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updated: 11/23/2012 10:57 AM

Elgin's In the Neighborhood Deli owner gives back

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  • In The Neighborhood Deli has become a gathering place for many people to enjoy good food and good company. "What makes this place special is that it is a place where people can go see people they know and share a great sandwich. Itīs like a big family dinner in here," owner Jeff Turner says with a smile.

       In The Neighborhood Deli has become a gathering place for many people to enjoy good food and good company. "What makes this place special is that it is a place where people can go see people they know and share a great sandwich. Itīs like a big family dinner in here," owner Jeff Turner says with a smile.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Turner opened his deli in April of 2008, fulfilling a dream many chefs have of owning their own restaurant.

       Jeff Turner opened his deli in April of 2008, fulfilling a dream many chefs have of owning their own restaurant.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Turner of In The Neighborhood Deli & Cafe organizes just a few of the desserts for Elgin's Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Hemmens Cultural Center. Turner gets help from 200 volunteers to staff the event each Thanksgiving.

       Jeff Turner of In The Neighborhood Deli & Cafe organizes just a few of the desserts for Elgin's Thanksgiving Community Dinner at the Hemmens Cultural Center. Turner gets help from 200 volunteers to staff the event each Thanksgiving.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff walks his children Katie, left, and Alec to school in Elgin. Turner says that by being his own boss, he still works 80 hours a week but he gets to choose which hours those are. "I donītī miss my sonīs football games, my daughters softball games."

       Jeff walks his children Katie, left, and Alec to school in Elgin. Turner says that by being his own boss, he still works 80 hours a week but he gets to choose which hours those are. "I donītī miss my sonīs football games, my daughters softball games."
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Angela Kibbe of Elgin greets Thanksgiving dinner organizer and chef Jeff Turner of In the Neighborhood Deli while serving desserts at the Hemmens Cultural Center during a free community meal.

       Volunteer Angela Kibbe of Elgin greets Thanksgiving dinner organizer and chef Jeff Turner of In the Neighborhood Deli while serving desserts at the Hemmens Cultural Center during a free community meal.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Turner of ITN Deli in Elgin takes an order for a Hemmens, a sandwich he says is one of his most popular.

       Jeff Turner of ITN Deli in Elgin takes an order for a Hemmens, a sandwich he says is one of his most popular.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Turner wraps up one of his specialty sandwiches.

       Turner wraps up one of his specialty sandwiches.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Moving Picture: Deli Owner

 
 

Owner of In The Neighborhood Deli or ITN Deli, Jeff Turner of Elgin wears many different hats these days.

From chef to coach to PTO president, Turner's email signature is longer than most emails.

Working long hours is never fun but Turner says he likes being his own boss.

"The best thing about not working for a corporation is that you can do whatever you want," Turner says.

He still works 80 hours each week but he gets to choose those hours.

"I don't miss my son's football games, my daughter's softball games," he says.

Turner has taken his twenty years of experience in professional kitchens and opened a hometown, friendly gathering place that also serves great sandwiches and allows him to offer catering.

"It is all about taking care of people. If you give them a good product, good service and make them feel important they will come back," he says.

As much as making a great sandwich, and making money doing it, Turner says "it is also our mission to give back to the community as much as we can."

"It has always been a chef's dream to have his own place," says Turner and in April of 2008 that is just what he did. Unfortunately, that was the start of the recession.

"It was tough, there were days I was not sure that we would be open," he says. So Turner sat down with his staff and told them how it was. "I don't know what is going to happen today, tomorrow or the next day."

He also told them that he had been approached with the idea of holding a Thanksgiving dinner for the Elgin community. So Turner made a decision, and told his employees "The deli may last a week, we may last a month or we may last 20 years but we are going to go down and help as many people as we can."

The moment that solidified Turner's way of thinking was during the first Thanksgiving dinner they organized, when his son Alec said to him "Dad, I thought this was a dinner for the homeless."

Looking across the room, Alec saw a family he knew, and told his dad he went to school with a boy in the family. Right then and there Turner said he decided it is all about giving back.

Turner now organizes the annual Thanksgiving community dinner, the Have a Heart Dinner and two community cookouts in the summer. Turner says he plans to continue to do three to four events a year that are totally free for the community. And Turner says he's been humbled by the community response.

"All I really do is orchestrate things," Turner says, "it is the community that gives the money, it's the community that volunteers, it is the community that brings the desert."

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