Prakas & Co is proud to be featured in another article by Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post. After leasing out the former Mellow Mushroom space in a single day, Tom Prakas was called upon to provide insight into the Delray Beach and Boca Raton restaurant markets and how they’ve exploded over the last year. For more of Alexandra Clough’s great writing you can check out an archive of her articles here.
Mellow Mushroom in downtown Delray Beach closed earlier this month after 14 years of dishing gourmet pizza. The rock ‘n roll themed-space, just south of bustling Atlantic Avenue, was a popular destination for families, teens and seniors — and a true gathering spot for the community.
But life moves fast in Delray’s sizzling downtown dining district.
Within a day, the ‘shroom spot was re-leased to the operator of Boca Raton’s Nick’s New Haven Style Pizzeria & Bar. Plans are to create a new concept dubbed Bar 25, serving pizza and a full menu, plus a complete liquor bar featuring 50 beers on tap.
The red-hot market for restaurants comes at a time when people continue to move to South Florida from the Northeast and Midwest. That migration is fueling interest by restaurant operators in setting up shop in South Florida, making this segment of the commercial real estate market the busiest anyone can remember.
But the process isn’t easy. Not only are there limited restaurant spaces, operators also are having trouble finding adequate staff, including servers, chefs and other personnel.
At Mellow Mushroom, owner Ron Platt said a combination of events led to his decision to abruptly close the restaurant on July 6. Mellow Mushroom was at 25 SE 6th Ave., the northbound lane of U.S.1.
Platt said he managed to survive the airborne coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and he was careful to follow or exceed guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing when restaurants reopened and welcomed customers inside.
But in recent months, Platt said he’s had trouble keeping employees who left for new careers. Then he had trouble hiring people to replace them.
“People were not coming back to work,” Platt said. “Part of it was (federal coronavirus relief) benefits, and part of it was wanting to try something else. I had quite a few employees say, ‘I think I’m going to try something else. I don’t want to toss pizza for the rest of my life.'”
There were other reasons for the restaurant’s closure.
Platt’s 15-year franchise agreement with Mellow Mushroom was ending this year, and Platt, 71, said he didn’t want to renew the franchise agreement and run a restaurant until he was 86.
The lease on the location was up as well, confirmed Jonathan Gladstone, a Palm Beach real estate investor who owns the property.
When a for-lease sign went up on the property, it was leased in one day to the owner of Nick’s, said Tom Prakas of Boca Raton-based Prakas & Co., which brokered the space.
“They have been waiting for Mellow, over a year,” Gladstone said of Nick’s operators.
Platt said he has nothing but great memories of his time owning and running Mellow Mushroom.
In the midst of a career as a real estate attorney and title agent, he added pizza restaurant owner to his resume, eventually ditching law for pizza sauce and toppings.
“I loved it. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life,” Platt said.
After a chance visit to a Mellow Mushroom location in Blowing Rock, N.C., some 20 years ago, Platt was inspired to open a franchise store in Florida. But it took him years to act on that thought.
When he finally opened Mellow Mushroom in Delray Beach in 2008, he said he was successful from the start, thanks to his decision to open an affordable eatery in a recession.
“People aren’t going to be eating steak or lobsters,” Platt said he recalled thinking. “They’re going to be watching their pennies.”
“Luckily, I was right,” he said on Monday, “and hit a home run from the get-go.”
It didn’t hurt that Platt had plenty of business know-how from his years working as an attorney and running a title agency. And that Platt tapped into some heavy nostalgia when he picked a classic rock theme for his restaurant, which featured an indoor mural of The Beatles crossing what appears to be Abbey Road but is really Atlantic Avenue.
Platt had a loyal staff who stayed by his side for years, too, such as his kitchen manager and two general managers. His family was supportive as well, including his two children, who both spent time working at Mellow Mushroom.
Platt said he worked hard to knit the restaurant into the fabric of the community. He hosted Florida State University sports watch parties. His outdoor patio was dog-friendly. He welcomed families, beer aficionados and sports teams.
He said he can’t help feel a little bittersweet about closing, but he’s looking forward to the next stage of his life: Retirement and playing with his grandchildren.
He’s also eager to dine at Bar 25 by operator Anthony Giovanniello : “I hope they make good pizza,” Platt said.
He’ll soon find out. Plans are to open Bar 25 within three months, Prakas said.
Prakas, a longtime broker who has done many of the restaurant deals in downtown Delray Beach, said he’s never seen the market for restaurants so tight in southern Palm Beach County.
In downtown Delray Beach, where existing restaurant space is scarce, at least one property owner plans to convert a building into an eatery.
The Bethesda Bargain box building at 12 NE 5th Avenue, on the southbound lane of U.S.1., now is being marketed by Prakas as a 7,500-square-foot restaurant space, he said. The space formerly was a thrift store.
Restaurant Row is planned for on the corner of Butts Road and Town Center Road.
Boca Raton’s Restaurant Row gaining traction
Meanwhile, in Boca Raton, a longtime plan to create a Restaurant Row near the Town Center mall has gained traction with the signing of two major restaurants and space for three more.
Restaurant Row is the county’s only restaurant-exclusive development. The 22,500-square foot dining mecca is planned for on the corner of Butts Road and Town Center Road.
The project first was crafted by Crocker Partners four years ago, but it recently gained steam under new owners, Pebb Enterprises of Boca Raton. So far, two restaurants have signed on: El Camino, a Mexican restaurant in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach; and PubBelly Sushi, with four locations in Miami-Dade County and one in Mexico City, said Prakas, who is brokering the site.
Other restaurant eying three more available spaces include a Midwest steakhouse and a prominent Italian restaurant from the Northeast, Prakas said.
Demand for space since the pandemic is at an all-time high now that major national restaurants see all their customers have moved to Florida.
“We’ve had unbelievable action on it,” Prakas said of Restaurant Row. “It took me two years to get to this point, and with these restaurants coming in, it’s crazy.”
Source: Alexandra Clough // Palm Beach Post