by Julian Rankin
In Fondren, you can discover it all. This “all under one roof” mentality to the neighborhood is embodied by Rainbow Plaza, which itself takes a holistic approach to caring for its neighbors.
The building houses Rainbow Natural Grocery Cooperative, High Noon Café, The Computer Co-op, Art Minton Realty and Fair Trade Green.
Two of the best ambassadors for this beacon of healthy living are Luke and Charlotte Lundemo. Both have long served as important cogs in the wheel of the Rainbow Natural Grocery Cooperative (Luke is the current CEO) and they are the proprietors of two of the plaza’s prominent businesses, Computer Co-op and Fair Trade Green.
“We’re surrounded by wonderful people,” says Charlotte. “We’re a part of a community of businesses that are unique and pretty special.”
As Luke adds, “the community is what allows Rainbow to exist; it’s not the other way around.”
The couple moved to Fondren in 1998, around the same time that Rainbow Natural Grocery moved into its current building. Computer Co-op, in fact, was the first business to open inside the plaza while the finishing touches were being put on the grocery. “We were supposed to teach a [computer] class,” Charlotte recalls, and “they were scoring concrete out there.”
While the various businesses in the Rainbow Plaza are distinct, they can’t really be separated from one another. They are, in every sense of the word, cooperative. Fair Trade Green, Luke and Charlotte’s most recent retail venture, opened in November of 2009. As Luke explains, “We wanted to see if it was possible to have a business that promoted economic justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual fulfillment – and see if it could survive with that being its primary motive. So far, it’s working.”
He adds that Rainbow Natural Grocery’s whole reason for existence is not to make money but to promote healthy living. Luke says “We really learned the lesson that you can’t do that unless you have a sound business plan and can stay in business.”
The Rainbow Plaza at 2807 Old Canton Road is a community resource specifically tailored to the residents of the neighborhood. This is an especially important distinction with the opening of a branch of Whole Foods on the horizon.
“If we maintain our focus on what’s good for the community, then I think what happens is that Whole Foods becomes an introduction for many people to better eating and better living,” says Luke. “And they will eventually find out about us and say, ‘Well here are people who set the standard even higher.’”
The same serenity and focus with which Luke and Charlotte work also describes the manner in which they met in 1989 at a local meditation group. “I found out that she liked to meditate two hours at a time,” Luke tells me. “And I thought, ‘That’s impressive.’”
You’ll rarely see one of them without the other. “Our goals are the same,” Charlotte says. Those goals include adding to the already prevalent energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the area. “We live, we work and we play in Fondren,” she adds.
It is readily apparent that Luke and Charlotte find fulfillment in being part of the thriving ecology of Fondren. In the dichotomy of the business community, the importance of the individual as part of a collective cannot be overstated.
Luke puts words to it. “We get people all the time coming into Rainbow saying, ‘This is such an oasis. I didn’t think there was anything like this anywhere in Mississippi.’ And that makes us feel really good because it’s the community that created this and sustains it.”
Update: The Lundemos moved to Bali in February 2018. Keep up with their journey at ourlifeafterlife.com.
Original post published March 2013