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SLIDESHOW: New look, same Buona

Berwyn, IL

Two months after closing its flagship sandwich shop for renovations, Buona reopened in Berwyn May 2 with a much needed facelift.

Gone are the classic molded yellow Formica diner booths, replaced with padded green and brown chairs. The iconic Buona boy cutout is nowhere to be found, but history still abounds in the shop.

Photographs of the store’s evolution during the last 28 years cover one wall. Another is adorned with a mural depicting the shop’s opening in 1981, its expansion in 1985 and the 1996 opening of its Lombard location, the company’s first shop in the western suburbs.

Although the new look is unfamiliar to regulars of the Berwyn location, Marketing Director John Gill said many of Buona’s newer locations were built with this prototype.

“This layout really is the evolution of the whole thing,” Gill said.

To celebrate the transformation, Buona, 6745 Roosevelt Road, will hold a grand re-opening ceremony Thursday, May 14. On Saturday, May 16, and May 23, customers can purchase Buona’s classic sandwiches at their original 1981 prices, said Joe Buonavolanto Jr.

“We wanted to celebrate the years of being here with friends and family,” Buonavolanto said. “We thought that would be a fun way to bring back the memories of 1981 and our humble beginnings.”

It all started 28 years ago when Joe and Peggy Buonavolanto took out a second mortgage on their Berwyn home to open the mom and pop sandwich shop on the corner of Roosevelt Road and Oak Park Avenue. The couple, along with their five sons, Carlo, John, Joe Jr., Jimmy and Don, and their daughter, Joanne, created a Berwyn icon based off the family recipe for Italian beef.

“They wanted us to be able to work for ourselves one day and be independent,” Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We could create our own destiny.”

Nearly three decades later, Buona has added 10 shops with two more on the way. All six siblings, and Joanne’s husband, Tony Pontillo, still run Buona Companies, which now include the stores, Buona Catering and Beyond Events.

Although Peggy died in 1984 and Joe Buonavolanto Sr., has semi-retired, Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said his father still plays an integral role in the family business.

“He still comes in every day,” Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “He’s always advised us and kept us in line so to speak.”

The Buonavolanto family now includes 19 nieces and nephews. Those of age to work have all lent a hand in the family business. And while Joe Buonavolanto Jr. and his siblings would like to see the company pass on to the third generation, he said its up to the children to decide what they want to do.

“We’ve been very careful not to force it on them but they all know that the opportunity is there,” Joe Buonavolanto Jr. said. “We’ve encouraged them all to try different things so they can see what their interests are.”

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