Mississippi wholefood co-op re-opens after bankruptcy setback

‘We need our shareholders. Without them we’d still be trying to get set up’

Wholefood retailer Rainbow Co-op has re-opened at a new store at Northpark mall in Ridgeland, Mississippi – and celebrates with a grand opening today (18 September). 

The co-op had previously closed its store in the Fondren district of nearby Jackson in July 2018, after filing for bankruptcy.

Rainbow suffered from lost sales and clean-up costs related to flooding and a lack of parking. In recent years, it also faced stiff competition after Whole Foods Market opened a store in Jackson and supermarket chain Kroger expanded its section of natural and organic items.

The co-op dates back to 1976, when three local families started a food-buying club to get better prices on healthy alternatives to fast food. It began trading as Rainbow Whole Foods Co-operative Grocery in May 1980. 

The new Rainbow Co-op is a pared-down version of its former self. “We’ve downsized. We have 2,000 square feet compared to the 8,000 square feet that we once had,” said general manager Patrick Jerome. 

Canned products, frozen food and fresh fruit and vegetables are no longer on offer, with the co-op focusing more offering bulk items, which have proved popular. Shoppers can scoop what they need from containers of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, pasta and coffee – and glass jars of dried herbs, spices and loose teas.

Rainbow trades as a consumer co-operative, which is democratically governed and allows any member of the community to buy ownership and hold rights as a shareholder – for a $75 lifetime joining fee.

Mr Jerome said that members had played an integral role in keeping the co-operative alive, determining its future and setting it up at its new location. “We need our shareholders. Without them we’d still be trying to get set up,” he said.

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