Mellow Mushroom: Mark Clark

When Mark Clark first started his career, it wasn’t in the restaurant business. He was a contractor, building a professional reputation in Atlanta for 17 years. But his focus took an abrupt turn when a client convinced him to join the Mellow Mushroom franchise, calling for a life change and relocation to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It was a big career move, but what I liked about Mellow Mushroom is its concept and philosophy,” he said. “The corporate structure allows us freedom. I just really gelled with the founders.”

Within a year in the university town, Clark had cultivated a successful establishment and an eager buyer. So in 2002, he moved to Franklin, a place quite different from the hustle and bustle he had spent 25 years in, and began exploring his options. When the current location—the one that straddles the corner of Main Street and Public Square—opened up, he jumped at the chance.

“What I love about being in a downtown setting is the historic feel—something that will never change, unlike hot shopping districts,” Clark said. “This area will always be a mecca for people.”

Clark said that aforementioned freedom that the franchise allows is important, allowing the restaurateur to create an ambiance that is on par with the special downtown vibe. Mellow Mushroom’s exposed brick is covered in local art and prints of music legends, someone always greets you at the door, and music isn’t so loud that you can’t hear your own thoughts. A group of guys feel just as comfortable watching Monday Night Football and calculating their Fantasy Football scores as the host of elementary students do, celebrating a birthday for a classmate.

“I think we’ve created a place where a family can bring the kids and enjoy it just as much as the adult crowd,” he said. “It’s a cool, laid back environment.”

In addition to a variety of “munchies” and fresh pizzas, Clark is quick to point out that though the cheesy pie is their specialty, patrons aren’t hurting for healthy options. The former fitness junkie said he’s a sucker for the House pizza, but he usually opts for spinach salad or field greens.

“For me it’s nice because we have gone to be very green and all natural, down to the salad dressings,” he said. “Like our chicken that is farm raised and our cheeses that are low in fat.”

Adding to the draw of the pizzeria is the live music it hosts, many times twice a week. Easy-listening cover bands like 64, the Beatles tribute band that attracts a large crowd each time it plays, have gotten so much positive attention from locals that Clark said it inspired him to form a series around them.

“I want to implement a summer concert series,” he said. “I’m looking into something once-a-month.”

For information on Mellow Mushroom, visit its Main Street location or go towww.mellowmushroom.com/franklin.