LORAIN, Ohio — A Lorain family has been dreaming for decades about opening their own restaurant, came to Northeast Ohio from Puerto Rico to do it and finally made it happen last year when they took over ownership of Rainbow Bakery.
Now, they’re pushing through the pandemic’s challenges with the endless support of their community.
Every item on the menu at Rainbow Bakery is a best seller.
“You have the rice, beans and beef stew,” owner Orlando Lopez said. “We have the pig ears, believe it or not, we make a pig ears stew that if it comes out of stock, I'll never hear the end of it from my customers.”
All of those traditional Puerto Rican recipes have been perfected by head chef Maria Rodriguez.
“I love to cook. All my life I have loved to cook,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez moved from Puerto Rico to Lorain with her son, Lopez, and her other children 15 years ago.
“We came up here chasing - it's going to sound a little cliche - but the American dream. We always wanted to come out here and just make it,” Lopez said. “We always wanted to own our own business. We always wanted to have our own little restaurant. We came here to do that. To do something different."
The job at Rainbow Bakery was the first one she landed, and soon her whole family got involved.
“When I used to get bored at home I sometimes would come in and help her cook,” Lopez said. “Didn't even speak English, but we were in the kitchen cooking here.”
But cooking at the bakery was just the beginning.
In 2018, the previous owners put the bakery up for sale and asked Lopez and Rodriguez if they’d like to buy it.
“Oh, I feel great, because that's my dream all my life,” Rodriguez said.
“They wanted to ask us, knowing how much we have put into this business to get it to where it's at today,” Lopez said.
Rodriguez and Lopez said yes and took over in January of 2020.
“I've got to tell you it was a very rough first year to be a business owner,” Lopez said.
Lopez said costs for food and merchandise skyrocketed.
“We're talking from the meat to the rice,” Lopez said. “It was either out of stock or the prices went up, we're talking 50%.”
They had to raise their prices slightly, but their true saving grace was their loyal customers.
“70% of our daily customers are repeats. And they keep our doors open,” Lopez said.
Customers like Mimi Moore, who’s been coming to the bakery since she was young—and now travels from Cleveland with her own kids.
“It feels good that you can at least come somewhere back to your hometown and be able to get some comfort food that you remember as a kid, so I love it,” Moore said.
Lopez and his family are hoping to continue the bakery’s legacy for years to come.
“It means the world to me to know that we made our dream come true, what we came here for, what we came here to do. We did it,” Lopez said.
In 2021, Lopez and his family plan to remodel Rainbow Bakery. They also want to continue giving back to the customers who have done so much for them by hosting more community events.
Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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