The Examiner Retailer
WHOLESALE GROCERY FIRM ESTABLISHES BUYING CLUB
Rainbow Stores, Newly Organized S. F. Buying Body, to Begin Operation in Few Days
Expansion Throughout East Bay, Northern and Central California Planned by Backers V. Traverso Co.
Now Has 150 Stores Under ColorsRead the Article
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The Traverso family had first entered the food business in 1902, when Victor (Vittorio) Traverso, Sr., opened a grocery store in North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood.
Over the next twenty years, however, chain stores transformed the grocery business. In the chain store system, a central organization operated stores that offered the same products – usually national brands like Armour meats or Schilling spices – at standardized and significantly lower prices than independent grocers (usually around 10 percent lower). Chain stores also displayed those products in almost identical fashion at every store, so a consumer could enter any Safeway, for example, which was founded in southern California in 1914, and know exactly what s/he could find and where in the store it was located.
A common defense against the incursion of chain stores can be found in the example of the Traverso brothers. Founded in 1922, V. Traverso Co. was the first communal grocer in San Francisco. It operated under the insignia Rainbow Stores (not related to the Rainbow Grocery now existing in San Francisco). Individual grocers remained independently owned, but membership in Rainbow Stores guaranteed access to national brands at discounted prices.
Within six years, 150 Rainbow Stores operated in San Francisco alone. By 1928 V. Traverso Co.’s headquarters and warehouse had also relocated from a small storefront on Washington Street, just outside North Beach, to a larger space on Pacific Avenue that was strategically located next to Libby, McNeill & Libby and Swift & Co. facilities, and across the street from the Colombo vegetable market. In 1944, V. Traverso Co. upgraded again, this time to 1050 Battery Street and again marking the company’s continued growth in the local grocery market. The membership of record grew to 381 independent grocers from Watsonville to Larkspur.