Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Hampshire House Corporation
Over four decades, Thomas A. Kershaw has been an entrepreneur, a business man, a community leader and very much involved in his industry associations. After graduating from Swarthmore College with a degree in mechanical engineering and the Harvard Business School, Tom entered the high tech world for several years. In 1969, he and a classmate purchased a small hotel in Downtown Boston known as the Hampshire House. Tom has been the owner and operator of that facility ever since, about to celebrate 37 years at the helm. During that time, he has renovated the facility completely and now operates it as a state of the art hospitality facility.
The main attraction to this grand mansion located at 84 Beacon Street on Beacon Hill, is the little basement bar originally known as the Bull & Finch Pub which was copied by Hollywood for the setting of the TV show “Cheers” back in 1982. The success of the show combined with the success of the Bull & Finch operation has resulted in the Cheers bar becoming the world’s most famous bar. Whenever visitors come to Boston, one of the first questions they ask is “Where is the Cheers bar?” The Bull & Finch name was changed in 2002 shortly after the opening of a replica “Cheers” bar at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. This replica bar is paired with its brother, Sam’s Café at Cheers, and provides the friendly, congenial pub atmosphere and food that has made the Bull & Finch popular over these many decades.
Over the years, Tom has been involved in other restaurant operations in Marblehead and Salem and in 1997 opened a restaurant on Chestnut Street, known as 75 Chestnut. This local bar and restaurant is a favorite of the residents of Beacon Hill and provides a combination of a friendly neighborhood bar and restaurant.
As a result of the success of Cheers, Mr. Kershaw has been able to establish a souvenir business that has become quite significant and operates under the banner of Bull & Finch Enterprises and sells t-shirts and other collectibles that are popular with visitors to the various bars.
Being an Eagle Scout, Tom always recognized his responsibility for participating in the community. When his businesses allowed him to do so, he threw himself and his leadership skills into many different community activities. He started off being the President of the Beacon Hill Business Association, which he helped create and direct for many years. He now serves as a Chairman Emeritus of this group after more than two decades’ involvement. Being in the restaurant business, Tom joined the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association in the early 80’s and rose to be its President in 1992 and 1993. From his involvement in this state association, Tom became involved in the National Restaurant Association and went on its Board in 1986 and became the Chairman of the Board in 1997 and 1998.
As the tourism aspect of his business grew, Tom became involved in the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. He was asked to be the Chairman of the Board in 1986 and served in that capacity until 2004, one of the longest running chairmanships of any convention bureau in the country. During that time, he saw the budget of the organization grow from $3 million to over $11 million per year and its recognition as an outstanding bureau grow to award winning status.
As his involvement in tourism grew, Tom recognized the need for a coalition to bring together all the stakeholders in the industry to lobby the State house for funding for the industry’s activities. He was the founder of the Massachusetts Tourism Coalition and, subsequently, lead that coalition in efforts to create the Tourism Fund which is an ongoing yearly funding mechanism supporting many different aspects of the tourism industry.
Recognizing that the Freedom Trail is the other major attraction in the City of Boston, other than “Cheers”, Tom became involved in its Board of Directors and serves as its Vice President. He is actively involved in activities to develop a marketing program for this wonderful brand.
In 1981, the Mayor of Boston decided that there was not enough money in the budget to pay for the lighting of the Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. This holiday lighting had been a tradition for almost half a century. The Friends of the Public Garden, a support group for the Common and the Garden, asked Tom to develop some form of fundraising activity to pay for the lighting. He did so with his campaign “Light a Light” – Buy a button for a buck and light a light on the common. Through this campaign, he was able to provide the funding for lighting the Common for a period of 15 years.
Recognizing that Boston needed a winter icon, Tom suggested to the Mayor of Boston that we needed an outdoor refrigerated skating surface in one of our Downtown Parks. The Parks Department recommended an area in the Boston Common and Tom championed an effort to renovate a facility in that park to provide skating during the winter. The city built the facility with capital funds but challenged Kershaw to figure out a way that it would not cost the city anything to operate. Relying on his business experience, he decided that the best thing to do would be to run it himself through a not-for-profit foundation, which he has done for the last 10 years. During that period, it has not cost the City of Boston a single dime to operate. In addition, it has become the winter icon as the Swan Boats are the summer icon of Boston. Local news broadcasts feature the Frog Pond Skating Rink as a backdrop for their broadcasts.
Tom, remembering his early years as a Boy Scout, has served on the Board of the Minuteman Council for several decades. He sponsors, each year, the Recognition Dinner for newly pinned Eagle Scouts. This event is of particular importance to these scouts because they are teamed up with a sponsor who spends the day with them in a field of their choice. For example, if they are looking to be an Accountant, then they are teamed up with an Accountant and get to see what a day in the life of an Accountant is like.
Tom’s staff at the Bull & Finch Pub came up with an idea to have an auction to raise money to support the Globe Santa, the organization that gives gifts to children who otherwise would not receive them at Christmastime. When Cheers arrived, the Globe Santa auction became Cheers for Children and was broadened to include three other children’s charities. In 2004, Cheers for Children celebrated its 25th year by raising a total, over the 25 years, of $1 million for children’s charities. Tom has supported this activity over this period of time with the use of his facilities and his staff and his guidance.
While being heavily involved in tourism, Mr. Kershaw became a Co-chairman of a group that sponsored a study done by Harvard University on the Visitor Industry in Massachusetts. One of the recommendations was that the Governor’s Advisory Council on the Visitor Industry be established. Mr. Kershaw has served as Co-Chairman of that organization since its inception. This group works with the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism and advises them on activities that would help promote tourism in Massachusetts.
President Bush (#41) appointed Mr. Kershaw to the Board of the United States Travel and Tourism Administration in 1989. He served until that organization was dissolved in 1996. He also served as the Chairman of the Technology Committee of the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, which was held in 1996. He served on the Executive Committee, otherwise known as the Policy Committee, of the Travel Business Roundtable. He served on the Executive Committee of the United States National Tourism Organization and the Executive Committee of the Travel Industry Association of America. His involvement in National Tourism activities recognized his understanding of the importance of promoting tourism on all levels – local, state and national.
Having an interest in education, Mr. Kershaw linked up with the Bunker Hill Community College and joined its Foundation. He hosts, annually, a reception that is a combination fundraiser and “hands on” activity for the culinary students at this community college. The students arrive early in the morning and work in the Hampshire House kitchen preparing the meal for the evening’s activities. This gives them a “hands on” experience in an actual restaurant kitchen. This event also raises significant funds for the foundation and has done so for many years.
Over the years, Kershaw has received numerous awards and distinctions recognizing his contributions to the community and his industry. Some of those awards include: Restaurateur of the Year from the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Humanitarian of the Year from Project Triangle, Massachusetts Tourism Leadership Award, the Boston Patriot Award from the Freedom Trail Foundation and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award given by the Boston Minuteman Council Boy Scouts of America.
He was inducted into the Travel Industry Hall of Leaders by the Travel Industry Association of America, the Hospitality Hall of Fame by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and was given an Honorary Doctorate degree from Johnson & Wales University.
Board member: Timothy Kirwan