Mellow Mushroom coming to Cary

Former CEO plans franchise

Staff WriterDecember 29, 2010 

— Bob Greczyn, who retired this year as CEO of the state's largest health insurer, and his son are going into the pizza business.

They plan to open a Mellow Mushroom in Cary, the most recent location for the well-known pizzeria with a loyal following. It would be the 13th Mellow Mushroom in the state, the fourth in the Triangle, and a definite first for the Greczyns.

"There's an awful lot of people in Cary who are seeking out Mellow Mushrooms in Raleigh and Durham," said Bob Greczyn, 59.

Greczyn is nine months removed from retirement at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The pizzeria is a father-son project between him and Will Greczyn, who turns 24 in January.

"Ultimately, the plan is that as it's successful, it's more of an opportunity for him," the elder Greczyn said. "I plan to be a really good customer while he's working."

With two pizza ovens and a crew of about 80 people, it's not a small undertaking.

"So far, I'm failing at retirement," said Greczyn, who also is a visiting professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Greczyn expects to open the Mellow Mushroom in the freestanding building that once housed Giorgio's at High House Road and Cary Parkway by the second quarter of 2011. The 6,500-square-foot location has seen a string of restaurants come and go, and the shopping center is already home to a Pizza Hut and a Papa John's.

One restaurant expert said the lack of high-quality pizza chains might open a door for Mellow Mushroom.

"As the chains have sort of all gotten involved in price wars, and as consumers have gotten much more focused on local and high-quality, these higher-end places have broken the mold a little bit," said Bob Goldin, executive vice-president at Technomic, a Chicago firm that tracks the restaurant industry.

The Cary restaurant will offer as many as 30 beers on tap. The new store's menu isn't available yet. Delivery is still a "maybe" since Mellow Mushrooms tend to focus on the dine-in crowd, said Greczyn.

The former CEO recognizes the challenges of running a family business.

"With any father and son, the father probably has to work on giving up control, and the son has to work on developing their business skills," Greczyn said.

One question: will Cary's appearance laws allow for the pizza chain's usual giant outdoor mushroom statues?

"I'm going to guess not. It will be a Cary restaurant," Greczyn said. "There will be a variety of shades of beige, and that's fine. It makes us be more creative inside."

andy.kenney@nando.com or 919-460-2608

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