Rainbow Stores was opened as a cycle store in Stone Street by Arthur Ernest Barnes in 1921. He started his business life at the age of 14 with a cycle repair workshop in Isleworth and trained as a motor engineer. He then acquired Joe Baxter’s cycle shop in Berkley Crescent. During the 1930s he extended his business to include a radio section and later took an interest in television. His business success was partly due to the store’s after sales service. He acquired a shop in Milton Road that specialised in baby carriages, nursery equipment and gardening items. The shop in Berkley Crescent was closed during WW2 as a mark of respect to the staff conscripted into the services. The business was expanded into Windmill Street in the 1950s when he acquired Whitfield’s ladies outfitters and extended the business to include furniture and household goods.
The business benefited from the population growth of Gravesend after WW2 and the development of hire purchase. Mr Barnes died in 1961 aged 76. He was reputedly generous to local charities (eg Kendall House, Salvation Army, the Sea Rangers and the Delarue Home in Tonbridge). His daughter, Joy Barnes, then became the manager. In 1967, the shop that spread over 4 floors was modernised to include a hairdressers and employed 40 staff. The store eventually closed in 1980 with Joy Barnes putting the blame on too much paperwork. The premises was then taken over by Bennett and Brown as a furniture store.