Franchise owner Kevin Kestner, who is opening the West LR location with his partner Chris Elkins, is originally from Arkansas, and fell in love with Mellow Mushroom pizza while living in Atlanta, where the company was founded in 1974. After moving back to Fayetteville, he opened a Mellow Mushroom franchise there in 2008, followed a few years later by a store in Rogers. The next step, Kestner said, was Little Rock. He said they're shooting to open by June 17, but will definitely open in June.
Kestner said Mellow Mushroom pizza will be distinguished from competitors by the freshness of ingredients. "It's more of a gourmet pizza," he said. "We use fresh produce every day, we cook our meats every day. Everything is fresh. Our dough is really unique. It's vitamin E enriched, no whole sugars, no additives or preservatives. The dough is what everybody knows Mellow Mushroom for. It almost has a slight sweet flavor to it." Kestner said the crust is chewy around the rim, with a thinner crust on the bottom, cooked in stone pizza ovens. Every pizza will be tossed, dressed and cooked to order, Kestner said.
Adding to Little Rock's beer culture, Mellow Mushroom will offer 40 brews on tap, with another 40 in the bottle. They'll also have a full bar. Kestner said that the beer offerings will focus on craft beers and especially regional and local crafts, with Diamond Bear, Boulevard, Schlafly and others on tap. "Anybody that's a brewery that's around nearby," he said, "we're going to try to make sure that we have at least one of their beers on tap. We're going to try to keep it local."
Kestner said the new West Little Rock Mellow Mushroom location is part of a planned expansion in Central Arkansas. "We're looking to go into Conway next, probably," he said, "and then possibly a location in North Little Rock or one of the surrounding areas."