Human-to-Human Service

Raising a Glass to Ryan McGrale, a Bartender’s Bartender

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 11/17/2015

The Boston bar and restaurant industry is reeling from the devastating news of the sudden death of esteemed barman, Ryan McGrale over the weekend. Ryan was an ebullient professional whose life touched thousands far beyond the Boston and NYC restaurant communities where he worked. The outpouring of love and support for Ryan’s family, friends, and co-workers on social media has been incredibly inspirational. Based on the volume of those posts, the magnitude of McGrale was far, deep, and wide.

Ryan McGrale lived up to the hype.

I met Ryan at No. 9 Park in Boston, one of my favorite restaurant bars in the city several years ago. Whenever I walked in and saw the dynamic duo of Ryan and John Gertsen behind the bar, I knew I was in for an awesome experience. If I stood for too long chatting at the host stand, Ryan would often whip up a Pear Martini, come out from behind, and start asking loudly, “Who ordered the girly drink?” while walking through the crowd, and eventually taunting/embarrassing me when he handed it to me. His pranks and antics are legendary.

Ryan’s service and hospitality were impeccable. He was unfailingly polite, extremely gracious, respectful, and had a remarkable talent for consistently making me and whoever I was with know that we were in great hands. He was extremely knowledgeable, took great pride in what he did, and he worked very, very hard. He was effusive and genuine, fast, friendly, feisty, and funny. His mechanics, charm, and showmanship were a treat to witness. And man, did he ever have the gift of gab. His bar was always entertaining. He wasn’t a big guy, but he was a force who had full command of the bar with his expertise, confidence, hustle, and humility.

Ryan McGrale was a bartender’s bartender. He took pride in being and calling himself a bartender, not some elitist, manufactured name for the trade that he plied so well. Many industry brothers and sisters spent time with him to brainstorm about everything from cocktails to career choices. He was smart and wise beyond his 36 years. He was well-respected and a trusted colleague, and good friend to scores of folks in the industry.

Deepest condolences to Ryan’s family, friends, co-workers, industry peers, and customers trying to grasp the shock of his death. Many of us are struggling to find the words. To that end, I will repeat what I posted on facebook a few hours after I heard the news. Ryan was the quintessential “life of the party,” with tremendous, infectious levels of energy, spirit, and enthusiasm. I’ll never forget the early days at No. 9 Park with Ryan and John together behind the bar, and how good they were at their jobs. Ryan was extremely talented and elevated the game in Boston, NYC and well beyond. He was a gentleman, a showman, a character, and a great ball of fucking fire. This cuts to the core. “Good people” gone way too soon.

In closing, I’ll rely on the help of a few friends from their public comments:

Louis DiBiccari, co-owner of Tavern Road, Ryan’s employer:

Ryan is gone and the pain right now seems insurmountable. I know I’m struggling real hard with it. But I also know that he left us so much to remember him. It can be seen, felt, and experienced through his family at TavernRoad and amongst his peers throughout this great community. You will find reminders of him through Ray Guerin, Will Tomlinson, Steve Schnelwar, and for generations to come. There are names in this city that we recite within our training methods. People who taught us what we know and we speak of them often when we’re explaining how and why in context to our trade. Ryan McGrale is amongst those names. The people we mention when we speak of the great ones and what made them special. He’s a hall of famer. First ballot. May his spirit live on in each of us for the rest of our days.

Lou Saban, veteran Boston barman:

What an unbelievable week of loss.  Beirut, Paris, and now one that hits very close to home.  Ryan McGrale and I only shared a few conversations but it’s always sad to lose someone who dedicated their lives to making people feel like they belong somewhere.  The only comfort you can take in this situation is the endless amount of pictures and videos of him living life to the fullest and making people’s hearts burst with those positive feelings that we spend our whole lives searching for.  What a fucking success of a life. Just keep this week in mind when you wake up tomorrow.  Everyone goes at some point but its more important than anything to live your life in a way that if you went tomorrow everyone would be talking about the times when you MADE THEIR LIFE WORTH LIVING.  Take a look at some of pictures of Ryan and follow his lead.  Live a remarkable life.  Life is a balance and the only reason we feel this terrible is because people like him made us feel so awesome when they were around.  You can be a total, unmitigated success, just like Ryan.

