The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.– Helen Keller
Jerome (Jerry) Brody was New York City born and raised. He attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, followed by Dartmouth College. A pilot in WWII, the war ended before he saw action overseas. Happy the war was over, he was sad not to have participated actively.
Brody started his restaurant career with six or seven small Riker’s coffee shops. His company, Restaurant Associates, grew into a multi-faceted public company. They created exciting new restaurants such as La Fonda Del Sol, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, The Four Seasons (now landmarked), Mama Leone’s, The Brasserie and others. His success came with the help of great designers of the time, such as Alexander Girard and Philip Johnson.
The early 1950s saw expansion into Europe and divorce. A new beginning, a new company, a new wife and more restaurants. These included a restored Rainbow Room, a new Rainbow Grill featuring world famous entertainers including Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, plus many talented new performers. In 1964 Brody bought and restored a moribund Gallagher’s Steakhouse and created L’Etoile, Raffles and The Ground Floor.
The 1970’s recession hit the Brodys hard. This prompted Marlene to search for a small, cheap rental upstate. She found one in Spencertown, NY in Columbia County to share with a couple of English banker friends. Real country. New to Jerry. Familiar to Marlene since home had been a large tea estate in Ceylon. Jerry reveled in this new territory.
In 1973 he took the challenge of revitalizing the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant (GCOB) in New York’s Grand Central Station after it sat empty the two previous years. The famous Guastavino tiled ceiling was black from years of soot, cigar and cigarette smoke. It was a most dreary and desolate cavernous space. Brody decided to make it a fish restaurant serving only fresh fish and a very large selection of oysters. The concept was successful. GCOB became a destination restaurant known the world over. After Jerry died, Marlene succeeded in establishing a franchise, The Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Shinagawa Station, Tokyo, Japan. It too is very successful.
In April 1976, Jerry and Marlene bought their first 100 acres of farmland in Ghent, NY where they began breeding registered black Angus Cattle. Jerry was later told it would never be a profitable undertaking. See Farm History.