A Michigan Restaurant Only Serves Folks Who Talk Turkey
12/02/1985 at 01:00 AM EST
Not far from Marshall, Mich., just off the Turkeyville exit and down a ways on Turkeyville Road is—how could you guess?—an establishment known as Turkeyville. The 400-seat restaurant is actually named "Cornwell's Turkey House," giving top billing to the family that runs the place rather than to the bird that is their bread and Butterball. But the highway signs say Turkeyville, so Turkeyville it is called.
This one-trick tourist trap is the family business for three generations of Cornwells. At the top of the pecking order is Wayne Cornwell, 72. The theme of the place is simple: turkeys. The restaurant serves turkey as the main course and nothing but. Your only decision is which of a dozen ways you want it fixed. When diners are done gobbling their turkey dogs or buttered turkey sandwiches, they can browse through a few of the other shops on the premises, including a deli (mostly turkey products, of course), bakery, gift shop, photo studio and hen house loaded with 500 young turkeys.
Turkeyville started as a three-table, eight-stool operation in 1968. As business got better, says Wayne, "we found out that raising the birds and serving them were two different operations." But he and his wife, Marjorie, did raise them for 30 years before their roadside attraction got as popular as their copyrighted $1.98 Sloppy Toms. This year visitors will devour 15,000 birds, and on the restaurant's busiest day, the Fourth of July, as many as 10,000 turkey meals are served. The live turkeys on the premises these days are just for show.
Interestingly, Wayne has nothing but disdain for the bird that is his livelihood. "Wild turkeys are real smart, but domestic turkeys have the smarts bred out of them. They are so stupid they keep their mouths open in a hard rain and drown themselves. The only thing dumber than turkeys are people who raise them," says Wayne. One look around the 235-acre Turkeyville complex easily contradicts that statement.
Aside from what Wayne calls a "short winter's nap" from Christmas to March, Turkeyville is open Monday through Saturday the rest of the year. Oddly enough, there is one exception—Thanksgiving. That's the day the Cornwell clan sits down together and proves that familiarity breeds contempt even for the finest American traditions. Thursday's menu: rib roast.