The Deweys: 1919–1988
seth bradford dewey
Here's a great story we hope is true: one night in the 1910s, a young man took a date out for dinner at Gage & Tollner and forgot his wallet. Mortified, he approached the kindly manager and asked if he could return to pay tomorrow, and leave his gold watch as collateral.
"Keep it," Mr. Gage said, as he handed back the timepiece. "'You will need it to know when to go home. Besides, it may surprise you to know that I kissed your sweetheart before you ever did. Her dad used to bring her in here when she was just a little tot'... From then on, the restaurant had two more steady customers," according to Edgar Gibbs in the Beverage Retailer Weekly.
The young man was Seth Bradford "Brad" Dewey, whose father, Hiram S. Dewey, had made a small fortune in the restaurant and wine business. After Mr. Gage died in 1919, Brad Dewey (backed by his father) bought Gage & Tollner from Mr. Cunningham, under the condition that he make no significant changes to the building or the business.
Brad Dewey managed Gage & Tollner for almost 20 years (including the 13 years of Prohibition — a true trial for a restaurateur from a wine business family) until he died in 1938. "Mr. Dewey deserves to be remembered by all hearty and discriminating eaters," wrote the editors of the Herald-Tribune. "He was not impressed by modern furniture, tea-room frippery, strange dietary fads, machine-age gadgets or pretty 'hostesses.'.. [Gage & Tollner is] still carrying on for the pleasure of men and women who occasionally feel the unashamed pangs of an honest hunger and (or) thirst... may they remain staunch in the faith!"
the second generation
Ed Dewey was only 18 years old when his father passed away — a little too young to take over the family business. He pursued a career in engineering, served in a naval electronics unit in WWII, and married his wife, Gertrude (Trudy) before they returned to manage Gage & Tollner in 1948.
Much is known about Ed Dewey, who became a prominent community activist, working tirelessly to promote Downtown Brooklyn, and appeared in countless promotional materials and features on the restaurant in national magazines. Unfortunately, less is known about Trudy, who apparently was quite integral to the restaurant's operation: she "supervise[d] the Gage and Tollner kitchen," according to Ed Dewey's own bio, and according to a G&T chef in 1978, "without Mrs. Dewey managing the books, business would come to a halt."
Tom Dewey, Ed's youngest brother, was involved with the management in the 1950–60s, but by 1973, Ed had left and the Deweys had brought in John B. Simmons as manager.
The Deweys and Simmons chaperoned Gage & Tollner through the landmark process; public hearings regarding landmarking the interior of the building were held in January 1975. Brooklyn Borough Historian, Dr. Joseph Palisi, testified that Gage & Tollner had "exquisite food, excellent service and a sense of timelessness through which something of a carefully preserved past is made to contribute to the fullest enjoyment of the present." By March 1975, both the exterior and interior of the building received landmark designation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.