Take back Valentine’s: ‘Are we the quintessential Soho House couple?’
From early dates and an engagement at 40 Greek Street to family celebrations at Houses all over the world, Jerry Wattenberg and Heather Lyons share their love story
Tuesday 31 January 2023 By Chloe Lawrance
Not many couples can call their engagement story the stuff of Soho House legend. But for Jerry Wattenberg and Heather Lyons, who have been members since the early noughties, their tale is just that – part of 40 Greek Street history and fondly remembered by the staff who helped make it happen.
In fact, nearly all of the pair’s relationship milestones have played out at one of the Houses, from their early dates spent cosily around Table 16 in 40 Greek Street, to their daughter’s first birthday at Soho Farmhouse. And now, they spend their summers at Soho Beach House Miami, take refuge in the Houses on busy city breaks, and their children are waiting for the day they can be let loose on the rooftop of Shoreditch House without the watchful eyes of their parents.
For this special engagement edition of Soho Love Stories, we sat down with Jerry and Heather to hear more about their road to love and the life they’ve built together – and how Soho House has been shaping it for the past two decades.
‘We were set up on a blind date,’ says Heather. ‘I have a friend who met Jerry and said to me: “You just have to meet this guy. He’s Jewish and the funniest person I’ve ever met.” And that was the thing that convinced me to go on the date.’
‘You have to remember this was before all these dating apps,’ adds Jerry. ‘There were no iPhones. I think there was only J-Date.’
‘Heather showed up on her bicycle for our first date and I’ll never forget it,’ says Jerry. ‘We went to a place on All Saints Road near Electric House. I was like, “Wow, she’s so out of my league”, but I was so surprised because her jeans were so tight…’ Heather butts in, laughing. ‘You kept saying that. You kept saying, “How are you cycling in jeans so tight?”’ The two hit it off instantly, and soon their weekends became a mix of sports – yoga classes and bike rides from Primrose Hill down to the Southbank – movies at the Electric Cinema and, of course, date-night drinks.
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‘When we started dating there were just a couple of Houses to choose from,’ Jerry recalls. ‘I heard about 40 Greek Street back in 2004 through the guy that cut my hair.’ For Heather, Electric House was her watering hole of choice: ‘In 2003 when I joined, it was one of the only places in the neighbourhood where you could drink after 11pm, so a membership was pretty necessary,’ she laughs. The pair enjoyed many evenings having drinks at the intimate tables of 40 Greek Street, drawn to the House’s friendly appeal: ‘The bartenders you knew, the waiting staff you knew… and, of course, there was Vanessa [Xuereb], who was really running the show,’ says Jerry. Vanessa, it turns out, would play a bigger part in their love story than the couple might have first imagined once Jerry had decided to propose to Heather.
‘Getting engaged at 40 Greek Street just made so much sense,’ says Jerry. ‘It was like doing it at a friend’s house; we were so comfortable there. I went to see Vanessa to tell her I wanted to propose to Heather, and she was all giddy, so excited. She said, “I’ll help you, but I have to see the ring first.” Luckily, she approved! So Vanessa took the reins; she orchestrated the dinner and everything. And then she was waiting with four staff members, peaking out and watching, and after Heather said yes they all started cheering. They’re a part of our history.’
‘We joke we’re a case study of the quintessential Soho House couple,’ says Heather. ‘We were dating there, we got engaged there. Then, we had the engagement party there – we even hosted dinner the night before our wedding there.’ Since then, Heather has celebrated her 40th birthday at 40 Greek Street, her 50th at Soho Farmhouse and even her mother’s 75th at Soho Beach House Miami. When they’re not commemorating key milestones at their favourite Houses, they’re popping in to visit on their travels. ‘We were just in Paris and it was pouring with rain,’ says Heather. ‘We knew we could seek refuge in Soho House Paris. My son was freezing, so he took a hot shower and we were all able to relax and recompose ourselves.’
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‘Our three kids know the Houses so well now,’ says Jerry. ‘We had our eldest daughter’s first birthday party at Shoreditch House back in 2008; we spend time at Miami every year as we have a holiday apartment nearby. Nowadays, we let the kids have independence around the Houses to explore them; the staff always treat them with respect and they get that back.’ And what will happen when his children get a little older and start visiting the Houses without their parents? ‘They’ll become the new generation of members,’ Jerry laughs.
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