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Mellow Mushroom to become part of Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park

By KATIE EGAN - | Aug 12, 2021

A sample of the menu items available at the Mellow Mushroom. PHOTO  PROVIDED

Mellow Mushroom is coming to Cape Coral.

And it’s almost like it was meant to be.

Years ago, Chris Scuderi joked to his wife about owning one of his favorite restaurants.

They’d visit Mellow Mushroom when they lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Scuderi used to love going there.

“We used to go to a bunch of them in Charlotte,” Scuderi said. “I remember saying years ago, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to own one of these?'”

Now, it’s becoming a reality.

About two years ago, Scuderi purchased Mike Greenwell’s Bat-A-Ball in Cape Coral and renamed it Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park.

He also purchased the land next door to the park.

“I’m trying to think of what would be a good fit to the family-oriented theme here,” Scuderi said. “Something different. I’m big on wanting to put something at Gator Mike’s that’s not on every other corner.”

He wants Gator Mike’s to be an experience.

“Chris Scuderi embraces the entrepreneurial spirit that we celebrate here at Mellow Mushroom,” said Mike Foster, chief operating officer at Mellow Mushroom. “We welcome him and this team to the Mellow family.”

To Scuderi, Mellow Mushroom is defined as more than a pizza place.

“It’s an experience restaurant,” he said. “People go there for the experience. The food is really good. I think of it as a craft pizza and cocktail place that’s very family friendly and visually appealing.”

Mellow Mushroom will be a stand-alone building and also part of Gator Mike’s 15 acres and close enough for visitors of the fun park to conveniently enjoy a great meal, cocktail and family friendly experience.

Scuderi knew he wanted to expand Gator Mike’s from the beginning.

Some potential future plans include a drive-in movie theater and making the property into a huge concert venue.

When the restaurant opens in early-to-mid 2022, it will be located at 53 N.E. Pine Island Road.

Mellow Mushroom will be across from the batting cages on the eastern side of Gator Mike’s.

Right now Scuderi is in what he calls the first inning with the basic design of the site and building.

“We’re in the permitting process,” he said. “Doing the site plan, seeing where parking spots will go and things like that.’

They’re starting to design the building.

“What the interior and exterior will look like,” Scuderi said. “Where the bar will be. Where the restrooms will be.”

He’s been meeting with Mellow Mushroom and members of the branding, marketing and beverage teams.

“All the different things that go into building a franchise restaurant,” Scuderi said.

Mellow Mushroom was founded in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia. Each Mellow Mushroom is locally owned and operated.

Scuderi said he’s felt an overwhelming sense of support from the restaurant team at Mellow Mushroom.

“They set franchises up for success,” he said. “Based on attention to detail and based on how they operate themselves.”

There are only 180 Mellow Mushrooms in the country and Scuderi feels lucky to be one of them.

He approached Mellow Mushroom about the opportunity.

“He was very interested,” said Anne Mejia, vice president of brand development for Mellow Mushroom. “He had been to several different Mellow Mushrooms and each Mellow Mushroom is individual and unique. He’ll work with our team to design the Cape Coral Mellow Mushroom so it, too, will be unique.”

Scuderi said Mellow Mushroom was impressed with Gator Mike’s foot traffic, which would help make the Cape Coral Mellow Mushroom a viable location for families visiting before and after a day at the fun park.

“The location on the property is very attractive because of the traffic in the area and its proximity to Gator Mike’s,” Mejia said.

Scuderi said Gator Mike’s sees 200,000-250,000 people a year.

“That’s very good for the restaurant and the fun park.”

Gator Mike’s offers things like axe throwing, a zipline, paintball, arcades, go-karts, batting cages, mini golf and more.

“The uniqueness of the site when I’m done, I believe, it’s going to be something that’s truly stunning and something the city can be very proud of,” Scuderi said. “I think it’s going to change the entertainment dynamic in Cape Coral.”

Each Mellow Mushroom is unique in its design and décor and aims to capture unique aspects of the local community.

There is a standardized menu so you know you’ll get the same product with the same quality at every Mellow Mushroom in the U.S.

“Whether you go to the Estero store or the Jacksonville store, the quality of the food is the same,” Scuderi said.

For the Cape Coral restaurant, Scuderi filled out a franchisee questionnaire. It asked about things like the history of Cape Coral and the surrounding area.

“They don’t want my store to look like one in Fort Myers or Estero,” Scuderi explained. “They like to take into account where they can what ties into the local culture.”

The theme they are going forward with from a design perspective is a fishing village type of vibe.

“Think of Matlacha,” Scuderi said. “It’s very colorful, artsy, brightly colored buildings.”

Boating and fishing are big here.

There are more canals in Cape Coral than there are in Venice, Italy.

Scuderi said the floor is going to be an epoxy floor that looks like you’re walking on water.

And it will be decorated with bright, vibrant colors.

Scuderi said Mellow Mushroom gives you six or eight different styles to choose from.

“It’s an incorporation of the questionnaire and what they think would work,” he said.

“I think they have an amazing art, design, branding and marketing team that makes these things really unique.”

Scuderi called the theme “mellow fishing village.”

“When you go in you’ll get a sense that you’re in a fishing village,” he said. “A lot of water and beach theme types of things and boating.”

Scuderi also said there will be murals throughout, like you see in other Mellow Mushroom restaurants.

Longer term, he’s planning on Gator Mike’s and the 15-acre property to be a destination experience.

“It’s not stop in for 30 minutes and play mini golf, it’s bring your family and plan a day and be there for a day. Like an entertainment hub for Cape Coral.”

“The collection of activities at Gator Mike’s is unique to Southwest Florida,” Scuderi said. “There is no place that has the scope and breath.”

Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park is located at 35 N.E. Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. For additional information, call 239-574-4386