Mellow Mushroom franchise owner Shawn Ledford apologized to the Aiken community for the extended construction timeline of the new pizza restaurant downtown.


“Yes, we are still coming – 100 percent,” Ledford said. “We do apologize to everyone in Aiken that it’s taken so long. We know looking at an empty building isn’t great.”


Ledford will take over the existing red brick building, located in The Alley at 151 Bee Lane, which used to house the iconic West Side Bowery owned by longtime resident Sam Erb.


Erb announced back in August he would be closing the Bowery, and Mellow Mushroom would open for business later this month. But due to back-and-forth meetings with the Aiken Design Review Board over paint color and aesthetics, Ledford said it’s become a much longer process than initially anticipated. Other issues arose as well, such as with the slice of land containing the patio area of the restaurant.


The restaurant recently sought financial help from the Small Business Administration for construction costs, which again added to the construction timeline, according to Ledford.


“We were just over our construction budget, and what we had to do was bring more capital to the project, and we had to adjust the loan amount,” Ledford said.


“In doing that, we had to get a new appraisal to support higher construction costs. That process has just taken a bit of time.”


Mellow Mushroom was originally opened in Atlanta in 1974 by three college students looking to start a pizza restaurant. Today, the franchise exists in 18 states with more than 140 stores.


Ledford said once the new appraisal is reviewed and they receive a closing date, the restaurant will begin construction almost immediately.


“We really do want to thank the City of Aiken,” Ledford said. “They’ve just been very helpful. We know it’s not an easy project, but the City has been working hard to help us make this happen.”


For more information on Mellow Mushroom, visit www.mellowmushroom.com.


Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.