This story has been updated.
Rainbow Natural Foods, one of the area’s oldest organic grocery stores, is closing after 42 years.
The store is located at North Decatur Plaza, 2118 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, GA 30033.
The company confirmed the news to Decaturish on Friday morning, Jan. 11. The rumors were spreading through the community in the day before the announcement.
“We have always felt that being considered a community Institution by folks in our area is one of the highest compliments Rainbow can receive,” the company said via email. “Yes, Rainbow will be closing for business sometime February.”
An employee who answered the phone on Thursday said the owners are retiring. Tony Castaldi, 64, co-owns the business with Jim Emerson, 86. Castaldi told Decaturish that there were people interested in buying the store, but he said the interest waned when faced with the cost off bringing the building up to code.
“They learned and we learned that any time a business changes in DeKalb County and it’s over 3,500 square foot retail that everything has to be brought up to the current code,” Castaldi said.
He said things like the store’s back dock and and exhaust system over its stoves would have to be improved before the company could reopen under new ownership.
Before Whole Foods and Sprouts, Rainbow Natural Foods was offering customers organic groceries, vegan food options, hard-to-find supplements, and a beloved hot bar.
Creative Loafing wrote an extensive profile of the business in 2016 for Rainbow’s 40th anniversary.
“We started as a business built to be helpful,” General Manager Laura Pallas told Creative Loafing. “We aren’t a flash in the pan. Our success is thanks to long-term people who have kept the consistency of the recipes and have a passion for healthy lifestyles.”
Castaldi said that another reason for the decision to close the business is Pallas’ retirement. He called her, “the face of Rainbow.”
“She really is the person that so many customers just love and adore, quite frankly,” he said. “It’s been so difficult for her.”
Other factors were behind the decision as well. He said when a Sprouts grocery store opened nearby, it cut into Rainbow’s business.
“Now when Sprouts opened, we saw a drop of about 10 percent, which we knew would happen,” Castaldi said.
Still, he held out the possibility that someone could buy the company from him. But it has to be someone serious about making the business work and has the ability to make it happen.
“Rainbow really needs to be reinvented,” Castaldi said. ” … It needs that fresh energy. There’s no question in my mind it could be extremely lucrative for someone, but it’s a mom and pop operation, which for some people that’s an absolute pleasure.”
Leaving before the lease is up for renewal on March 31 also allows the company to make a clean break, he said.
“The concern was if we kept it with Laura leaving and we tried to keep it going … right now everybody comes out whole,” Castaldi said. “The vendors are whole. The vendors get paid. We want to go out with the [reputation] that has made us last 42 years. Some of these stores go out of business and it’s the vendors eating the dirt, the landlord. It’s just not how we do stuff. It never has been.
“It was a concern we might end up in a situation where the best we can do is pay the rent, not that that’s a bad thing. At our age and where we’re at, it’s too big of a risk that we couldn’t see ourselves taking on at this stage.”
Castaldi said he will entertain offers from people interested in taking the store over. He can be reached at: