Louis Sherry (1855, St. Albans, Vermont – 1926) was an important American restaurateur, caterer, confectioner and hotelier during the Gilded Age and early 20th century. His name is typically associated with an upscale brand of candy and ice cream, and also the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York City.
Sherry was born in St. Albans, Vermont, to parents of French-Canadian descent. Certain reports cite an early experience as a hotel busboy in Montreal, Canada. He eventually moved to New York City, and quickly made a name for himself in the restaurant business at the Hotel Brunswick (26th Street and Fifth Ave) and then as restaurant manager at the Hotel Elberon (Elberon, New Jersey).
Around 1880, with $1,300 saved from his time at the Hotel Elberon, Sherry launched his first restaurant in New York City at 38th Street and Sixth Avenue. The new establishment struggled a bit at first, but Sherry's knack for "dainty decorations" and the "novelties of service" won a following from "The Four Hundred" (late 19th century term for New York City's social elite, coined by Ward McAllister). In a short time, Sherry upgraded to a larger (and more prestigious) location at 37th Street and Fifth Avenue. But even that location proved too small, and again the business upgraded to 44th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The restaurant was the site for a dinner on horseback held by wealthy industrialist Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, who had recently opened a private trotting stable at what is Fort Tryon Park today. Billings intended to have the dinner at the stables, but changed his mind and rented the main ballroom at Louis Sherry's instead. On March 28, 1903, the horses were brought to the fourth floor of the Sherry building by freight elevator into a room fitted with a canvas backdrop to simulate an English country scene. Billings invited 36 guests to dine with him on horseback. Trays for the food were attached to the riding saddles and champagne was able to be sipped from a bottle in one's saddlebag via rubber tubing. The horses were not Billings' own, but had been rented from local riding academies for the dinner; they were fed with troughs.
In 1919, with the advent of Prohibition, Sherry announced the closure of his restaurant and ballroom which "for a generation [had] been the scene of some of New York's most brilliant social gatherings." In place of the restaurant, Sherry immediately established Louis Sherry Inc., with a capitalization of $400,000, and the intent of performing "catering and the manufacture and sale of candies and pastries". He opened a new shop at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue for this business, and announced an "alliance" with the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel that involved both his candies and catering services. Although it was not disclosed at that time, at some point ownership of Louis Sherry Inc. was significantly vested in "Boomer-duPont interests" (a reference to Lucius M. Boomer, then chairman of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and T. Coleman du Pont).
Although it bears his name, it does not seem that Louis Sherry was personally involved in the landmark Sherry-Netherland Hotel. The "old" Netherland Hotel, originally built around 1892 for William Waldorf Astor, was acquired in 1924 by Frederick Brown, "an operator, [to] be remodeled into stores and apartments". It was not until March 1927 (nearly a year after Sherry's death) that the almost-complete "new" Netherland was acquired by Louis Sherry Inc. (through a subsidiary called The Sherry-Netherland Company). By that time the company was controlled by Boomer and du Pont through their "Boomer-du Pont Properties Corporation", which also owned the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
- "The Talk of the Town, Louis Sherry", The New Yorker, June 19, 1926, p. 7
- "Milestones", Time, June 21, 1926
- "Louis Sherry Dies; Famous Caterer...", The New York Times, June 10, 1926, Page 25
- "FYI". The New York Times. August 15, 2004. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- Wendt, LLoyd; Kogan, Herman, eds. (1948). Bet a Million! The story of John W. Gates. New York: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 221. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
- "Sherry's To Move May 17; Fifty-Eighth Street Plan Modified by 'Prohibition and Bolshevism'", The New York Times, May 17, 1919, Page 28
- "Netherland Hotel Sold by Astor Estate; To Be Made Into Stores and Apartments", The New York Times, December 26, 1924, Page 1
- "New 5th Av Hotel In Boomer Chain", The New York Times, March 8, 1927, Page 7
- "The Man In The Street: Louis Sherry", The New York Times, October 2, 1904, Page SM1