Putting the customer first has never failed Gerard Adomunes.
And after nearly 40 years in business at Adams Corner, Gerardâ€™s Restaurant and Store has the longevity to prove that catering to what the customer wants is a key to success.
"We are here to cater to the people in the neighborhood," said owner Gerard Adomunes.
And thatâ€™s a philosophy that he has shared with his staff over the years.
"There is only one king here and itâ€™s the customer," Adomunes said. "Take care of the customer. They are number one. People have been very good to me over the years and I am very grateful for their support."
Adomunes has created a unique neighborhood restaurant where he tries to create and offer new items that will appeal to a loyal customer base.
"You never know who will drop in," he said. "Many times people grew up in the neighborhood and left and come back to visit. Itâ€™s great to have the opportunity to meet so many people. I really enjoy having a conversation with someone and finding out where they are from and what they do for a living."
Interacting with people is one of the drivers that fuels Adomunesâ€™ passion for work every day. "And I like to take something and create something new," he said.
While the restaurant has been in business for many years, offering American fare and homestyle cooking, the business itself has become an active contributor to the community.
And in doing so, Gerardâ€™s Restaurant has become an institution.
In 1980, Adomunes established an Old Time Political Rally featuring candidates for state and federal office. Over the years, he has sponsored the event with Cedar Grove Civic and Popeâ€™s Hill Civic associations.
The rally is fashioned after the type of politicking one may have experienced at the turn of the century, featuring an open-air stage on the street corner where candidates make stump speeches and an audience gathers around them to applaud or implore.
The event is a fine example of democracy as it was historically intended; retail politics as it was meant to be.
As a spillover from the political hub of the periodic rally, the restaurant has become a meeting place for neighbors to review the news of the day. Indeed, as Dorchester is one of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city, Gerardâ€™s Restaurant at Adams corner has become a magnet for journalists seeking to get a handle on the pulse of public opinion by sitting at the counter and sharing some banter with local pundits.
And in a nod to the neighborhoodâ€™s historic Irish heritage, Gerardâ€™s Restaurant was a major sponsor in the first Irish Heritage Festival held at Adams Corner this fall.
Adomunes grew up in a three-decker home on Carruth Street, the youngest of four siblings, with an older brother and two sisters.
Charlie Adams had owned the Adams Corner convenience store for about 50 years. It was sold a couple of times after he died.
At the age of 20, Adomunes bought the convenience store in 1970.
He had worked in the store at night and on weekends while attending Boston Technical High School.
At the time he decided to become an entrepreneur, Adomunes was attending Northeastern University and majoring in physical education. He had just finished his freshman year and was considering studies in physical therapy.
"The store was for sale. I looked at it and said, â€˜I can run that place.â€™ I was under age and my father had to sign for a loan for me," Adomunes said. â€˜My parents knew that I was a hard worker. I remember when I told my parents and my aunt Mary was over visiting. She said, "You fool, youâ€™ll live in the place.â€™ She was right."
Adomunes began making some changes to the store, which had a post office and an area dedicated to the paying of gas and electric bills. "I felt that was a waste of space so I removed that and put in a milk walk-in refrigerator," he said. "Business immediately went up."
He also defined distinct departments in the store and brought in items that a corner store should feature.
"For example, I got rid of greeting cards and brought in more groceries," he said.
In 1976, Adomunes took a month off to travel to Europe with some friends. Before he left, the landlord asked him if he was interested in buying the building.
When he came back, he bought the whole building, including the site of Josephâ€™s Restaurant that had closed. The 10,000-square foot building includes the store, restaurant and upstairs office space.
He moved the store into the restaurant area, remodeled the store and moved it back.
In 1977, he opened Gerardâ€™s Restaurant.
The restaurant would undergo further expansion in 1985. "We took over the site of Looneyâ€™s Liquor Store and the restaurant grew from 38 seats to 88 seats," he said.
In 1983 he had taken the upstairs apartments and transformed them into 10 professional office space.
Some of his work growing up also prepared him for the restaurant business, he said. He had worked at Bickfordâ€™s Restaurant during college and as a waiter at restaurants at Hampton Beach in the summers. He also learned from watching his mother.
"My mother was a great cook," he said.
Still, not everyone was able to see Adomunesâ€™ vision for the place.
"It was a real cozy neighborhood," he said. "But people thought I was crazy putting money into the neighborhood. Some said â€˜Youâ€™ll never see the money back. They thought Dorchester was â€˜doomsday.â€™ But I thought Dorchester was â€˜boomsday.â€™"
Today the store and restaurant employ between 40 and 50 people.
Adomunes and his wife, Ruth, have two children, Jamie and Justin, who have both worked at the restaurant while growing up.
The menu has changed over time, but still includes many of the original offerings that made the restaurant special.
"As the culinary industry has changed and grown, we have, to. Many of the items on the menu were created here," he said of the unique offerings at Gerardâ€™s. "Only two sauces on the menu are made in advance. All the sauces are made to order."
Head chef Gil Madrigale has been at Gerardâ€™s for 15 years.
The appetizers and â€˜fun foodsâ€™ are popular like quesadilla and the gourmet pizza with homemade thin crust.
Specialty dishes like Chicken Alexander, Chicken Gerard and Schrod Neptune feature unique spices and sauces created at the restaurant.
Still, diners can go to Gerardâ€™s and order a BLT, a Western Sandwich or a hot dog.
"We are a full service neighborhood place. People can get a cup of soup with a BLT as well as a full dinner," Adomunes said.
Acknowledging the many Irish natives who patronize the restaurant, Gerardâ€™s serves a full Irish breakfast.
The store also tries to cater to the neighborhood. The store was one of the first lottery agents in the state, Adomunes said.
Groceries include a variety of baked goods and Irish groceries as well.
In 1996, the restaurant got a beer, wine and cordial license.
Also during his tenure at Adams Corner, Adomunes has opened and subsequently closed other businesses including restaurants in Plymouth and Hyannis. "A lot of people donâ€™t realize you have your ups and downs. You take risks in expanding. Sometimes things get tough with the economy," he said.
But Gerardâ€™s Restaurant has been his core business and mainstay.
Over the years, Gerardâ€™s has received praise and recognition from The Boston Herald for "Best Breakfast," and numerous "Best Cheap Eats" accolades from WCVB TVâ€™s "Chronicle," the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix.
He also began a catering business in the early 1980s which continues to thrive. Gerardâ€™s Catering offers service for a variety of events including anniversaries, christenings, funerals, weddings and corporate events. The business also puts together clam bakes and cookouts.
And in recent months, some area musicians began performing in a traditional Irish seisun on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Gerardâ€™s Restaurant.
The business is certain to continue its evolution.
"I have great plans to do a lot of work at this corner. I want to remodel the building and the store and do some cosmetic work at the restaurant," Adomunes said. "I hope to give the store and restaurant a totally new spin in the coming year."