Ryan Brown, Boston DJ and industry friend in a tribute to McGrale:

You were absolutely tireless in your professionalism.  You built something lasting out of things that don’t last. You created. You gave so much energy.  You cared. You engaged. You mentored.  You learned. You broke rules and you made rules.  I sat at your bar countless times, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, but there was a reason why I was sitting at your bar, and it definitely wasn’t because of all the Nelly. There is something spectacular about watching someone with so much skill do their job.  And I’m not just talking about all the technical cocktail knowledge that I know barely anything about, but I’m talking about how you talked to people, how you navigated, how you moved. Above all else though, you made me feel at home, and on those days when you are trying to wrap your head around where home is or what home even is or means, making someone feel at home is a gift. And I thank you for always giving that selflessly. Literally always.

Ashley Stanley, founder of Lovin’ Spoonfuls Food Rescue non-profit:

My heart is heavy for so many industry friends today. Boston lost a truly good guy, so many hearts are breaking all last night and this morning.

There’s been too much turmoil and sadness in the early weeks + months of the season that is supposed to represent gratitude. Maybe the message here is that every day we have a chance to grab the people we love, tell them that they matter – and not wait. Maybe we ought to say too much instead of not enough. Even when it is overwhelming – imagine if we flooded each other and the world with acknowledgment, gratitude and love instead of holding it in and waiting for the ‘right’ moments. Somebody might need to hear it. You might need to say it.

Love loud and often, friends. Let’s not leave anything on the bar.

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Boston Server’s Restaurant Family Steps up to Support Him

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 07/8/2015

I don’t share fundraising initiatives too often here. When I do, I prefer that they be small, private, non-corporate, low admin fee initiatives. Here is one that I fully support, especially because I know and like Fernando and his co-workers helping him a lot. No one is exempt from life-changing events. Please help and share if the spirit moves you. Thank you.

From the GoFundMe page:

Many of you know our loving & happy-go-lucky coworker, Fernando Moraes. He has been a dedicated part of BL Gruppo’s Sportello Restaurant for 4+ years, working as a server and making his mark as part of “Team Wine”. He is also a loving husband and father of an 8-month old daughter, Norah.

2 weeks ago, “Fern” was riding his bike home from work and was stuck by another vehicle. He suffered a broken & fractured arm, broken wrist and 2 broken hands. Honestly, he is very lucky to be alive..

In hopes to maintain his spirit and optimism, and to relieve some financial burden, we have chosen to set up this fundraiser page. Fern’s recovery process will possibly take upwards of 3 months, during which time he will be out of work. As his arms and hands play a vital role in his working enviornment, the quality of his recovery will be extrememly important.

7/8/2015 update from my friend and Fernando’s co-worker, Haley Fortier:

WOW!!! What a push!! We are over half way there in 2 days already!! THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to this cause. It is a really testament to our industry, our clientele, friends, family & to our community in Fort Point!! I am humbled by the response and very much appreciate all of your efforts. We are almost there!!! Keep spreading the word….and again, THANK YOU!!!

More details here.  Again, thank you-Patrick

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Managing Restaurant Employees in the Age of Online Amatuer Reviews

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 06/10/2015

Today’s guest post was submitted by Joshua Sperber, doctoral candidate at CUNY Graduate Center.

I worked, mostly as a host and cashier, in three Los Angeles restaurants during the mid-1990s. In each restaurant, whether it was a mom and pop or part of a national chain, management made the same complaint: my refusal to greet customers with a warm smile was bad for business and, by implication, my job security. One owner even referred to a national study that demonstrated that – as is in fact the case – worker unfriendliness is the main reason that customers don’t return to a restaurant.

