Change hurts, especially when it involves a popular and long-time neighborhood business. Max’s Best Ice Cream in Glover Park is just that—a staple of the community, beloved by so many. Its customers have included First Lady Michelle Obama, who visited with daughters Sasha and Malia; Vice President Joe Biden and his family; and former Vice President Al Gore and his family. They are just a few of the legions of fans who have come in for pumpkin ice cream in the fall and peach ice cream in the summer and whose photos adorn the walls.
But now owner Max Keshani is out, and he’s not happy about it. “I’m not going to move until somebody comes and takes my body out of here,” he said Monday. “This is my joy, my life,” he says of the storefront location at 2416 Wisconsin Avenue. Keshani lost his lease after a proposed rent increase. The rub for many will be that the likely new tenant, who is next door and plans an expansion, is also a staple of the community: Rocklands Barbecue. Rocklands was opened 23 years ago by John Snedden, who lives nearby. Max’s opened a few years later. In a perfect world, both businesses could stay right where they are indefinitely, but booming neighborhoods such as Glover Park can’t help these kinds of growing pains. Rents go up, and worthy mom-and-pop businesses get squeezed.
Over the years, Snedden respected Max’s business and his lease but told the landlord—the Bassin family, who own MacArthur Liquors—that were the lease ever to become available he would be interested. At least twice a year he let the landlord and the property manager know that his interest had not waned. In the past four months the landlord contacted him to ask whether he was still interested. The answer was “absolutely.” Negotiations began between Snedden and a lawyer handling the building for the Bassins. A lease has not been signed, but a source said it is “imminent—in the mail.”
Snedden will expand the existing Rocklands to include more seating, a bakery, and, ideally, house-made custard. Rocklands did not serve ice cream in the past out of deference to Keshani, according to our source.
But Keshani is not buying any of this. He says he was in the midst of trying to negotiate a new lease in spite of a rent increase. The termination of the lease is effective June 30. “I hope someday John will find out he did the wrong thing,” Keshani says, wondering out loud why Snedden chose not to expand into Pro-Video, the business on the other side of Rocklands. “My life had to be destroyed for his business and benefit?”
Keshani admits he’s very upset at the moment, too upset to talk about the future. He did say, though, that already a prospective new landlord had approached him with the offer of a space across the street. “I have no desire for another location,” he says. “I want to be here.” Fans may prevail on him to reconsider.