The owners of Sherry-Lehmann have reportedly treated New York’s top-notch wine shop like their own personal stash of liquor — helping themselves to rare, expensive vintages on company pennies, though disgruntled customers claim they don’t get the supplies they paid for, like them Post has learned.
As first reported by The Post, sources said the iconic 88-year-old winemaker is in danger of closing his doors after piling up a $3.1 million sales tax bill to New York State. It’s also reportedly behind schedule with suppliers and customers alike: Last week, two well-heeled wine lovers sued the store, claiming they were owed more than $800,000 in undelivered goods.
Meanwhile, former and current employees told The Post that the store’s two owners – who took over the business a decade ago from the Aaron family, who started it in 1934 after Prohibition ended – reportedly fell into the flashy habit to treat yourself to top class wines.
CEO Shyda Gilmer, who joined Sherry-Lehman in her 20s as a sales rep and became a partner in the company in 2007, and Kris Green, who worked at hedge funds before investing in Sherry-Lehman in 2013, often grabbed booze off the shelves when they went out to dine at chic nearby restaurants like Nobu 57, La Goulue and The Post House, sources said.
They didn’t pack with budget-friendly specials — instead, they carried bottles of rare champagne, burgundy, and bordeaux that sources say would have fetched hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars at the store.
“If your employees see you walking out the door with two magnums of champagne and burgundy every day, that’s not good news,” said a former Sherry-Lehmann executive, noting that the boss’s lunches and dinners were notoriously lengthy. “We used to joke that Nobu 57 was that [Gilmer’s] Office from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.”
Management under Sherry-Lehmann’s founding family Aaron certainly used free products, insiders said. But they mainly tapped into the plentiful samples sent in by vineyards and traders in hopes of earning a coveted spot on the store’s shelves, a person with direct knowledge told The Post.
Previous owners — whose clients have included Greta Garbo and Andy Warhol over the decades — “never treated one another so demonstratively,” a former Post executive said. They “didn’t use up the store’s inventory, which is just bad business.”
In a written response to the allegations, a spokesperson for Sherry-Lehmann told The Post, “We are very proud that our company has supported restaurants in NYC for almost 90 years. We will continue to visit our city’s world-renowned restaurants, and to host and entertain our current and potential customers, suppliers and producers at these amazing facilities.”
The representative added, “The current management team of this long-established New York retail institution is focused on providing the world’s best wines and spirits while providing outstanding customer service to our valued customers. Sherry-Lehmann wants to continue to serve our discerning customers in the decades to come.”
The iconic store at 505 Park Ave. has been plagued by stained shelves lately, with buyers incredulous they can’t buy old standbys like Dom Perignon. The once-vaunted white burgundy department, which was mostly empty when a Post reporter visited last week, has since been restocked — but with cheap bottles priced at $20 and up replacing the rare Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Mersault the store is known to offer.
Working at Sherry-Lehmann is like “the stopover for the New York Yankees,” the source added. “If you’ve worked there, you’re at the top of your profession, so people are angry and upset about what happened to the company.”
Sherry-Lehmann’s staff were also reportedly instructed to send cases of chic champagne, burgundy and rose to Gilmer’s summer rental block in the Hamptons for him free of charge – and the bill skyrocketed, according to sources.
“Someone added up a summer’s free wine orders and it was enough to buy two new cars,” said a former employee.
Gilmer and Green declined to comment through a spokesperson. In a written statement, the company defended the giveaways and insisted the practice was not uncommon.
“It has long been a corporate marketing practice for senior executives to host customer dinners and other tasting events at their homes — where we showcase selections from our product offering,” the company said in a statement.
When Sherry-Lehmann’s stock took a hit, local customers who couldn’t reach the company by phone came to the store and asked for refunds for undelivered products, employees say.
Sherry-Lehmann has “the most loyal customer base I’ve ever seen,” said a former sales rep. “They keep ordering from the store even though they haven’t received an order in months. No other store in the world could get away with it for so long.”
According to the lawsuit filed last week, two New York-based plaintiffs who have been customers for 20 years allege they have been fined with more than $800,000 worth of Bordeaux — cases of Chateau Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
The rare bottles — priced between $375 and $1,130 each — were scheduled for delivery in 2019 and have since doubled in value in some cases, according to the lawsuit filed in the New York court.
Sherry-Lehmann said in a statement that the lawsuit was “baseless” because the company “offered customers a full refund of their deposit — which they declined.” The company added that the wine “is expected to arrive in mid-February.”
Sheldon Gopstein, an attorney for the plaintiffs, countered that after a series of broken promises, assurances and face-to-face meetings with Sherry-Lehmann employees, his clients were left with no choice but to pursue litigation.
“My customers aren’t in the business of giving interest-free loans,” Gopstein snorted, noting that his customers wanted either the wine or a cash sum equal to its current market value.
Similar complaints circulated online when a San Francisco customer complained on Yelp in October about an August order that still hadn’t arrived.
“They advertise wine they don’t actually stock, charge your credit card, tell you the wine is coming ‘next week’ and when after months of waiting you finally give up and ask for a refund, they’re sitting on it for weeks. ‘ according to the Oct. 6 Yelp post. “It used to be a great place, I spent thousands of dollars a year on them, but something terrible happened.”
Regarding the tax issue, a Sherry Lehmann spokesman said the company is “actively” working on a fix, claiming it “started under our former CEO amid COVID” and that the company has been making monthly payments since the spring and pays everyone its ongoing tax obligations and will continue to do so.
“We are meeting the Company’s current financial obligations to vendors and suppliers in a timely manner as we settle any past payments they owe,” the company added. “Our shipping policy is straightforward: as soon as we receive purchased products from our suppliers, we ship them to our customers.”
Gilmer and Green — despite a botched bid a few years ago to expand Sherry-Lehmann into a national chain — have reportedly also enjoyed lavish travel perks, regularly taking helicopters and private jets to the Hamptons and Saratoga Springs to cuddle with wealthy customers and vendors Racing and auction events, sources claimed.
The pair are said to be regulars at The Masters, Wimbledon and the Super Bowl and – to the dismay of staff – the pair have been in Paris for the past few weeks just as the crucial holiday selling season is getting underway, according to sources.
The company responded that its officers are “frequently invited by suppliers and customers to attend cultural and sporting events and dinners, with personal and commercial airfares provided by them.”
https://nypost.com/2022/12/15/sherry-lehmann-owners-in-nyc-drank-wines-while-clients-waited/ Sherry Lehmann owners in NYC sipped wines while customers waited