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Rainbow Fulfillment: Charleston’s Modern Milkman

Rainbow Owners

Rainbow Packaging Corporation came together out of a need for delivery access of local produce and farm goods during the pandemic, with a focus on quality, value and service as the cornerstone.
It all began due to the inability of people to gather in a crowded space to socialize or shop. That was in May of 2020, and the business is going strong almost four years later, with ever increasing sales. Owners John Rector, a native of Charleston and Jim Reilly from Long Island, describe their early days.

“We started with 10 boxes of peaches,” said Reilly, of his request to Elliott Shuler of Shuler Peach out of Ridgeville, S.C. “After the second delivery of 10 cases I asked when the end of the peach season would be. ‘By then I want to order 100 cases.’ He looked at me like I had two heads!” We did end up ordering 100 cases.

“Shuler introduced us to Sidi Limehouse of Rosebank Farms, supplying us with John’s Island tomatoes and we were off and running,” said Reilly. To date they have sold 20,000 boxes of produce at an average of 45 boxes a day. Rainbow relies on Limehouse Produce Company to supply vegetables off season, because they receive Limehouse Produce from all over the country, regionally and locally.

In order to supply their customers with a variety of local produce and eggs, they needed to build relationships with the growers, some of which have been in the area for more than 70 years. Sidi Limehouse of Rosebank trained John for a year and a half on the intricacies of the produce, how it is farmed, and the seasonal schedule of availability. The freshness and quality of local produce and eggs cannot compare to the grocery store. Typically, from the farms to Rainbow a timeline is 3 days. “We  deliver seven days a week and on holidays,” says Reilly. For grocery stores, it takes up to 12 days for product to be delivered to the chain warehouse and shipped to the local stores. And in most cases, it is not local.

The customer base includes individual and family residential deliveries, delivered within a 25 mile radius. John and Jim actually know many of the customers they supply. Seniors, people who can’t go to the store, and others greet them as they arrive. Kids yell out to their mothers that the “Rainbow guy is here!” They take the boxes inside for older people, and welcome the daily interaction. As Rector points out, “we’re like the modern milkman.”

Operational details are done through Shopify online. Smart phones are used to manage the purchase and deliveries. Their fulfillment space is about 700 square feet and they both deliver the goods in economy cars. The Shopify system even optimizes their delivery route as efficiently as possible. Everything is digitized from customer point of sale to delivery. Prices are comparable to the grocery store, but with Rainbow there is free delivery of the local farm fresh produce right to the door.

Rainbow offers daily deals and different box arrangements and a la carte items for smaller quantity choices, as well as eggs from Storey Farms on Johns Island. Locally popular Charleston Seasoning Products are in the inventory too, including Edisto Hot Honey, Hot Sauce, and Charleston Seasoning. Newer products are offered as a free item to allow for customers to try, such as Ghost Grow 843 micro greens, often with recipes to entice people to try them.

According to co-founder Rector, initially, like most start-ups, they felt like they “were in the middle of a tornado,” the demand for their service was so high. “People were utterly grateful then, and they still are, and often thank us on their digital order forms and in person.”


Susan Nefzger

A seasoned PR pro and food photographer, Susan is an inspirational writer who travels the world planning her trips by dining reservations. She started the GA Lottery in the 90’s and turned to food watching Public TV with Jacques Pepin, Natalie Dupree and The Frugal Gourmet. She is an accomplished home cook and lover of all cuisines.



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