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#1680: Ice cream shop keeps presence in Little Haiti (fwd)


Published Sunday, January 2, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Ice cream shop keeps presence in Little Haiti ___by HANS MARDY

 Lakay Tropical Ice Cream & Bakery, a store known for its original
flavors of icy desserts, is adjusting to a new location, following a
long tenure at the Caribbean Marketplace. One of the first tenants in
April 1990, Lakay was the last store to move from the failed marketplace
on Northeast Second Avenue and 60th Street. Leaman Bien-Aime, the shop's
owner, moved his popular store to its new site, 91 NE 54th St., in
April, nine years after trying to stay in business at the marketplace
site. ``We have learned the hard way,'' said Bien-Aime, a financial aid
specialist at Miami-Dade Community College for 21 years. ``For the past
three years, we have struggled to make it inside the marketplace,''
 Bien-Aime said. ``There was no restroom, no water. We had to bring
everything we needed to the place.'' In 1990, when Miami-Dade County
officials opened the Caribbean Marketplace, the goal was clear --
attract tourists to the Little Haiti area. Members of the
Haitian-American community got involved and brought culture, art, music
and food to the marketplace. Bien-Aime, who with his wife Solange
manages the family store, was among the first tenants to rent space
inside the marketplace. The Bien-Aimes remembered struggling to pay $450
a month in rent there when the store opened. ``We didn't have enough
money to pay for advertising and the community didn't know what we could
offer,'' said Bien-Aime. Despite the market's decline, the store
remained at the marketplace rent free for the past three years.
 ``It's true we haven't paid rent over there for the past three years.
Of course, that helped,'' said Bien-Aime, ``but it takes more than that
to be successful. It's a combination of discipline and sacrifice. We
have almost no social life to meet the need.'' In April, the family
bought a four-unit building for about $191,000 after renovation.
 Three tenants help pay the $2,600 monthly mortgage, said Bien-Aime.
 The Bien-Aimes, who have three children, say the sacrifice has been
worth the effort.  Through the years the store has become well known for
its tropical flavors, reminding many of the Caribbean and Latin tastes
of their homeland. The family started the business with only eight
flavors of ice cream and juice. Today, Lakay offers 24 ice cream
flavors. Bien-Aime said business has been good at the new site and he
hopes to distribute his ice cream in South Florida supermarkets.
 ``I thank the entire community, Haitians and non-Haitians for their
support. I urge everyone to keep supporting Lakay ice cream. This is not
the end of our mission. We have other goals for the community.''