Todd Moffatt and Billy Maisano had hoped to eventually expand Mellow Mushroom to Lafayette — in part to reconnect with their UL college crowd of the late ’80s/early ’90s — but they were looking in a different market when they contacted Ryan Pécot of Stirling Properties for help finding a site. He quickly convinced the franchisees, who already have stores in Covington and Metairie, that Lafayette is where they need to be.
Pécot had a few locations in mind, but he kept being drawn back to that vacant burnt umber building at Johnston Street and Doucet Road — yeah, you know the one. Nothing’s worked there so far, but like many of his real estate peers, the Stirling rep knows the right concept will.
|Photo by Robin May|
|Mellow Mushroom franchisees Todd Moffatt and Billy Maisano will introduce the funky pizzeria concept to Lafayette early next year.|
As expected, Maisano and Moffatt immediately wanted to know if the site was "cursed" (c’mon, they’re both New Orleans natives), Pécot recalls, but he was able to assure them it’s not.
Just think about it: Toucan’s (Bobby Silor), Bootie’s (need I say more?), Serranos Salsa Company (spent way too much money to ever make it, and management of local operation left a lot to be desired), Bako’s (don’t ever go into business to seek revenge on your former employer; it won’t work).
“Of course the site isn’t cursed, but I guess it’s the easy answer to why concepts have not been successful in the past on that corner,” Pécot tells ABiz. “Mellow Mushroom quickly realized that they operate well outside of those respective pitfalls,” he notes. “Focusing on the real estate itself, it is close to geographically the center of Lafayette, has phenomenal traffic counts and visibility, is surrounded by arguably the most dense residential [area] consisting of very strong demographics, and interplays well with the UL athletic campus.”
Zea, the real estate broker points out, consistently posts some of the highest restaurant sales volumes in the city — with zero visibility from a major artery. “Most retail site selectors would give that [Zea] site a C+ at best, but [the restaurant] is well managed, has a very good and consistent product, and is well located geographically. Expect to see that same recipe for success from Mellow Mushroom, with a better [non-cursed] physical location.”
Now that we’ve put that nonsense aside, meet Moffatt and Maisano, 42 and 43, respectively, who have extensive restaurant and property management/real estate experience. After graduating from UL in 1993, Maisano, who worked as a busboy from the age of 14 and bartended at Mako’s on The Strip while a UL student, went on to work for Semolina, Copeland’s, Zea and Smoothie King — jobs that also took him to Georgia and Alabama. Moffatt’s been involved with his family’s property management company, Select Properties, since 1992 and has also run his own real estate company. He earned a master’s degree in finance from UNO in 1998.
The business partners’ affiliation with Atlanta-based Mellow Mushroom, a fast-growing chain of 160 restaurants known for stone-baked pizzas, music-themed interiors with a funky vibe, and quality craft beers (“no crap on tap,” as they say), goes back to 2004-2005. Moffatt and Maisano were planning to do their first restaurant on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie when Hurricane Katrina hit, pushing them back about four years. In August 2009 they launched in Covington, and in January of this year the Veterans store finally opened.
The Lafayette location, a 7,300-square-foot building they paid $792,000 for (also signing a long-term land lease with The Grand), will undergo renovations beginning in December and open early in next year’s first quarter. About size of the Metairie store, it too will have a local music theme (Dr. John, Fats Domino, Harry Connick Jr., the Nevilles and The Meters adorn the walls in Metairie, where trumpets were turned into light fixtures).
“We’re going to see just how funky we can get it,” Moffatt says.
“Lafayette wants to see a lot of new stuff, so we’re really going to have some fun with this one,” notes Maisano. Mellow Mushroom, founded in 1974 by three college students, gives franchisees a lot of leeway by allowing stores to reflect the local culture and personality of the respective owners.
There will be 30 beers on tap (including some fave home brews) and 30-plus TV screens (there is a bit of sports theme to the joint), along with a gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian menu (how cool is that?).
Moffatt, who has an apartment in Lafayette thanks to his family’s local real estate holdings and plans to spend a significant amount of time here, isn’t sweating the “cursed corner” talk. “It’s not the corner,” he says. “It’s always been conceptually challenged.”
Besides, there is just too much work to be done to get the store open while paying close attention to the New Orleans area locations, both of which the partners say are performing extremely well.
“Doing two stores was pushing it, but I love Lafayette so much I just couldn’t turn it down,” Moffatt says.
Maisano, on the other hand, is one New Orleans boy who isn’t taking anything for granted. “Just in case, we’ll have a voodoo doctor to remove the curse,” he says with a smile.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Facing opposition from a powerful industry, the governor and many in the Legislature, a New Orleans-area flood board's lawsuit against dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies seemed doomed early on.
Thursday’s explosion aboard an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico is now under investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Money from the first and only settlement so far in a Louisiana flood board's lawsuit against dozens of energy companies will be placed in a special account dedicated to coastal restoration.
BP is heading to a federal appeals court in its effort to oust the administrator of damage settlement claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The 59-41 Senate vote was one shy short of the 60 needed to clear the House-passed measure.
Spot bonuses to employees who go above and beyond on projects one of several reasons national mag calls BR-based biz bank a cool place to work.
The Director Search Committee interviewed the five men still in the running via video last week and is set to trim the field this week.
Telecom’s decision to halt deployment to more than 100 cities while it awaits net-neutrality rules appears to be little more than a temper tantrum.
Environmental (and political) junkies got a double fix when The Lens hosted a discussion between its environmental writer and the lead attorney in the levee board suit.
Follow The IND to hear Lens environmental reporter Bob Marshall's interview with Gladstone Jones, the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the oil and gas companies for coastal damages.
The $35B deal leaves the burning question about what it will mean for the thousands of these two service giants' local employees.
Broussard & David set up shop at the corner of Jefferson and Vermilion.
in light of falling oil prices, Forbes asks, “Will there be more?”
Lake Charles lets Acadiana companies in on the action as our neighbor to the west prepares for unprecedented growth.
A new study analyzes the state of the Lake Charles region and the impact 19 industrial projects will have on residents.
A U.S. magistrate judge calls “garbage” on behavior of attorneys for Progressive Waste Solutions.
The Lafayette food truck scene is slowing down but not stopping.
Lake-area financial institutions seeing green.
As the Lake Charles region ramps up for record-setting growth, ABiz lays out the challenges and opportunities ahead for South Louisiana.
Who was hired and promoted in Acadiana business?