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"Just Desserts for Ice Cream Shop"

The Los Angeles Times
By Eric Malnic

The owner of a popular ice cream shop in Carson won her battle Wednesday to hang on to the business she has run in a strip mall for more than 23 years.

"It feels great," Wanda Johnson-Pope said Wednesday afternoon as she struggled to keep up with the orders of congratulatory customers queuing up at Ken's Ice Cream.

A Superior Court judge in Compton ruled that Johnson-Pope, 64, had a valid option to renew her lease at the strip mall for five years, and a jury decided Wednesday that she had properly exercised that option.

"This is a victory for a business that has been a pillar of the local community," said her attorney, Michael Taitelman.

Johnson-Pope's problems began last year, when the Summit Team, which manages the strip mall, sent her a letter saying that her lease would not be renewed.

Michael Israelsky, a Summit Team representative, told her the firm had signed a lease at the mall with a new Baskin-Robbins franchise with a "no competition" clause.

Israelsky said Wednesday that Summit was simply honoring a commitment made by a previous management firm.

Things didn't look good for Johnson-Pope until the Anshutz Entertainment Group, developers of a controversial sports complex nearby, hired Taitelman's law firm to help her and agreed to pay the legal bills.

"I think God sent them here because I asked him," she said Wednesday.