Gerry’s Wines and Spirits manager Allen Day on 31 Years in Soho
"You see the drug dealers one minute to a crocodile line of schools children the next"
30 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya
It is a place that many describe as a Soho institution, with walls covered in exotic bottles of rare liquors from all over the world. And this Sunday Gerry’s Wines and Spirits marks the finishing line to the famous waiters’ race as part of the Soho Village Fete.
Manager Allen Daly, who has worked there for more than 31 years, says: “We sell around 190 gins, about 200 bourbons, 200 rums, 200 vodkas… I’ve tried about 85 per cent of what we sell. Whenever we have a new product in we all taste it. If I don’t like it, we won’t sell it.”
Gerry’s was opened 34 years ago by Michael Kypianou and Gerry Cohen, and has not changed much since. Both founders previously worked at the celebrated Delmonico’s wine store, which had existed in Old Compton since 1925.
“We started off looking after the local bars and restaurants and soon became part of the fabric of Soho,” says Allen. “We’ve pretty much stayed the same, except for a new till.”
Unfortunately, he said, the number of independent businesses in the area has been dwindling in recent years, but he still meets all sorts of people and regularly serves everyone from actors to a whole cast of Soho characters.
“It’s brilliant working here, we never know what to expect,” he says. “Some people think it is just a place to go out, but what some people don’t realise is that there is a whole vibrant community here in Soho. The difference between day and night is like chalk and cheese. It’s like two different places. In the day there are lots of local workers, at night it gets a lot more noisy and dramatic.
“Outside the shop, if you watch the world go by, you see everything from drug dealers one minute to a crocodile line of school children going past the next.”
The store has won numerous industry awards, such as retailer of the year and gin retailer of the year, not least for their selection of spirits from the world over.
This Sunday, at 3.30pm, waiters from local businesses race around the streets carrying a tray, a napkin, a half bottle of champagne and a champagne glass, crossing the line outside Gerry’s.
“It’s brilliant,” Allen adds. “I’m all for it.”