When Rob and Pumpkin Auerbach opened the first Rainbow Blossom in Louisville in 1977, terminology like organic, gluten-free and all natural didn’t exist at the grocery store. Most people just called foods that were whole grain, fruit juice sweetened or minimally processed “health food.”
Now, 40 years later, Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market & Wellness Center has expanded to five locations and is going strong, thriving in the age of heightened consumer awareness and green living.
The store is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Sunday, April 9, with an event geared toward giving thanks to its devoted customers.
Summer Auerbach, Rob and Pumpkin’s daughter, now runs the operations and has added a wellness center to the myriad of offerings the store provides Kentuckiana residents.
Summer credits her parents’ commitment to the vegetarian lifestyle and expanding their worldview as the two main reasons they took the first brave step to open a health food store in Kentucky in the late ’70s.
“My parents spent a lot of time traveling around the country in their Volkswagen van before they moved back to Louisville,” she tells Insider. “My mom lived on Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in 1969 and worked at a free clinic. My mind was blown when I found out that her roommate invented Love Burgers, one of the first veggie burgers on the market that was a dietary staple of mine growing up.”
She says her parents recognized the need and opportunity for a store like Rainbow Blossom, although it wasn’t easy in the early days to get people on board. In fact, when it first opened, it was partly a restaurant, and the store mostly sold items that were used in the restaurant that Rob and Pumpkin bought in bulk and packaged into smaller amounts.
“If they knew how hard the first few years would have been, I’m not sure they would have made the leap,” she says. “They ended up finding an unlikely niche catering to major rock ‘n’ roll bands that came through town, and that carried the business for a few years until the retail side picked up.”
Summer moved back home in the early 2000s to help out with the business, and she’s been working behind the scenes ever since. She took over the operations in 2004 after Rob was diagnosed with cancer. She says it’s hard to fathom the store is celebrating such a huge milestone.
“Forty years is really hard for me to believe because it is older than I am,” she says. “When I moved home to help out with the family business, we were celebrating our 27th anniversary. The craziest thing to me is that I have been running a business for 13 years. That is almost a third of its history!”
She’s also an active member of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) and continues to steer Rainbow Blossom on a successful path.
“For now, I’m focusing on short- and medium-term projects that help us diversify and stay relevant in an ever-changing industry,” she says.
One of those projects was the aforementioned wellness center, and the store also has implemented a wholesale program in which it helps restaurants, nonprofits and small businesses acquire its food at a wholesale price without having to meet minimums. And she’s always on the lookout for new opportunities.
“I’m so invested in LIBA that I can’t imagine expanding outside the Louisville MSA, but I’m certainly open to some new locations in underserved areas of the metropolis,” she adds.
Sunday’s party runs from noon-4 p.m. at the St. Matthews store on 3738 Lexington Road. Along with numerous local vendors on hand, there will be free samples, raffles, a farmers market, drum circles and much more.
But before a toast is raised, Summer took a few minutes to answer some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
I’ve always wanted to buy a ’round-the-world ticket and spend a year traveling.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
My room was practically wallpapered in posters. I had a “Kurt corner” that was all posters of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I also had posters of Sonic Youth, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Pearl Jam.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Pineapple, banana peppers and pepperoni
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
My mid-20s were a lot of fun.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
Jennifer Grey — before she got plastic surgery.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
Getting stuck in an elevator sounds pretty terrible, but being stuck in an elevator with Michelle Obama doesn’t sound that bad.