Elgin's In the Neighborhood Deli owner gives back
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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