A local family’s new business endeavor is getting Grand Rapids talking, especially for those in the hospitality industry. As a restaurant and bar, Turnstiles, located on the West Side at 526 Stocking Ave. NW, is mixing things up with a focus on becoming the hospitality hub of Grand Rapids.
This American comfort food hangout aspires to attract not just those wanting a good bite to eat but also to serve as a musical interlude and a welcome experience for those of all ages.
The Schellenbergs are the family behind the Turnstiles operation. Siblings Robert Schellenberg III and Jill Schellenberg, along with parents Robert Schellenberg Jr. and Kathleen Schellenberg, bring the magic to life. The restaurant saw its grand opening back in April, but Robert III aspired to enter the industry for years.
“I’ve wanted to start my own restaurant since college,” he said. “I started busing, doing security, serving and bartending. When I got into bartending, I was asked to be the manager, and my parents realized I had a gift.”
Turnstiles takes its inspiration from the classic American southern dining experience, blending music, food and cocktails into one rollicking package. Robert III spent time in New Orleans and came away buzzing with ideas.
“During travels, my family would always find the industry bars,” he said. “It would be these holes in the wall that were such unique places, and I fell in love with that idea.”
As far as food goes, Turnstiles does a great deal to turn heads. The menu is filled with southern staples like chicken wings, sweet potatoes and tacos. But even its pub-inspired offerings get a nice twist. The Three Alarm Chicken Sandwich blends three unique spices into the chicken at its center, and the elote burger stacks two patties along with corn, guacamole and cilantro-lime sour cream. While those are must-try items, there’s not a weak spot on the menu.
For the drinkers, it’s a paradise. Not only is there a full bar, but Turnstiles also specializes in craft cocktails. Examples include the French 75, the Black Manhattan, Sazerac, the Cocomo, Westside Girl and Michigan Mutt, a play on the White Russian. It’s also working on rolling out a mocktail menu for nonalcohol drinkers.
As for entertainment, there’s a trio of TVs if watching sports is your bag. But for those itching to see live performances again after being in quarantine, Turnstiles has so much to offer it will make your head spin. Every Friday and Saturday night promises live music with additional performances every Tuesday and Thursday night.
“I love the blending of the industry and musicians because the camaraderie of those two are perfect, and I wanted to bring it to my place,” Robert III explained.
Though the result is a fabulous new restaurant, Robert’s road to that end wasn’t easy. Battling alcoholism and addiction didn’t get in the way of achieving his dream, and after 15 years in the industry, his hard work has paid off. From great food to an unequaled atmosphere, this joint is sure to satisfy your tummy and set your feet tapping.
As for the future of this hopeful family, spirits are up. “If everything goes well, my team would like to open more restaurants,” Robert III said.
ArtPrize 2021 entry
A unique feature at Turnstiles that will quickly capture your attention is a jazz mural painted by artists Jason Rodriguez and Heather Dickens, who are based in New Orleans.
Turnstile co-owners Robert Schellenberg III and Jill Schellenberg met the artists five years ago at one of the night markets around the French Quarter.
Jason owns Art87jr and Heather owns Sunnyside Art. They do a lot of collaborations but also have their own unique styles. They now have approved vendor space in Jackson Square as well as travel the country during the summer to attend art festivals.
In January, the mural project kicked off and the plan is to enter the artwork in ArtPrize 2021.
“We are so excited to be their ArtPrize venue. We absolutely love their work — and them,” Kathleen Shellenberg said.
This story can be found in the September/October 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.