While my managers sometimes seemed embarrassed, or even apologetic, to be lecturing their mostly un-tipped, minimum-wage-earning employee on the importance of appearing happy, there was one time when management became deadly serious about its “smile or else” policy. I had been written up by a Mystery Shopper for not smiling while hosting at Coco’s. Seeming to forget that the Mystery Shopper was in fact a company employee applying criteria that the company had invented in the first place, my managers acted as if I had grievously harmed someone. Indeed, management ordering me to smile was one thing, but a customer – even a fake one – ordering me to smile was something else. My only comfort was knowing that because Mystery Shoppers were said to visit infrequently, I wouldn’t have to worry about being spied on by one for a long time.

The website Yelp has changed the way many restaurants manage their staffs. Numerous restaurants, especially chains, still utilize Mystery Shoppers, but these restaurants also supplement their internal reviews with Yelp’s online reviews. And smaller establishments (which are more affected by negative Yelp reviews) that don’t employ Mystery Shoppers generally do rely on Yelp as an informal, albeit unreliable, customer-subsidized “Mystery Shopper.” If I were working at Coco’s today, my occasional anxiety about a potential Mystery Shopper would likely be replaced by perpetual concern that every customer could be a Yelp reviewer. I might even start smiling, not out of happiness or general well-being but out of fear.

I have talked to over two dozen New York City managers who have punished (for instance, through loss of shifts) and even fired employees who had been identified in negative Yelp reviews. Some managers also use Yelp reviews to provide positive feedback. For instance, one chain posts on a bulletin board reviews that praise employees (while still confronting employees about negative reviews, of course). And one manager, according to his employee, even puts his staff to work writing positive Yelp reviews whenever a negative one appears. In short, managers – while maintaining a decidedly ambivalent attitude toward Yelp – have found numerous ways to incorporate online customer feedback into their management of workers.

I am currently writing my dissertation on the ways in which customer-based websites are being used to manage employees. While I have had no trouble interviewing dozens of Yelp reviewers and restaurant managers, it’s been trickier to interview servers (I can’t go into a restaurant and spend 25 minutes talking to a server with the manager watching). I therefore wanted to ask any servers or bartenders reading this to please contact me if you have any experiences with or thoughts on how Yelp has affected your workplace. I’d like to hear from you whether your experiences are good, bad, or neutral, and all interviews will be anonymous.

Thank you very much- Joshua

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Tribute to a True Gentleman-Bartender, Josh Childs

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 09/30/2014

Much to the dismay of Boston’s restaurant community and Tuesday night tipplers, tonight marks the last ‘official’ shift for Josh Childs behind the bar at Silvertone in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. We will miss his affable, warm, welcoming, inclusive and good-natured presence and humor behind the bar. Long ago dubbed, the “Godfather of Boston Hospitality,” Josh is a guy whose laudatory reputation accurately precedes him.

It’s time to celebrate one of Boston’s most beloved bartenders.

One of the first “Josh moments” I had was at Silvertone. After talking with someone outside for several minutes, I came back to my stool at the bar and my High Life was in a mini “beer cooler,” a Boston Shaker tin filled with ice to keep my beer cold. Absolutely brilliant. After several similar interactions with Josh, I quickly realized that the legend was not myth.

A few years back, Misty Kalkofen asked me to help coordinate the initiative to bring “Hey Bartender,” a bartending documentary to Boston. Part of the initiative included assembling a panel of Boston bartenders for an on-stage discussion after the film. I was anxious about getting a great group to commit to the event. Not only did Josh participate, he showed up to dinner with the director before the film, then added his down-to-earth candor, wisdom and insight to the panel discussion. It was a huge relief to have Josh and his voice included in the conversation. Two days after the event, I received a hand-written envelope in the mail. It was an old-school, ‘Thank You’ note from Josh stating that he was “honored to participate.” I was nervous as hell about assembling a panel, and the living legend himself not only comes through, but takes time to humbly send his gratitude. Those are the defining moments that reinforce what the term, “good people” is all about. I’ll never forget that.

