Dressed for Success

By Jane Black | Boston Magazine |

There’s probably not much that George W. and Laura and Al and Tipper agree on, except, perhaps, a well-dressed salad. It’s a little-known fact, but when the first family and the almost- first family sit down to dinner (separately, of course) they both toss their greens with Crane Crest Real French Dressing, made by Chestnut Hill’s Sam Perry.


There’s probably not much that George W. and Laura and Al and Tipper agree on, except, perhaps, a well-dressed salad. It’s a little-known fact, but when the first family and the almost- first family sit down to dinner (separately, of course) they both toss their greens with Crane Crest Real French Dressing, made by Chestnut Hill’s Sam Perry.

Created in the 1940s by Gordon Crane, a Bay Stater posted to the American embassy in Paris after World War II, Crane Crest has become a cult favorite in the hands of Perry, who bought the name, recipe, and production rights in 1992. By word of mouth alone, sales have grown 600 percent in six years. Barbara Bush, Gary Trudeau, and Brooke Shields have all used the dressing, and locals pick it up, on the honor system, from Perry’s doorstep. (In 14 years, he’s had only three bad debts.)

Perry, 63, never expected his salad days to arrive so late. He’s an investment manager by trade and a Harvard man from a prominent Boston family of decorative artists whose work graces the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church. “I give a jar to someone who gives it to someone, and the next thing you know, you have an inquiry,” he says. That’s how the Bushes got hooked: A friend brought Barbara a jar in 1999 and she passed it on to her daughter-in-law. When Perry met the first lady last April, he introduced himself as the “man who sells salad dressing to your mother-in-law.” “And to us in Crawford,” Mrs. Bush responded. “We love Crane Crest.”

So do gourmet food companies: Williams-Sonoma, Dean & DeLuca, even L.L. Bean have approached Perry. But so far he’s turned them all down, preferring instead to “create a unique identity.” He already has—by providing the one thing Republicans and Democrats can unequivocally agree on.

>>For a case ($18) call 617-277-1325. Single jars are sold at John Dewar, 753 Beacon St., Newton, 617-964-3577; 277 Linden St., Wellesley, 781-235-8322; johndewarinc.com.