By Jesse Wood
The Mellow Mushroom franchise in Boone is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
To celebrate this birthday and thank the community, the owners and operators, Chuck Luddeke and his son, Chase, are offering 20 percent discounts on all food and non-alcoholic purchases at the Boone location from Monday to Thursday, Nov. 16-19. In addition to the discount, there will be various specials, as well as prize giveaways.
In the early ‘90s, Chuck Luddeke and his family would take a break from city life in Atlanta and visit the High Country. While Atlanta happens to be the birthplace of Mellow Mushroom and several existed in the capitol, the restaurant never expanded beyond Georgia until Chuck approached the founders.
“We used to come up a lot for bicycling and motorcycling and I just thought Boone would be a great fit for Mellow Mushroom,” Chuck said. “It was the first Mellow Mushroom out of the state of Georgia. So it was kind of a big deal for them, and it was unchartered territories for them.”
Luddeke said he pretty much renovated the original Boone location, which is where the Rivers Street Ale House exists today. When the Luddekes brought Mellow Mushroom to town, Chuck said it took a while for the whole concept of Mellow Mushroom to catch on in Boone.
“I feel like because of the Mellow Mushroom persona, it came across as more of a hippy type of thing, and I think it frightened some of the locals,” Chuck said.
But once his two children, Chase, who is currently general manager of both locations, and Lindsey, started attending Watauga County Schools and Mellow Mushroom started to support local fundraisers and the local soccer program, he noticed a different attitude in the community.
“That’s when the business started to take hold,” Chuck said.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, the original location closed. In 2011 the Luddekes relocated the business to King St., across the street from Watauga County Courthouse. The move was very exciting for the Luddekes, and they have since been very happy that Mellow Mushroom has been able to become a part of beautiful downtown Boone.
“It’s been great, and business has been beyond what we ever hoped for,” Chase said.
Mellow Mushroom has over 150 locations. While it still is predominately featured in the Southeast, there are dozens of locations beyond the Mississippi River. Five years ago, a Mellow Mushroom sprouted in Oregon, the first on the West Coast.
As the brand continues to excel and work its way throughout the U.S., it’s easy to forget that the Boone and Blowing Rock location are family owned and operated. But, as Chase mentioned, “the community doesn’t ever seem to lose sight of that.”
Community seems to be a core concept for the Luddekes. Just as the Luddekes won over the hearts of local pizza lovers 20 years ago by engaging in the community and displacing any fears about the eclectic concept, such as the “Kosmic Karma” pie, they continue to give back to the community and its nonprofits and organizations doing good work.
Donations and pizzas are provided as often as possible to the local school system, the university, charitable organizations, local athletics, outdoor clubs, fundraising events and much more. In fact, just in this week, Mellow Mushroom provided 30 pizzas to the Blowing Rock PTO as a fundraiser during the annual student/faculty basketball game. According to Chase, events similar to this are always on the calendar.
“We’ve always felt that we couldn’t have pulled this off without the community and all parties involved,” Chase said. “You can’t put a price on that type of support, and we’ve always done our best to support the community and stay involved.”
The Boone Mellow Mushroom is located at 805 West King Street in downtown. For more information, click here or call 828-865-1515.
The Boone Location