Shaky Business

updated 08/01/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/01/1994 01:00AM

WHOEVER SAID, "THERE'S ALWAYS room for Jell-O," would love Charles Shamoon's restaurant in a Decatur, Ga., mall just outside Atlanta, where there is room for nothing else. The restaurant, Hello, I'm Gellatin, has 20 dishes on the menu, every one made with Jell-O.

The all-dessert eatery, which opened in March, offers a spectrum of choices ranging from Jell-O Jollypops (three for 99 cents) to Jell-O pizza (a cookie crust topped with Jell-O, fruit and Jell-O-flavored popcorn, $12.95). Other specialties include Strawberry Trifle, Mandarin Orange Parfait and Cherry Cola Supreme, made from cherry Jell-O, Coca-Cola, cream cheese, pecans, sweet cherries, crushed pineapple and pineapple juice.

With enough Jell-O on the menu to impress even Bill Cosby, one might think that the restaurant's name should be Hello, I'm Jell-O. In fact that was the name of Shamoon's first restaurant, a Greenville, Miss., establishment that opened in 1991. Shamoon, 37, the son of a grocer and a housewife, had been looking to strike out on his own and, as he says, "I was asking myself what product was on the shelf that everybody likes but nobody else was serving to the public." The answer, of course, was Jell-O. So he opened a restaurant—and promptly got a stiff letter from Kraft General Food's trademark lawyers, telling him he couldn't use the name. He tried Hello, I'm Jellatin with the same result, so he finally relinquished the J for a G but kept the double L. He moved his restaurant from Greenville first to Augusta, Ga., and finally to Decatur.

His success there has him dreaming of a Jell-O-based empire of franchised stores (the first is scheduled to open in Nashville early next year). But Shamoon sees it more as a calling than a business. "I feel like the whole United States is embracing me with love and compassion," he says. "Jell-O is something we all grew up with. This is our culture. This is America."

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