I asked some Boston restaurant industry folks and friends to share their reflections about Josh Childs:

Aaron Butler: There are too many stories to exactly say how much Josh has had an impact on me. Still, there is one. That amazing man opened Silvertone on my 30th birthday on a Sunday just for my friends and me and bartended it the whole time with Cedric. He is selfless, thoughtful, and wants nothing but the best out of and for others. 

Seth Yaffe (GM, The Gallows): Josh Childs has always been and will forever be my hero and an inspiration when it comes to how to personify true hospitality in the restaurant industry. He is one of the best people I have ever met, and I am truly grateful to be able to call him a friend. 

Nicole Fonsh: I had to think of a quick place to take my parents before a Saturday night show in the Back Bay that also took reservations. We ended up at a non-descript but reliable chain-type spot on Newbury Street [name redacted to protect the innocent]. As my family and I approached, I thought I recognized Josh and his family sitting outside. And it was him. And I think we both felt slightly guilty to be at this particular establishment. And immediately everyone was laughing about it. I introduced my parents to him and he couldn’t have been more warm and friendly and appreciative of meeting them. Once inside, I explained to my mom and dad who exactly they had just met. “That’s the guy that made me feel like I was home at Silvertone and Trina’s, even when I go in on my own.” They were so excited to have met the man, the myth, the legend. And ever since that encounter, I don’t think there was an night where Josh was working and didn’t ask about how my parents were doing. That has always meant so very much to me. Cheers.

Domingo-Martin Barreres: Josh is the consummate professional and all around great human. A bartender of the people as well as the bartender’s bartender. A rare breed of person who exists on a level that all aspire to but few reach. There is the old saying we have all heard numerous times since childhood that states – if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing. This simple, yet seemingly impossible phrase for most to practice, speaks volumes to the character of Sir Joshua Childs. I have never, not once, heard that man utter a single disparaging word about any one or any thing.

The world can be a dark place at times but, in his presence, always shines a little brighter.

Thank you Josh for being my friend. I love you. Cheers.

Trina Sturm (Trina’s Starlite Lounge): I met Josh the way most have, sitting at his bar, being in awe if his hospitality and the way he commands his bar. We got to know each other when we started working together at the Beehive. Although both of our stints there were short, we formed a great friendship that is still strong. He and my husband, Beau Sturm became fast friends as well, and quickly formed a partnership that over the last 5 years have been lucky enough to open 3 restaurants/bars. 

I owe so much to Josh. The last 5 years have been amazing because of him and we are still going strong. Everyone knows that Josh doesn’t have to be behind the bar to be the guy running the show. His professionalism and hospitality show even when he is sitting at a bar on his night off enjoying a drink.  I’m grateful our friendship and business partnership continues, but I’ll miss having him make me a cocktail. 

Yuki: Visiting Josh & Silvertone – “The best bad idea always.”  So easy to stay late because you’re having so much fun.
On my worst days because work or life is stressing me out, Josh never fails to make me feel better.  The drinks help for sure, but it’s because he really listens, cares and puts things into perspective through advice or inspiration that really lifts my spirits.  Josh & Silvertone always feel like a safe place to be yourself.

Daren Swisher (bartender-jm Curley): Josh has an inimitable presence behind the stick, unfailingly hospitable. He works a bar with such aplomb, all the while forging a genuine rapport with each and every guest. I’ve asked myself, more times than I can count, if tending a bar will ever be so seemingly effortless for me as it is for Josh. I can only hope that someday it might be.

Karen Richey:  I first met Josh Childs on a Sunday while I was working at The Butcher Shop in 2007/08ish.  He would bring in his daughters and have lunch and many other patrons and employees would invariably stop by his table to say hello.  I had no idea who he was or what he had done for the hospitality industry in his life, I only observed him as a Dad, amusing his kids and generally being an amazing guest in the dining room.  His personality always sparkled and he had his own share of “Dad-jokes” that would usually make his older daughter roll her eyes and sigh loudly… “What does blanc-de-blanc mean, sweetie?”…”Aw, Dad, (insert SERIOUS eye-roll) it means the grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay!”

