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June 2012
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The House of 'Shroom: An ArtFul Eatery

Story by Jessica Perkins Photography by

Centered on local art, locally sourced foods and connecting guests to the proud history that surrounds the redevelopment of Paducah's beloved Coke Plant, the newly opened Mellow Mushroom has already established itself as an epicenter of heritage and culture.

Co-owners Ed and Meagan Musselman and Dr. Brandon and Jessica Strenge felt it was important that local artists create all of the art housed within the restaurant.

"Ed and I have always wanted this space to belong to the community. We have so many talented artists who live and work here. So getting them involved was a priority for us," Meagan said.

The Musselmans worked closely with Mellow Mushroom's senior art and design manager, Amy Senn, to make sure that the restaurant reflected the local flavor of the region.

"The artists I have engaged with in Paducah have been incredibly excited about working with us, as well as incredibly flexible inside a working paradigm that most gallery artists do not ever work within," Senn said. "I am just blown away at the amount of talent you have in such a small place. It's been a wonderful opportunity, not just for the artist, but for us as well."

While patrons will have plenty of visual imagery to feast their eyes upon while dining there, one does not have to enter the restaurant to capture the vibrant scenery housed within. Even a casual stroll down Labelle Street provides passersby a glimpse of an iconic mural featuring the Paducah Coke Plant's original owner, Luther Carson, painted on a wall of the restaurant by local artist Rob Estes in the style of Peter Max.

Another focal point of interest is the community art piece installed on a soffit above the dining platform in the middle of the eatery.

"This installation alone has 17 contributing artists and is the first community art project in a Mellow Mushroom to date," Senn said.

Situated at the center of the community, Mellow Mushroom is well positioned to be one of Paducah's most intriguing cultural destinations, drawing people from all walks of life together to celebrate good food and craft beer. The restaurant offers a variety of fresh, hot pizzas baked in stone pizza ovens. A core menu of options will be available, with local variations rotating seasonally. The restaurant also features a gluten-free menu and a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. The free floating bar boasts 48 craft beers on tap, bringing the total number of craft beers housed under the Coke Plant's roof to 100, with 28 of those on tap at neighboring Dry Ground Brewery.

"We want this to be a place where people can come and relax and have fun together," Meagan said.

The Musslemans worked hard to find ways to tie the restaurant's décor and design to the Coke Plant's rich history.

"Ever since Ed and I purchased the building, we've had a hard time connecting with the right people at Coke and that's where Mellow Mushroom really stepped in and helped us make those connections," Meagan said.

The Musslemans spent hours in Coca Cola's archives in Atlanta, sifting through Luther Carson's letters, photographs of the bottling line, and a host of other documents they found fascinating. Copies of many of those documents are included in the custom wallpaper featured behind a handcrafted table adorned with 1974 nickels.

"We chose 1974 because that was the year that Mellow Mushroom started, and we chose nickels because so many people told us stories of how Luther Carson would walk around with pockets filled with nickels and gave them to kids saying, 'Go buy yourself a Coke,' because Coke was a nickel at that time," Meagan said.

In addition to having created a fun, new attraction in Western Kentucky, the Musslemans are also living proof that with a lot of sacrifice and much hard work, dreams really can come true.

"This didn't just happen," Meagan said. "We sacrificed a lot over the last four-and-a-half years. We are very much average people, but one credit I give to Ed is that he is stubborn. When he sets his mind to do something, he does it. If it hadn't been for him, I might have jumped ship a long time ago."

Mellow Mushroom is located at 3121 Broadway in Paducah's historic Coke Plant. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday. For more information, visit www.mellowmushroom.com/store/paducah.

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