It seems fairly safe to assume that the people behind iconic local businesses like Jerry’s Liquors and Mike’s Food & Spirits would actually be named Jerry and Mike.
It seems fairly safe… but it isn’t.
While plenty of places around town are still helmed by the folks whose names they bear, it turns out that lots of others aren’t. So who’s actually running the show at your favorite Somerville spots? In this series from our May/June edition, we set out to learn a little bit about the folks for whom some of the city’s iconic establishments are named.
329 Somerville Ave.
“I’m sorry, did I overhear you say your father’s name is not Jerry?” asks a bewildered shopper, setting a bottle of wine on the counter in front of Marco Romao. “All this time, we’ve called him Jerry, and you little Jerry. What is his name?”
“It’s Ignacio,” a grinning Marco replies. “That’s why he allowed you to call him Jerry. A lot of people had a hard time saying it.”
“We’ve lived in Union Square since 2010,” the customer laughs, shaking his head as he swipes his card. “All that time—including the time he agreed to let me take the grapes off the grape arbor here and I thought we were getting to know our local liquor store owner—I was calling him Jerry, calling his son little Jerry. This is news to me.”
It’s an incredibly common mistake, even though there hasn’t been a Jerry at Jerry’s for almost 60 years, according to Marco. George was the original owner, and the shop became Jerry’s in the 1940s or ’50s. When his dad took over, he decided to keep the name… which has led to confusion following him nearly his entire life, ever since he started working at the liquor store at age 10. (“Times were different back then.”)
“Growing up here, I was known as ‘Jerry’s kid,’” Marco says. “Hey, there’s Jerry’s kid!” Today, those who are new to the city and didn’t know him growing up make the same mistake shoppers once made about his dad, assuming that he’s the Jerry.
And who can blame them, really, when Marco’s the one manning the liquor store counter between 12 and 14 hours a day, seven days a week? (Oh, he “only” works six hours on Sundays.) Besides, he doesn’t mind the mix-up. A name change would be expensive, and Jerry’s is so recognizable—and so beloved—that it wouldn’t make sense.
Years ago, Marco printed shirts with the shop logo and gave them out to friends. He says one buddy met a fellow Jerry’s fan while wearing his tee in Vegas, and Marco himself was sporting one as he took a seat on a bus in Jamaica when a voice shouted out from the rear, “Jerry’s? Union Square! I love that shop!”
“It’s been here so long, anyone from Somerville could hear Jerry’s and know what you’re talking about,” says “Little Jerry” with a shrug.
Wondering about Mike at Mike’s Food & Spirits in Davis Square? There actually is no Mike… we have that story here.