The pandemic has given a few Chicago icons opportunities to reinvent themselves. The Walnut Room, the venerable 114-year-old restaurant inside the Macy’s store on State Street, is hosting a drag brunch next month. Buona Beef, the suburban-focused chain, has grabbed headlines with the successful launch of its vegan Italian beef sandwich. And now, in related news, Rainbow Cone — an iconic South Side ice cream parlor — is opening a suburban location in Lombard.
The sky isn’t falling, Chicago. Nothing will change at Rainbow’s original location, 9233 S. Western Avenue in Beverly, says third-generation owner Lynn Sapp. During the pandemic, Rainbow floated a few trial balloons, docking trucks at a few suburbs including outside the Buona Beef in Bolingbrook. Long lines followed and Sapp saw potential for growth. She’s teaming up with the owners of Buona Beef, the Buonavolanto family. Friday, May 7, is the official opening of their Lombard location, 498 E. Lombard Road.
“We’re trying to,” Sapp says about efforts to grow the brand. “After 95 years, it’s time to try.”
Rainbow already utilizes Gold Belly for nationwide shipping and DoorDash for local deliveries. She says the Buonavolantos were a “perfect fit” as a partner in growing her family’s business even more. For John Buonavolanto, Buona’s marketing manager, it’s about sharing the joy of Rainbow Cone beyond the South Side. He says Lombard is the ideal suburb to start expansion plans.
“We’re taking this thing to Mars,” he jokes.
Buonavolanto adds: “We don’t want to change a thing. There’s nothing to change; that’s what people treasure so much.”
That being said, the Lombard location does include a drive-thru and there are a few new items like doughnut holes. But Buonavolanto dares not mess with the five-layer ice cream,
The ice cream parlor’s motto, “life’s too short for just one flavor,” is prominently placed on a wall inside the Lombard location. Rainbow’s origins date back to 1926 when Sapp’s grandpa Joe opened the first location. A Rainbow Cone is made up of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla, cherry, walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet. The cone’s popularity has soared and the opening of its Western Avenue shop is a sign to many that winter is finished for the season in Chicago. Sapp has grown the brand, opening a location at Navy Pier and they’ve been active on the summer festival tour with appearances at Taste of Chicago and even Lollapalooza, both in Grant Park.
There are now five Rainbow Cone trucks. Sapp and Buonavolanto use them to measure interests to determine the best location for their next ice cream parlor.
“We’re just humbled to be getting all this positive reception,” Buonavolanto says. “It’s just an awesome thing to be a part of. That’s just my two cents.”
Rainbow Cone Lombard, 498 E. Roosevelt Road, Lombard, now open.