could accomplish if you started now.” She encouraged me to get on boards and taught me to not be shy about fundraising. Truly, I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for my age, and I always attribute that to my grandmother’s prodding.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my___.
Calendar overflowing. I tend to schedule out every last minute of my life.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
I try to see as much live music as possible, so if there is a good show going on, you’ll probably find me there.
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand and Vietnam.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Walk the loop at Cherokee Park when the weather is nice. I also love WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday.
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
Definitely night owl. I get increasingly productive the later it gets. I don’t get a lot of quiet time, but when I do, I just like to chill out and not talk. I talk all day for my job, and sometimes I just want to come home and not have to think about anything.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle.
Lightning round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: I almost never eat them, but I love Fritos.
- Guilty pleasure song: Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”
- Tearjerker movie pick: Boyhood
- Standby nail polish color: Taking an hour to pick out my polish color is half of the fun.
- Favorite cocktail: Old-fashioned
- Cartoon alter-ego: I always loved the princess in Super Mario Brothers 2.
To read our profile on Rainbow Blossom, click here.
Thank you to KentuckyOne Health, our underwriter for FACES of Louisville.
As always, much gratitude to our FACES photographer, Adele Reding, for her fantastic work. Visit her website at adeleredingphotography.com.