I can only hope that his example is followed as a Father and a Bartender.  What a guy.

John Nugent: My favorite memory of Josh Childs is probably and selfishly the day he hired me. It was a very casual conversation between friends and I asked if he needed anybody for the fall. He replied with “How about you start in September.” I hope I kept my cool but I was doing backflips on the inside. I always wanted to work for him and was so excited to learn from him, Cedric, and Mike, The Three Musketeers of Hospitality.

I think you can relate any positive adjective toward Josh Childs and it could be correct in my opinion. My biggest dare–Find any bartender who has worked for Josh Childs and see if they have one negative thing to say about him.

Greg Reeves (Vialé): Josh Childs is the ultimate role model that many industries/professions lack. Aside from just being good at what he does, he can be an inspiration to just do the right thing. Whether it’s opening an ice cold High Life, or stopping the music so everyone can greet you and know you walked in, he is what the world needs more of. Plain and simple. And tall and handsome.

Tom Mastricola (Café ArtScience): I met Josh when we opened Roadtrip on Canal Street, I believe it was 1994. I was a kitchen guy at that point, but was lucky enough to be a part of an opening restaurant team with an amazing staff. Barmen like Rob Zin, Cedric Adams, Patrick Lynch and Josh Childs came form West Street, which was a great bar, and other places around the area. Everyone in the house was trained by the likes of Steve Olsen, one of the best in the business. A few years later Josh opened Silvertone and I was part of No.9 opening as bar manager. We lived at Silvertone after work and days off. (I actually pulled many shifts on Monday afternoons into the evenings at the end seat of the bar). We would go to Silvertone not only because of the close proximity to No.9, but for the most part the welcome you would get from Josh and everyone there! As far as I’m concerned, he is the king of hospitality in this town and it trickles down to everyone he works with.

We would walk down those stairs after work into a little piece of heaven. 100% industry!! We played cribbage, smoked, talked about the night, met chefs, dishwashers, servers, barmen and everyone from the restaurant scene. Not to mention drinking great wine, drinks, and of course Fernet and beer! Silvertone was everybody’s place to go to feel you where a part of something normal, not just a “restaurant worker.”

Beau Sturm: I wanna tell you about the first time I walked into Silvertone, which is to say, the moment that I knew I wanted to be in the bar business as my career.

It was winter 2000 I’m pretty sure. I was a fairly new bartender/server at Joe’s on Newbury Street– hey, it payed the bills…

After a day shift on a Tuesday, I had dinner at Biba with Mike Ray (another mentor of mine) behind the stick. After dinner I asked him where I could go on a Tuesday that would have some people. He didn’t hesitate to insist that I go to Silvertone, in his words: “the coolest spot in town.” He told me it was in a basement down some alley by the Orpheum. After some alley weaving, I found it.

I walked down the steps to the sound of laughter, loud laughter. It was 11:30pm on a winter Tuesday in downtown crossing; it couldn’t be that crowded…

Well, it was PACKED! Packed with a who’s-who of the restaurant business and what seemed like every hot girl in Boston. Some kind of smooth electro-jazz was playing at the perfect level. The lighting was dim but warm. Every inch of wall-space was taken up with vintage European liquor ads & antique radios. People were having a blast! But why? The place looked really cool but how could it be this busy and fun on a freezing cold Tuesday? I quickly found out. I was one of the droves in the bar. I knew no one. I was just trying to position myself to get a beer when the tall, debonaire barkeep breaks his conversation with a couple of the aforementioned beauties, looked up and gave me a huge smile like he’d known me forever. “Hey brother, can I get you anything?” I ordered a High Life because that’s all I saw anyone drinking. Then Josh saw that I wanted to ask him something but hesitated. He asked what else he could get me and I inquired if he might have a smoke I could bum. He said, “I can do better than that. I’ll be right back.” This guy comes over with an antique cigar box filled with cigarettes! “Take as many as you need buddy”.

