NEW YORK – One of the greatest branded taste-makers of the 20th century was the late Louis Sherry. Most Americans today would know the Louis Sherry name from the defunct ice cream brand, sold in small purple quart containers, or the Louis Sherry candy tins, which are still sold.
The person of Louis Sherry (1855-1926) was a prominent New York City restaurateur, candy maker and entrepreneur. Some reports have him born in France, as well as St. Alban’s, Vermont. Records from the National Archives show him as born Sept. 24, 1855, and English, arriving in the U.S. on March 10, 1868, and residing at 524 Fifth Avenue. His occupation was simply “caterer.”
(His grand nephew added more information to the story in a comment in a blog post, saying that he was Irish, but born in Quebec, making him Canadian, and British.)
While his name is now associated with a defunct ice cream (and now an exclusive revived candy), Louis Sherry was more than that. He built his brand as a hotelier and restaurateur to the Gilded Age. His catering served The 400, a list of the most elite society Americans chronicled by Ward McAllister.
Hotel Restaurant Fame
Beginning at the Brunswick Hotel at 26th St & Fifth Avenues, then the Elberon Hotel in Elberon, N.J, he eventually opened his own restaurant at 38th Street and 6th Avenue. During the first decades of the 20th century, his good love for food and entertaining allowed him to create an empire that encompassed coffee, candy, restaurants and, later, the Sherry-Netherland.
Hotelier Lucius Boomer founded the company with the late Louis Sherry after Sherry’s Fifth Avenue restaurant closed. Sherry and Boomer together developed The Sherry-Netherland at 781 Fifth Avenue, New York, which opened in 1927. There, residents of the hotel apartments could eat from the Sherry kitchen, and live the promise of his way of life. Boomer, who had begun working in Flagler hotels in Florida, opened the new Waldorf-Astoria in 1931.
Such was Sherry’s fame with cooking that the brand continued long after his death, with restaurants and candies. The brand, according to a 1950 Time magazine article reporting on the sale, was then partially owned by Mrs. Lucius M. Boomer, the widow of the Waldorf-Astoria‘s longtime chairman.
Sherry was not only a caterer to the elite. During World War I, he put together a catering wagon for the Army, proving his interest in elevating the tastes of all, particularly in wartime.
His fame was international. The late columnist Walter Winchell in 1942 wrote that the restaurant was challenged only by Delmonico’s, what he called a piece of “solid, quiet swank” vastly different than new places like the Rainbow Room and Fefe’s Monte Carlo.
His obituary from the Woodlawn Cemetery tells of his promotional and presentation skills:
When the ‘Mikado’ opened in New York, Sherry cornered the market in Japanese parasols and ornaments used in cake decoration. He began to receive orders from the carriage trade. He said of this, ‘Nothing goes further with dainty people than dainty decorations.’
The brand thrived after his death. It sold out to Childs’ Company, a publicly traded restaurant chain, in 1950. By the 1970s, it was still a favorite ice cream, and known nationally. By 2009, according to the USPTO, the name was owned by Borden and Beatrice Foods.
Comments below this story tell a bit more about the brand, as well as personal recollections about the ice cream plant in Brooklyn.
Note: This original post from 2009 was updated May 13, 2023.