Monday, April 4, 2011

Western Avenue Series

Mile 4: 98th-90th Street
This painting is a part of my Western Avenue Series, through which I'll be making 24 watercolor paintings, one to document each mile of Western Avenue, in Chicago.  I started this project because while it is not considered to be among the most “beautiful” of Chicago’s streets, Western Avenue is a perfect place to document the humanness of Chicago, the positive and the negative. In the words of Stuart Dybek, "Western, with apologies to State Street, is a great street,  Unlike State, it is a street that goes to the interior, the heart of the city, as it glides and glows through a United Nations of neighborhoods."  Check back next Monday to see a post about the next mile of Western.
I couldn't resist making a painting of Original Rainbow Cone to represent this stretch of Western--pink stucco building, giant ice cream cone on the roof, what more could I ask for?  A TimeOut Article described Original Rainbow Cone in this way:
"For 81 years, a giant neon cone light has beckoned multiple generations of kids, teens and other ice-cream fiends to Original Rainbow Cone, an old-fashioned, peach-stucco parlor in Beverly. It offers a few dozen flavors (from cookie dough to chocolate–peanut butter), but the real draw is the namesake Rainbow Cone, a monster five-layer treat piled high with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (that’s cherry), pistachio and orange sherbet."

The full history as described on the Original Rainbow Cone website is also pretty fantastic:
Growing up as a kid in Ohio, Joseph Sapp, founder of the Original Rainbow Cone, was an orphan on a work farm. One of his few luxuries was buying ice cream for the pennies he earned, but his only choices were vanilla or chocolate. Sapp actually wanted all those and more flavors on his ice cream cone. As an adult he worked as a Buick mechanic by day, but started Original Rainbow in 1926 with wife Katherine. The Rainbow Cone went through many variations, but trial and error revealed the winning combination of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and orange sherbet.
     Sapp chose the location on 92nd and Western because he could see Western would soon become a major thoroughfare. At the time, Chicago really only extended as far south as the Bridgeport area. Beyond 95th street, however, were the centuries old cemeteries that Chicagoans visited every Sunday. On their way back home, patrons would stop in for a cone. It didn’t take long for Rainbow to become it’s own attraction. After about four years, the Sapps had saved up enough money to build the current Rainbow store, which was only one story at the time. Since the spread of information was limited during the war years, Sapp designed a short-wave radio that people in the neighborhood would listen to while munching on their cones. Rainbow become a place for gatherings, family outings and dates.
     Robert Sapp, Joseph’s son, slowly began taking over the business through the ‘60s and ‘70s, taking it through more innovations to meet customer demand, such as having take-home containers for customers to share with people who couldn’t travel to the Southside.
     Robert’s daughter Lynn Sapp bought the business in 1986. Her biggest challenge at the time was bringing Rainbow into the modern age, and spreading the word beyond the Southside of Chicago. One way she did this was by participating in the Taste of Chicago for more than 20 years, and placing in the top five vendors for several years in a row. She also developed Rainbow cakes, which dedicated Rainbow fans use to celebrate all occasions, even weddings. 

An orphan on a work farm who used his pennies to buy ice cream and eventually opened an ice cream shop of his own--pretty amazing, eh?

Click here to purchase this painting.

What is your favorite ice cream shop in Chicago? 
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  1. That is so cool!

    I don't have a favorite ice cream shop, but I love this story and want to go there now!