I was hooked.

From that moment until this very day if someone comes to visit me, or is staying downtown and asks where to go, I don’t hesitate to insist that they go to Silvertone & see my good friend, Josh Childs.

Peter Boyd: Whenever I would be talking to a young bartender or barback I would always preface things with: I don’t claim to be the best behind a bar, because I know the best bartenders. I just try to take what I’ve learned from watching (and working with) the people I look up to in this business. You should all go sit at Josh Childs’ bar on a Tuesday night. Don’t tell him why you’re there. Just have a couple beers and observe how he moves behind the bar, makes sure you have a water and interacts with strangers and regulars alike.

I always felt that no matter what was going on outside the Silvertone door, you could always count on a smile, kind greeting and a few good hours there.

If you left Boston for a few months/years, you knew there would be that constant. We will miss him behind the bar, but rest assured that the generation of people who learned from his example will be there, spread throughout this city and beyond, to get you a beverage.

Steve Riley: If I was a wordsmith I could go on for days with Josh stories. And if I had a Happy meal #4 or the 200ml of Chartreuse that sits on my desk, I would ramble on…

I first met Josh in the dark ages of Bartending in the early 90’s. Hotel dining was for fancy dinners. No 9 Park, Clio or Radius hadn’t been hatched yet. But the ideas of bigger, more adventurous places were brewing. Josh Childs, Cedric Adams and several of their friends from around the city created an All-Star team behind the bar at a short-lived, white-hot restaurant called, Road Trip. With a collection of egoless talented bartenders from across the city, the bar became an instant success, probably to the detriment of the restaurant itself because every 25 to 40 single in the city was standing in line waiting to get drinks from this talented, fun, funny group of dedicated professionals. I was a fledgling wholesale sales rep when I met Josh for the first time at Road Trip,  along with several others who have become lifelong friends. These guys were a Renaissance of Bartenders in Boston, real restaurant pros and not just a collection of students and actors on their way to greatness…

Josh and a few others of his generation helped set a very high standard of hospitality. Silvertone became a place for industry people to congregate, share ideas, successes and dreams. Lots of the places we enjoy today came from post-shift drinks with waiters, bartenders, cooks, bussers and runners–people drinking and dreaming about better, different, faster ways for us all to eat and drink. Silvertone surely is one of the places that helped incubate the Boston’s restaurant community’s inclusive and supportive nature so prevalent in our city. I believe most people in this city could agree that Tuesday Night with Josh behind the stick at Silvertone was one of the best definitions of HOSPITALITY.

Thank goodness this is just farewell to a bartending career and the end of an era that we are honoring. Here’s to many more years of sharing thoughts, dreams and drinks with our exceptional friend, Josh.

Aaron Cohen: I don’t get to the other side of the river hardly ever, so I just want to thank Josh with warm hugs for Trina’s Starlite Lounge as often as possible.

Justin Ito-Adler (GM, Nantucket Prime): When my brother came back from a year abroad, I brought him to sit with me at Silvertone. When I helped design a new bar program and we needed advice, Josh personally came out to sit with us. When I brought a group out to celebrate my mentor, Tom Mastricola’s, birthday we went to sit at Silvertone. When I wanted to leave the hospitality industry and needed inspiration, a coworker told me to go to Silvertone and sit with Josh. When I lost my job at a law office downtown and didn’t know what to do for work, I went to Silvertone and sat with Josh. When coworkers want to truly understand hospitality, I send them to Silvertone to sit with Josh. A true standup guy in the industry, there are no joys, remedies and experiences in the world of bars quite like going to Silvertone and sitting with Josh Childs. I am happy to be able to say that I had the opportunity.

David Robinson: All I want him to know is that he has all my love and respect.

