Friday, August 26, 2016

You Are Not Tripping, Mellow Mushroom Morphed Into Mystic Moon in Lawrenceville

If you look closely, you can see the outline of Mel O. Mushroom on the yellow awning 
Lawrenceville pizzeria changes its name

Mellow Mushroom on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Duluth Highway has closed.  The restaurant, which had been in the Publix-anchored Merton Walk shopping center for nearly 20 years, officially closed this past Friday.  However, this past Tuesday, the pizza shop reopened as Mystic Moon Gourmet Pizza.   
Owner Charlie Taylor
Longtime Mellow Mushroom franchisee Charlie Taylor still owns the business, and "Charlie's Angels," as his largely female front of house staff is known, are still serving customers.  

As you might imagine, the new name lends itself well to maintaining a very similar interior and theme, minus any Mellow Mushroom branded paraphernalia.  
Exterior signage promoting the new name with the same owner and same staff
The menu at Mystic Moon is basically the same as before.  While visiting the restaurant, I witnessed a Mellow regular walk in, clearly confused, and inquire about a specific sandwich from the old menu.  The server explained that just like any of the pizzas from the prior menu, "It's a sandwich, we can make it."  

I reached out to Home Grown Industries of Georgia, Inc., the parent company and franchisor of Mellow Mushroom.  A spokesperson indicated only that the Lawrenceville location was no longer a Mellow Mushroom but declined further comment on the closure.  

While the closure was sudden and without warning to patrons of the restaurant, online research shows that the process to register the "Mystic Moon Gourmet Pizza" name in Gwinnett County began in late July.  

I visited the restaurant Wednesday and while Taylor was away, I was able to take a few pictures of some of the original artwork one his "angels" created for the new restaurant.  
Although Taylor did not make himself available for comment on the closure, another Mellow Mushroom source I spoke with indicated that they were told the closure had to do with "menu pricing."    

Mellow Mushroom was founded in Atlanta in 1974 with their first location on Spring Street.  What started as a single restaurant has grown through franchising to include over 150 locations across the country.  

Oddly enough, the restaurant that was "born in the free wheelin' hippy culture of the 1970s" has become a corporate juggernaut, far from its original self.   

A Decatur area Mellow Mushroom closed in 2014, amidst what were reportedly unreasonable and excessive renovation demands by Home Grown Industries. Late this fall,  a new Decatur area Mellow Mushroom is expected to open at 340 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, not far from the former location.  (This restaurant will reportedly be operated by a different franchisee than before.)  

 The Lawrenceville conversion is not the first time a franchisee has closed a Mellow Mushroom only to reopen in the same space under a new name.  Chad Appling previously franchised a Mellow Mushroom in Dacula before converting it to his proprietary "Dooley's Southern Stone Pizza Kitchen." Dooley's has since closed and will soon be replaced by Depalma's Italian Cafe.  

Have you been to Mystic Moon Gourmet Pizza?  If so, do you like it more or less than Mellow Mushroom? What is your favorite place for pizza OTP?

Please share your thoughts below.   

7 comments:

vespajet said...

It seems that back in the mid-90s, a number of Publix anchored shopping centers had a Mellow Mushroom in them.

Anonymous said...

Rumor is mellow was forcing him to build a stand alone restaurant as that's their new model moving forward. Obviously with 20 years of success, spending that money didn't make sense. This could be happening in other spaces in coming years as well.

J Leeds said...

The East Roswell Mellow Mushroom closed about 10 years ago due to corporate demands. They immediately reopened under another name, but closed for good a few years later. So this is nothing new.

Anonymous said...

I formerly worked at a MM franchise that I won't name here, but the corporate office demanded a long list of changes that the franchise operators were barely able to finish on time. Most employees, including myself, assumed that corporate office was just doing whatever they could to come up with an excuse to revoke their franchise. Our employers were problematic in their own way, but corporate didn't come off looking good at all. The changes mostly made my job harder to do without making any additional profit, so I left.

jeff a. taylor said...

Wonder if the free-standing drive will nix the Powers Ferry-Windy Hill location? Or are they gonna stand pat until Bravesworld opens nearby and see what happens?

Anonymous said...

Man are they going to sue the crap out of him. He literally copy and pasted everything over and renamed things. Didn't even change the MM lettering

Unknown said...

The old mellow mushroom on pleasant hill turned into Ida's pizza kitchen and then closed a few years later too. I wonder why the new ones don't stay in business.
I live close by and get take out from them once a month or so. My food was just as good.... I ordered the same thing I always ordered. And I'm pretty sure it was cheaper. Service was great also.