When Rainbow Blossom, a Louisville-based natural foods store, began playing host to a farmers market every Sunday afternoon, just a few others existed in town. Today, eight years later, their county is home to a whopping 30 farmers markets. But what sets Rainbow Blossom's market apart, according to second-generation owner Summer Auerbach, is the sense of service to both their shoppers and farmer partners.
Here are Auerbach's top three ways a farmers market enhances her store.
"We had always supported local farmers in the store, but hosting a farmers market gives people an opportunity to really develop relationships with the farmers and their food," Auerbach said. By meeting farmers face-to-face, shoppers get to ask questions and receive answers that enhance their knowledge of food and their appreciation of local products.
On vendor relationships.
Part of Auerbach's mission is making sure that her market is easy for the farmers who participate. How does she do it? To start, she doesn't charge a booth fee to the farmers, and she doesn't limit them to only selling products that aren't found on the shelves of Rainbow Blossom.
She also employs a payment system in which shoppers pay for their farmers market purchases at the store's registers inside, using anything from credit cards to food stamps (that is, if they choose not to pay cash outside at the stand). "The farmers keep track of their sales, and we pay them each out at the end of the day for what they've sold," she explained. "It's developed a lot of goodwill because farmers may not accept credit cards, but because we do, they can still make the sale."
On marketing potential.
Of course, by having some shoppers pay in store, Auerbach hopes that they'll supplement their purchase with items from Rainbow Blossom. But even if they don't, she values the service for its marketing potential. "If people are coming to our store and having a great experience on a regular basis, it can only benefit us," she said, "even if they're buying something outside from a farmer that they can get inside."