Short Pump project adds pizza to the menu

GreenGate will add a new group of retail and office buildings. Image courtesy of Markel|Eagle.

GreenGate has landed a lease with another restaurant tenant. Image courtesy of Markel | Eagle.

Things are heating up in GreenGate.

Markel | Eagle’s 75-acre development taking shape just west of Short Pump has signed on pizza chain Mellow Mushroom as its newest tenant.

The restaurant, which will be the brand’s third franchise in the Richmond market, is headed by Jay Shah of locally-based Shamin Hotels and Joel Gilbert. The two are also owners of the Keagan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in nearby West Broad Village, where Markel | Eagle is also their landlord.

“So naturally we knew about GreenGate from the beginning, and we know those guys and have a great relationship with them,” Shah said. “What better place to go than there?”

Work has started on GreenGate, and Shah and Gilbert’s 5,500-square-foot space should be delivered around the summer of 2016 before Mellow Mushroom opens its doors in the fall.

The three the local Mellow Mushroom franchises, including one in the works in Chesterfield, are each under different owners. The restaurant’s Carytown location opened in 2013 and is just a few doors down from The Daily, which has also signed a lease for space in GreenGate.

“They’ll sit across the street from each other in GreenGate,” Markel | Eagle Principal J.B. Gurley said. “What had been a vision (for GreenGate) is starting to come to life. It was vision and words, and now it’s getting ready to become bricks and mortar.”

The development is slated to include 180,000 square feet of retail and office space and 250 homes. Construction on the residential side will start once the retail portion wraps up.

GreenGate’s architecture and tenants are meant to invoke environments similar to those in Carytown or other Richmond neighborhoods like Shockoe Bottom. The development also landed the latest venture from Chris Tsui and his Eat Restaurant Partners, along with the German grocer Lidl.

Shah and Gilbert are longtime friends who both formerly lived in North Carolina and have been fans of the Mellow Mushroom brand for years. They have wanted to start one since at least 2012 but weren’t able to find the right spot, and they took the opportunity with Keagan’s instead.

“The Mellow thing just never really got out of our minds,” Shah said. “Being in the hotel business, I know that when we develop hotels, the brand matters. We know that Mellow is a very strong brand.”

Shah said the restaurant will cost about $2 million to open, which includes signing on as a franchisee and designing the location’s interior. He said he is planning to get bank financing but hasn’t picked a bank yet.

According to Mellow Mushroom’s website, each of its more than 100 locations is locally owned, and in order to apply a franchisee must show a bank statement reflecting assets of at least $300,000.

While Mellow Mushroom’s menu will largely be the same at each location, with pizza and hoagies dominating the options, the brand allows each franchisee to customize the interior space to their liking.

“The environment and the experience are completely different from store to store,” Shah said.

He and Gilbert are still deciding on the experience they hope to invoke with their new venture, Shah said. They’re working with Reston-based Architecture Inc. to design the space.

“With as good a place as the one in Carytown is, some of these folks (in Short Pump) just don’t get out there,” Shah said. “It’s a great restaurant for families, and this is where the families are.”

Shah and Gilbert were represented in the deal by David Andrews of the Shopping Center Group.

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