Photo of Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Tom Kershaw, courtesy of Keiko Matsudo Orrall
For decades, visitors from across the globe have made a pilgrimage to the Hampshire House at 84 Beacon Street in Boston, the building that inspired the television hit sitcom Cheers, the place “where everyone knows your name.”
Everyone around here certainly knows the name Tom Kershaw, illustrious owner of the Hampshire House and a distinguished leader of the Massachusetts tourism industry. This week, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as owner, Tom was honored at the Hampshire House by elected officials, tourism leaders, business owners and hospitality workers. They gathered to praise his significant role in driving tourism to Boston and Massachusetts over the past five decades.
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito presented Tom with an official citation from the Governor’s Office, and thanked him for his many contributions to the city’s civic, charitable and tourism communities.
“People around the world still come here,” Lt. Governor Polito said about the hallowed ground. “They’re lined up here today to see that special place. It took risk, it took creativity, and it took an individual who knew what he wanted to do to be happy and found the passion to do it. I think that’s a lesson for all of us.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh presented Tom with an official proclamation and praised him for his significant contributions to Boston, citing his vision and energy, his charitable generosity to local causes, and his leadership in restoring the Frog Pond on Boston Common and similar upgrades to benefit the tourism community.
Other special guests included Massachusetts Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo and former Mayor of Boston and Vatican Ambassador Raymond L. Flynn, who ran the city during the heyday of Cheers. MOTT Executive Director Keiko Matsudo Orrall attended the celebration along with her predecessor Francois-Laurent Nivaud, and so did Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Many guests already knew the story behind the man. When Tom bought the Hampshire House on June 10, 1969, he and his partner decided to put a pub in the basement. They had it custom-made in England, then shipped to Boston. Called Bull & Finch, the pub opened on December 1, 1969 and quickly became a neighborhood gathering spot for local residents who lived on Beacon Hill and in the Back Bay, and for college professors, grad students, office workers and denizens from around Boston.
In 1981, some Hollywood scouts visited Boston to find a neighborhood bar that would be the face of a new situational comedy. They stopped at the Bull & Finch and were swayed by the authentic atmosphere and good cheer, and the rest is history. The show launched in 1982 and featured a loveable, irascible bunch of local folks who knew their beer, their sports and their politics, not unlike the actual clientele of Bull & Finch. Cheers earned 28 Emmy Awards from a record 117 nominations, and reruns were viewed around the world long after the show came to an end in 1993.
Tom’s role as a tourism leader is immense. He is founder and president of the Massachusetts Visitor Industry Council, which represent the collective interests of the tourism industry to state policy makers, informs its members about key issues concerning the industry, and coordinates industry promotion and product development. He is Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Travel & Tourism (ACT&T).
For eighteen years, Tom was Chairman of the Board for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, now Chairman Emeritus. He served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and was its President from 1992- 1993. He sat on the Board of Directors of the National Restaurant Association and served as its Chairman from 1997-1998. Tom is involved in the state’s major tourism initiatives, including the Plymouth 400 Commission, the Freedom Trail Foundation, Sail Boston and more.
Throughout the evening of June 10, Tom invited the public to come to the Hampshire House to check out all three floors and to make a toast in the iconic Cheers Pub. It was a fitting way to end a wonderful day in Boston.
On behalf of Massachusetts’ travel and tourism, hospitality and cultural communities, and Cheers aficionados everywhere, thank you Tom!