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Small Wonders: The scoop on some ice-cream expats

February 02, 2013|By Patrick Caneday

Par•a•dise [par-uh-dahys, -dahyz] a state of supreme happiness; bliss.

If there is a paradise, I imagine there will be ample parking and meters that never run out; no taxes, co-pays, high-premium health insurance or any need for guns. Everyone will get their own jet pack, too.

And ice cream. Most definitely, there will be ice cream.

Luckily, for those still searching for paradise, there is Paradis.

Head up the hill into Montrose, hang a left on Honolulu and stroll until you see a human-sized ice cream cone on the sidewalk. You've just found Paradis — pronounced “para-dees” — Denmark's No. 1 ice cream shop, making it fresh daily since 2009.

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While you're there, thank brother-sister Mark and Mia Pedersen and their partner Morten Thorup for bringing it to America — because it almost didn't happen. When the ambitious trio — who were living in Denmark at the time — first contacted Paradis corporate headquarters with a well-crafted plan to open the first franchise in America, the response was chilly.

“We sent an email and like 10 seconds later we got an email back saying ‘not interested,'” Mark said as we sat outside their shop on one of those warm winter SoCal days that convinced them the Danish treat would succeed here year-round. A far cry from Denmark, where Paradis shops are open only seven months a year due to the cold winters.

The young Danes persisted and eventually won the confidence of the parent company, but were warned corporate wouldn't be much help from across the pond. With business plan and loan in hand, they set off for California. Where so many people travel for exotic locales on vacation and dream of living here, they made it happen.

Starting a new business is hard enough. Add unfamiliarity with the marketplace and immigrating to a new country, and the odds seemed stacked three scoops high against them. But taking risks and overcoming obstacles comes naturally to Mark and Mia, who lost their mother to cancer when they were 8 and 12, respectively.

“We have a lot of battle scars from when we were young,” Mark said. “A lot of our life has been learning by doing.”

Call it adventurousness or naiveté, but both are good traits to have when traveling 6,000 miles from home to open an ice cream shop in a land already filled with them.

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