Sherry-Lehmann, an upscale wine store that has long enjoyed a reputation as New York City’s premier liquor retailer, is in danger of closing its doors as its free-spirited corporate clientele continues to move away from Midtown Manhattan. The Post.
The 88-year-old establishment, which once counted Greta Garbo among its loyal customers and was credited with introducing Dom Pérignon to the United States in 1946, even the Big Apple turned down a bold and risky offer to expand its business nationwide. Pandemic recovery, sources told The Post.
Sherry-Lehmann owes New York state $3.1 million in unpaid sales taxes, and is ranked ninth on the Department of Taxation and Finance’s list of the top 250 taxpayers, James Gazzale, a spokesman for the agency, told The Post. took over.
“They’re high on that list,” Gazzale said. “We are trying to communicate with them and find a mutually beneficial way to resolve them as soon as possible. If we can’t come to an agreement, we [can] take away the business.”
The venerable grocers are taking no chances either, the sources said, and are demanding unusually tight payment terms from Sherry-Lehman’s current owners, Chris Green and Shyda, who took an undisclosed stake in the business in 2013. Gilmer, a veteran employee, is now its CEO.
“Suppliers are now forcing [Sherry-Lehmann] Wire them the money because their checks bounced,” said a source familiar with the situation.
Green and Gilmer did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
This week Park Ave. A visit to the formerly busy store at 505 showed a few shoppers picking through the stained shelves. The white Burgundy section — once reserved for select bottles from Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Meursault, which sold for thousands of dollars each — was largely empty, except for a row of relatively prosaic bottles priced at $54.95.
A few steps away, three bottles of Bordeaux – 2012 Chateau Ausone Saint-Emilion – priced at $7,995 each – are dusty and stained with fingerprints. Next to them, a $695 bottle of Chateau Filhot Sauternes lay askew on its side.
Founded in 1934 by Sam Aaron and his brother Jack—a notorious bootlegger during Prohibition—Sherry-Lehman earned a reputation as the gateway to the U.S. market for French wineries. Sam Aaron, a trained marketing psychologist, once boasted of his failed attempt to corner the market on Chateau Petrus, one of Bordeaux’s best wines.
However, in recent years, the iconic retailer has faced expensive and ill-fated moves. The biggest may be the 2007 decision to move out of its Manhattan flagship at 679 Madison Ave., where it owned the property for 60 years, a decision by Michael Aaron, the last Aaron family business executive. coincided with his departure. .
Sherri-Lehmann will pay about $2 million in annual rent for its current three-story, 9,500-square-foot glass-and-steel Park Avenue space at the corner of East 59th Street, a source familiar with the business told The. Post.
Meanwhile, the company has quietly closed a warehouse it opened near Los Angeles International Airport in 2017 as it considered a grand opening for a store there — the first step toward a now-cancelled ambition to build a national brand, according to sources.
“They decided to sell the building they owned to bring in capital and open Sherry-Lehmann West in Los Angeles, but it was a huge bust,” the source said. “Now they have to rent.”
Earlier this year, Sherry-Lehmann closed its 65,000-square-foot warehouse in Jamaica, Queens, where it stocked expensive Burgundy, Champagne whiskeys and rare whiskeys and cognacs for affluent customers who buy several cases at a time.
Warehouse workers there earned union wages as members of the UFCW Winery and Distillery Workers union. A union representative said they were told Sherry-Lehmann plans to open another warehouse in Pearl River, Rockland County.
Sherry-Lehmann had $42 million in revenue in 2018, according to wine trade publication MarketWatch. According to a 2016 Time Out report, at its peak, the Park Avenue store was so busy that it ran three shuttles a day between its warehouse and its Park Avenue location.
“If you want to buy three bottles of something, you can go online and search for those bottles,” said Sherry-Lehman’s former CEO Chris Adams, who left the company during the pandemic. said MarketWatch in 2018. “But if you want to buy three jobs, that’s a different conversation. Owning and storing wine defines us. For Sherry-Lehmann, this has always been a real difference.
But Sherri-Lehman’s national ambitions and ambitious approach to customer service have since gone out the door as overspending, largely due to the pandemic, has become unmanageable, sources said.
“A lot of liquor stores in Manhattan are hurting because the workforce isn’t coming back to Manhattan,” said Michael Correra, a Brooklyn liquor store owner and executive director of the Metro Package Store Association, an industry trade group. “They’re in the corporate business a lot of the time, and that business doesn’t exist.”
Sherry-Lehman co-owner Shyda Gilmer admitted last year that the store had to reinvent itself.
“With Pedestrian Traffic in Midtown Manhattan Significantly Reduced Due to Pandemic,” Gilmer – said to the leaders In April 2021, “we have aggressively invested in our infrastructure, logistics and technology platforms to address the growth in scale of online shopping and contactless delivery to the customer’s doorstep.”
Insufficient investment. Earlier this week, a sign on the front door of the Park Avenue store said Sherry-Lehmann’s, which was previously open on weekends, was now closed on Saturdays.
“Please excuse our appearance while we get better,” the sign reads.