Joe McGuirk (Highland Kitchen): Josh Childs is Rosa Parks. Or maybe he is Babe Ruth. Or maybe Moses. Or is he Lewis & Clark? Michael Jordan? Maybe he is a bit of all of them. I am talking about his immeasurable impact on the way people tended bar and the way people perceived bartenders. Josh moved all of us bartenders to the front of the bus. He did it with grace and dignity, like Ms Parks. And when he turned his hand to tending bar, he was Ruthian in how he changed the game. There were very good bartenders before Josh but he was a celebrity bartender before every job under the sun needed a “celebrity” version. I’m not saying Josh can part the sea but he did bring so many to a promised land and gave them a code of conduct; he taught both the industry and its patrons how to act whether it was behind the bar or sitting at it. And he did it with patience and humor. He blazed a trail for us all to follow and he did it with a smile but also with a string of incredible successes that reveal his competitive streak. I leave it to all of you to talk about what a great dad he is, what a mentoring boss he has been, and how he made you your first cosmo. I am here to say, bartenders and servers, we need to get this guy a statue, because now when we tell our friends we are working in restaurants, they don’t ask, “What else are you doing?” They will ask if we are hiring. 

Here’s to the next chapter, Josh. Thank you for the nights you masterfully held court behind the bar while respecting the people you were serving on both sides. It will be comforting to see you on the same side more often. Cheers, brother.

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86 Boston’s Legendary Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe: 1927-2014

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 06/29/2014

When Fontaine locked the door on Thursday afternoon and Arthur climbed onto a stool to take the weight off his bum knee, I knew it was time. You could feel it. The Manjourides siblings have earned their retirement after working very hard together at Charlie’s for nearly four decades–an amazing feat unto itself.

I attended the last day of service on Saturday morning. Some of us camp out for concert and playoff tix, some of us for food and history in the making. My goal was to be first in line for the 7:30 opening. When I arrived at 6:25, the counter was already full of melancholy regulars and lively banter.

There are very few authentic places left that exude as much soul and history that Charlie’s did. After the door was locked on Thursday, I slowly walked around the restaurant taking in every framed picture and scrap of memorabilia, some I had never seen before. Fontaine filled in the blanks for me, “Oh yeah, that picture of me and Marie was used for an AT&T Ad. Yes, that’s Dennis Johnson (“DJ” Celtics legend), Al Pacino,…the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guys were so nice…”

We’ve all been to wakes, funerals or memorial services and thought, “If only we could have gathered this group when (deceased) was alive to celebrate their life with them and let them know how much we loved them.”  The “living wake” for Charlie’s began on May 11th when the cat jumped out of the bag via twitter. Since then, and another twitter announcement, the Manjourides siblings have been inundated with media and sentimental regulars visiting for one last meal to say goodbye and congratulations. One gentleman who frequented Charlie’s 50 years ago, drove up alone last week from Alabama to pay his respects.

Personally, I’m thrilled for the Manjourides siblings and their families. I’m honored to have befriended all of them, and so happy they’ve closed the restaurant on their own terms. I have so much respect for what they have accomplished and endured. I’ll repeat the message I posted on my Facebook album dedicated to the extended Charlie’s family:

Much gratitude to siblings, Arthur, Chris, Fontaine, and Marie who have been operating Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe together for decades without killing each other!! I’ll miss the history, charm, wit, character(s), stories and friendship. Thank you for serving the South End neighborhood and Boston (and far beyond) so long and so well. Congratulations on a legendary run, and good luck on the next chapter. Cheers to everyone on both sides of the counter at Charlie’s, past and present.

To Charlie’s, a legendary American institution. Cheers. You will be greatly missed.


Boston Globe June 29, 2014 by Dan Adams

WBUR-Boston’s NPR news station June 27, 2014

Boston Magazine May 14, 2014 by Christopher Hughes End News May 12, 2014  by George Cuddy

Where Hash Rules  by George Cuddy

Facebook Album dedicated to Charlie’s & the Manjourides family by Patrick Maguire

WHDH Boston June 28,2014



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