City Island Restaurant owner a star during the Oscars

It is rare that a Bronx merchant receives national attention, but the owner of Sammy’s Fish Box and several other restaurants on City Island got to show the world the a positive side of the borough.

Sammy Chernin, the owner of seven restaurants including Sammy’s Fish Box, Sammy’s Shrimp Box, and the Seashore Restaurant on City Island, was the subject of a one-minute commercial for the American Express’s OPEN Gold Card for businesses that ran twice during the 83rd Annual Academy Awards telecast on Sunday, February 27.

The filming took about six days, and American Express sent crews around City Island for two weeks scouting locations for the commercial, he said. Chernin described himself ‘as Bronx born and bred,’ being born in Parkchester Hospital and attending P.S. 36.

“I think this commercial is a great plug for City Island and the Bronx,” Chernin said. “It was a real kick seeing places around City Island, like the restaurants or our hardware store, on television during the Oscars.”

Chernin uses his corporate American Express card and earns rewards points which can he then uses to reward deserving employees with trips, as he explained in the commercial, which features views of Chernin piloting a boat under the City Island Bridge and walking down a street similar to where he grew up on Gleason Avenue.

“We pay the hotel and airfare for the employee, and if it is a cruise, we pay for the whole cruise,” Chernin said. “We try to give the trips to staff who have been with us a long time, and to people who are deserving.”

Chernin will be sending eight to 10 employees on vacation this year and has already selected this year’s recipients based on merit, as he explained in the commercial.

Employees have opted to go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the Cayman Islands, and on Princess Cruises, Chernin said.

The process American Express used to select Chernin, who has been an American Express card member since 1981, was an intense investigation into his background that included interviews with his employees.

This is not the first time that he has appeared in a commercial before; he has also appeared in regional commercials for Optimum and AT&T.

Chernin said, “I don’t really know why American Express chose me in the first place, though we do charge a tremendous amount of merchandise on their card.”

Chernin, who has been in the restaurant business for the past 40 years, first began on City Island working in his uncle and aunt’s diner-style restaurant when he was 19, and his passion for the business grew from there.

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