Now it’s in the library for Elgin deli guy Jeff Turner
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News December 6, 2012 4:10PM
Owner Jeff Turner makes a grillied sandwich at the In the Neighborhood Deli which he owns. Turner will expand his business to include a location at the main library at 270 N. Grove, Elgin, Illinois. "In the Neighborhood Fresh" will operate out of the space that was previously occupied by Chicago Gourmet Cafe. December 5, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 7, 2012 9:41AM
ELGIN — It is a “match only found in fairy tales,” according to Jeff Turner of In the Neighborhood Deli.
The owner the five-year-old west-side Elgin eatery is adding a new location next week — in the cafe area of the Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Avenue.
It will be the third vendor that has tried to make a go of the cafe space at the Elgin library. Instead of coffee and pastries, In the Neighborhood Fresh, as the new cafe will be known, will focus on the sandwiches, wraps and salads that have drawn customers to the deli at 185 N. Edison Ave.
Carole Medal, the Gail Borden director, approached Turner in early November about taking over the space. The new cafe is set to open Monday.
“It was all done in a month. We are not messing around,” Turner said.
Although the two previous cafe occupants have struggled, Turner said his reputation in Elgin and relationship with customers will be a draw for the library’s cafe.
“It is all about relationships and taking care of your customers. We opened this restaurant and went into a recession three months later. Five years later we are still open, because of how we treat our guests,” said Turner, who’s also known for being the main person behind Elgin’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner event.
“We have a name in town. People know us and know our quality,” he added.
He hopes that by offering sandwiches, soups, salads and wraps — as well as children’s-menu items — he will attract customers who will come to the library to eat, and not just grab a pastry on their way out.
“My customers have a connection to me. I hope they say ‘Lets eat at the library, Jeff is down there,’” he said.
Neither does he plan to limit his customer base to the 2,500 people who walk into the library every day, or its 150 employees. “We will be aggressive and innovative,” to draw customers in, Turner said.
The full menu from In the Neighborhood — with sandwiches named after Gail Borden, Lowrie Elementary School, Judson University and The Hemmens — will not immediately be available at the new location, Turner said. Most of the prep work for sandwiches will be done at the current deli as well.
But, customers can have the food made to order, and a few of those speciality sandwiches will be on the menu from time to time, he said.
“You will be able to build your own, pick your own ingredient sandwiches, salads, soups and wraps,” Turner said.
Even the soups will be fresh. He is working on a system to make Thai pho-style soup, where hot broth is poured over fresh vegetables.
There also will be pre-made sandwiches for those customers just looking to “grab and go” Turner said.
Pastries and muffins will still be available, too — all made at the deli by Elgin resident Elda Sirridge.
“We are so pleased that In the Neighborhood will be opening here,” said Gail Borden’s Medal. “Jeff is all about serving community and that is the essential hallmark of this library.”