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When Chris Scuderi bought a Cape Coral amusement park in April 2019, he did so with short-term and long-term goals in mind.

He already accomplished his first goal of rebranding and rejuvenating what’s now known as Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park, creating a new miniature golf course, elevated ropes course and more. He got rid of what he called a “dive bar” and replaced it with a family-friendly ice cream shop.

This week, Scuderi continued to raise the profile of Gator Mike’s by opening Mellow Mushroom next door at 53 NE Pine Island Road. It becomes Southwest Florida’s third location and the first in Cape Coral, joining the franchise’s more than 160 locations across 17 states.

Mellow Mushroom is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, having first opened in 1974.

“Every Mellow Mushroom is unique,” Scuderi said. “And they do a nice job of incorporating the local culture into the building we have.”

Colors, murals and paintings adorn the walls inside. The floor has a painted canal on it, an ode to Cape Coral’s more than 400 miles of canals, leading a path to the bathrooms. Even the bathroom ceilings have murals on them.

This Mellow Mushroom also has a photograph, courtesy of Cape Coral Historical Society, and a burrowing owl statue, which greets visitors just inside the front door. A colorful mural on the wall above symbolizes nearby Matlacha.

“We’re standing in an art gallery right now,” Scuderi said. “But we also happen to serve really good craft pizza, craft foods, craft beverages. So, it’s an experience restaurant.

“We worked with the city of Cape Coral business development department about three and a half, four years ago, to find a national chain that really represented and fit with our fun park. We felt that Mellow Mushroom had that easy-going vibe, family-oriented, experience-type restaurant.”

Mellow Mushroom opened with 125 employees, as Scuderi expected heavy attendance, even during the summer months, because of the newness factor.

The restaurant can seat up to 186 people in its 5,500 square feet of space. There are 24 beers on draft.

“This is the shiny new toy in Cape Coral,” Scuderi said. “It’s going to be elevated volumes for six months, and then season will hit.”

Scuderi expects to have some synergy between the restaurant and the amusement park next door.

“People will go to the fun park, work up an appetite, come over to Mellow Mushroom and have lunch or dinner,” Scuderi said. “Or come to Mellow Mushroom and see there’s Dinosaur Falls golf next door.

“We feel there will be a 20% to 30% crossover between the two sites.”

Scuderi isn’t finished developing the location. Behind Mellow Mushroom, he’s planning to build a new hotel of about 100 rooms and attract a national brand, such as Hilton or Mariott, to operate it.

But for now, he’s enjoying the new Mellow Mushroom.

“We’re just excited to get this done and bring this unique experience to the city of Cape Coral,” Scuderi said.

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