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At the Beginning of the Double Rainbow

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At the Beginning of the Double Rainbow

A smiling Forrest Manning in the back booth of Double Rainbow.

A smiling Forrest Manning in the back booth of Double Rainbow.

A smiling Forrest Manning in the back booth of Double Rainbow.

A smiling Forrest Manning in the back booth of Double Rainbow.

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There was never a time when Double Rainbow, a colorful ice-cream parlor and cafe located right at the end of Fourth Street, was not a part of Forrest Manning’s life. Children’s love for ice cream, of course, spans far beyond the reaches of the San Rafael area, but for Manning, it seemed nearly impossible to let this unique place go. As a Marin local, Manning grew up roaming the streets

of San Rafael: “I used to walk [to Double Rainbow] from Davidson [Middle School]… and my mom’s office was right (points behind him) down the street.” While attending high school at Marin Academy, Manning gravitated back toward the ice cream shop and began to work behind the counter.

And he never left.

In 2011, Manning became the owner of the brightest store on Fourth Street. The store where you are greeted with two glowing rainbows mirroring each other with the words “Double Rainbow” squished in between. Walking in, what struck me was the contrast. The pattern on the tables looked like the door warehouse in Monsters Inc, but the shiny red stools reminded me of a classic diner: “Something for

The bright “Double Rainbow” sign hanging above a smiling customer enjoying a Sunday.

everyone,” as Manning explained it, “from infants and teenagers to adults.” A little childlike wonder paired with a timeless and easygoing vibe, not unlike Manning himself.

 

But now that Manning has inherited the extra responsibilities of being the owner, it’s hard for him to experience the day to day joy of seeing his diverse customers. With an aching smile, he chuckled, “I try to come out on the floor early and stay for probably longer than I should. I should be doing paperwork.” A sour taste in his mouth, Manning reverted his eyes downward and took a brief but noticeable moment. His sometimes 16-hour shifts make for a long and hard day without being able to enjoy the fun parts of the job. The lack of enthusiasm he has for this part of his work wasn’t obvious, but it was palpable. There was a lingering gloom that he silenced in order to maintain an upbeat personality.

But it’s no surprise that Manning misses being behind the counter. The creative and colorful menus, the smell of pastries and ice cream, the hanging lights that resemble raindrops filled with sunlight—everything about the place screams joy. No wonder he, and many others, can’t stay away: “Parents will come in with their children and say ‘Oh! this is what you used to eat all the time, this is what I would feed you!’ and the kids would get all embarrassed but it was nice to see.” I think what Manning sees is a little bit of himself in every one of those children. A lifelong connection that he has magically infused into the shop and the customers themselves.

 

Double Rainbow’s colorful menus pop in front of the yellow wall. Just below are the various ice cream flavors beloved by all.

Although Manning can’t be out on the floor where the magic happens, he has made sure that the staff embodies the essence of the shop: “We really like to hire people by personality because you can teach them what’s behind the counter, but you can’t teach them personality.” Indicative of Manning, he views this as a necessity, not a bonus. Every employee seemed to have a smile on their face, hop in their step, and a cool way about them, just as I would imagine.

 

Manning knows how important it is to have a good relationship with the community and having cheerful people behind the counter is definitely an important piece of that relationship. Long-standing customers have become a part of the brand at Double Rainbow, one that I know Manning has had a hand in creating. But some of those customers have become aware of an issue that has been more present than ever.

Over the years, there has seen a shift in the San Rafael community. The homeless population has seen an increase and that has not been necessarily good for business: “[Homelessness] has become more of an issue. People are afraid to park and come into the streets even.” Since one of Double Rainbow’s perks is that it’s one of the only places in Marin open until 10, the situation is definitely not ideal. But Manning has kept a positive attitude and is determined that the Police Department will deal with the problem at hand.

It’s hard to drive by Double Rainbow and not think about Manning’s importance in its growth. Such a bright light in the San Rafael community can only be trusted in the hands of the man who not only embodies the shop but who has followed this rainbow to the pot of gold all the way at the other end.

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