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FAMILY AFFAIR:Cook Rocky Jones, left, and co-owners Ronald Morrell Sr. and his wife, Alicia, talk about the first weeks of business at Morrell’s Fish and Chicken, 1024 West Delphi Avenue, on Wednesday.
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CHOICES, CHOICES:New customer Artez Drake, left, asks questions about the menu as cashier Shanta Jackson waits to take his order at Morrell’s Fish and Chicken, 1024 West Delphi Avenue, on Wednesday. The new restaurant is located in the former Shelby’s Ice Cream Shoppe building.

BY Brian Powers - bpowers@chronicle-tribune.com

After almost two years of planning, Feb. 1 marked the first day of open doors for Morrell’s Chicken Fish & Chicken. The restaurant replaced a former ice cream store at 1024 W. Delphi Ave.

While Morrell’s serves the obvious – fish and chicken – the restaurant also serves up shrimp, fried green tomatoes and alligator. Yes. Alligator.

Owner and operator Ronald Morrell said he got the idea while living in South Bend and working in the flooring industry.

“I was there for about a year, and we’d always eat fast food, but then I found a place that was fast food, but it wasn’t fast food,” Morrell said. “I mean, the food was made fast, but it was also fresh. That was a nice change from regular fast food.”

Ronald and his wife Alicia decided to bring the concept to Marion focusing on the “fast food, but not fast food” mentality.

The Morrells said the business has been fairly busy since opening its doors, but they still consider this time their soft opening.

“We’re averaging between 50-100 orders per day, depending on the weather,” Alicia Morrell said.

The pair said, although the interior of the restaurant is too small to allow eat-in guests, there are picnic tables outside for use during warmer months. The Morrells also said not only does their eatery take call-ahead orders, they actually encourage them.

“Call-ahead orders work much better because orders take between 10 and 12 minutes, and it’s small in here,” Ronald Morrell said.

Although the couple is more than excited about their new venture, what sweetens the deal is the restaurant being a family establishment. From cousins, children and lifelong friends helping run the show to Ronald’s uncle cooking, everyone involved is either family or close enough to be considered as such.

Their chef has been a Marion mainstay in kitchens for 30 years. Rocky “Uncle Rock” Jones walked into the restaurant with Ronald prior to its opening and knew where he was needed.

“I had a vision for this restaurant, but I’m not a chef,” Ronald said. “Uncle Rock came in and started asking me when we were going to open, saying we need to do this or we need to do that, and I knew he was with us, and I’m glad because he’s a bad, bad man.”

Rock said the choice to join his family was an easy one.

“I like to cook, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years,” Jones said. “I just like to see this place grow.”