Black Business Spotlight: Just Turkey

Photo by Ashley Lauren (l-r) Sam Willis and Cedric Steele

New restaurant has smokin’ hot start

The popular new restaurant Just Turkey has received a lot of attention and an outpouring of family, friends, and neighbors. Local entrepreneur Sam Willis is the owner of the new establishment, along with business partner Cedric Steele known as Chef Dusko. The franchise was initially founded in Chicago, and now there’s one in Minneapolis.

 The barbecue turkey is delicious, flavorful and brings forth something new in the neighborhood, fulfilling a market niche.

It took some time for Willis to secure a location for his business. “It was God’s work on this location,” said Willis. He added that Noonies Famous Jerk and Things previously occupied the space before he moved in. Willis is extremely grateful for how the community has embraced the new restaurant. “We’ve been received well,” said Willis.

The soft grand opening took place on September 24, 2020. The alluring scent of smoky barbecued turkey welcomed the new customers. Some patrons dined in, while others ordered for pick up.

Photo by Ashley Lauren Just Turkey

As supportive customers stood in line and abided by COVID-19 protocols, Willis exhibited exceptional customer service and helped place orders. Individuals could dine in with limited seating or place an order for takeout. Chef Nate McGinley stayed busy cooking up tasty turkey. Patrons could be heard vocalizing their love for the turkey and exceptional customer service.

Everything on the menu is just turkey, but the customers have an array of options, from turkey BBQ sandwiches, burgers, ribs, chili, lasagna, links, salads, tacos, and wraps. The most popular items on the menu are: “turkey tips, turkey hot links, and lasagna,” said Willis.

Willis is originally from Chicago. He grew up in South Minneapolis and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1993. As a local entrepreneur, he aspires to exhibit leadership in his community by starting his business. It’s a dream come true.

The business has a positive purpose. “I wanted to open Just Turkey 10 years ago to prevent obesity in the urban community, and this is a way I can find an opportunity to give back to the community in which I grew up,” said Willis.

Between the challenges of the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, the journey to opening and operating the place hasn’t been easy. COVID-19 pushed back the date of the grand opening for months. But Willis remained upbeat and optimistic despite minor setbacks.

 “Everything is in God’s plan,” said Willis. “We really wanted to open in April, early this year, then the George Floyd incident happened. But we stayed persistent and patient.” He added, “It pays off in the end.” The key is to persevere.

In regards to Floyd, the restaurant is adjacent to the sacred, memorial site. The tragic death has created an impact on Willis.

Willis explained, “The incident had an overall impact on me, personally, because I’m a Black male and dealing with racism and segregation has been all our life.” Although many experiences can be disheartening, he chooses to focus on the positive.

Photo by Ashley Lauren

Although there have been trials, tribulations, and unforeseen circumstances in business, Willis focuses on the positive. “The most rewarding thing is finally getting this thing open—been waiting for 10 years. But overall, just being a businessman and bringing a positive thing to the community, that’s rewarding in itself,” said Willis. He is focused on serving as a positive role model and stressed the importance of collectivism and the power of cooperative economics.

Willis shared words of wisdom for the youth and upcoming entrepreneurs. “Stay in school; try to learn as much as you can. We need more engineers and scientists. We need more Black entrepreneurs,” he said. He added that his children are already learning about coding and apps.

When asked what motivates him every day: “My children, waking up, thanking God First. Being able to provide—this is a business for the children to provide for their future,” said Willis.

Just Turkey is located at 3731 Chicago Ave. in South Minneapolis. To place an order, call 612-236-4596 or stop by the restaurant. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm.  Delivery is also available via GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. 

About Ashley Lauren

Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at alauren@spokesman-recorder.com.

View all posts by Ashley Lauren →

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