Curiosity killed the cat: my trip to the Rainbow Outlet in Maplewood

Supervalu tacked the word ‘Outlet’ to their Rainbow in Maplewood. It sucked me in.

So I was driving from an oil change and did a double take when I noticed the Rainbow on White Bear Avenue in Maplewood was still open. There was an ‘outlet’ sign tacked on the windows. My immediate reaction: confusion. What is an outlet grocery store? Do they send all the bruised bananas to this location?

Only 24 hours after my original drive by, I found myself back on White Bear Avenue due to my curiosity about what was inside. Here’s what I found, along with a theory as to why this Rainbow is still open.

  • The store is more depressing than anything. The bank which once greeted shoppers at the entrance has a faux wall in front of it with a display of toilet paper. The bulk nuts section is gone, too; in it’s place, a wall stocked with paper towels. The coolers in the meat department are well stocked with Super Chill soda. The bakery looked like a scene from The Walking Dead with no hours posted on the sign still on the wall. They didn’t bother to rip it down.
  • I did find a couple deals, but nothing to qualify it as an outlet. Bananas are $.57/pound, so nothing outrageous. There were some non-perishables on sale, but it wasn’t anything worth a drive out of the way. There is an elaborate dollar section with plenty of knock-off brand items. It’s bigger than the entire produce section.
  • It’s quiet. Beyond the registers, I saw maybe one other employee in the entire store. The bakery lights were off. The deli looked like it still functions, but I didn’t see anyone working back there. There were maybe 10 shoppers in the store.
  • The aisles are huge. It was obvious they don’t want a ton of merchandise in the store, so they just took out shelves. However, I did find it as a refreshing change from visits to Aldi and Target that have carts and people everywhere.
  • The Outlet doubles manufacturer’s coupons on Thursdays (a Rainbow tradition) if you’re an avid coupon cutter.
The bulk nuts section at the Rainbow Outlet is now just a wall of paper products.

The Rainbow ‘Outlet’ is open from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. seven days a week. Set your GPS if you’re curious, too: 2501 White Bear Avenue North, Maplewood 55109.

Is there a reason to go there? Um…no. Damn my curiosity.

But here’s the interesting part. Recall back to when many Rainbows were purchased by Supervalu and turned into Cub Foods. Well, there’s a Cub literally across the street. When I posted my adventure on Facebook, a friend mentioned that Supervalu didn’t close the Rainbow in fear of Hy-Vee buying it and in turn, running Cub to the ground. Supervalu would rather operate the Rainbow at a loss than to lose the Cub in a high traffic area.

Those who will love the Rainbow Outlet: small children who only have a $1 left of their allowance.

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