News & Politics

A Glover Park Ice Cream Shop Popular With the Obamas, Bidens, and Gores Has Lost Its Lease

The Max’s Best Ice Cream space will become an expanded Rocklands Barbecue.

Max’s, in Glover Park, has lost its lease to neighbor Rocklands, which plans an expansion. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

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.