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.
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.
Ice cream — an industry they knew nothing about — was never really the plan. Something to call their own and making their unique mark on the world was. And thanks to reality TV, their journey was set in motion.
Mia saw a Danish TV show following the exploits of a man and his family opening a Paradis shop in Denmark. The proverbial light bulb went off. She suggested the idea of opening a franchise in Los Angeles to her brother and Morten. And that, as they say, is that.
By comparison to the gourmet ice creams we’re used to, Paradis has a more delicate consistency and lush flavor; it’s made from milk instead of cream, uses fresh fruits and organic sugar — 40% less sugar than frozen yogurt, in fact. And it’s made fresh each day.
Pleasing Americans’ tastes was another learning curve. Where black licorice is the most popular flavor in Denmark, they quickly found it was a nonseller in the United States. Whereas peanut butter — which you won’t even find in Denmark — was a required ingredient here. They also had to convince headquarters that pumpkin pie and eggnog were necessary seasonal menu items.
Of course, there’s chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Also, salted caramel, peanut butter/chocolate/caramel, hazelnut, stracciatella (chocolate chip), coffee chocolate chip, pistachio and Ferrero Rocher — a flavor unique to Paradis incorporating chunks of the fancy European candy.
Ask Mark what he likes best about the ice-cream biz and, like any businessman, he might tell you healthy profits. But there’s an unquantifiable component that makes frozen desserts a rewarding choice for them.
“The direct connection to the customers and the local community,” Mark said.
Customers that come in, all smiles, and linger to talk, to tell and hear life’s stories. That social ingredient isn’t something they found in the shops back home. But they’ve found it here.
And what do their corporate parents think of how the first Paradis shop in America has fared? The founder of Paradis Ice Cream himself is coming to California soon with plans for bringing more stores and a central manufacturing-distribution facility to the Southland based upon the ground broken by this intrepid trio.
“We kind of wrote ourselves into the history books of Paradis,” Mark said proudly. Not a bad book to be written into.