The Big Cheese: Charlie Gomez spices up sales at Ricos Products

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Cinemas Features

Charles Gomez, who prefers to be called “Charlie,” is in our Concession Spotlight this month. Charlie benefits from a long history of sales in the foodservice/grocery market, as he is the product of his father’s devotion to the food-brokerage business. He has managed food-service accounts for over 29 years while bringing his expertise to Ricos Products for the last 16.

Charlie Gomez’s connection to the cinema industry began in 1999, when Frank Liberto employed him as an account executive responsible for concession distributors. He also hired a person with one of the most endearing personalities in this channel of business—he always has a smile and a boisterous laugh that is contagious. Gomez now serves as VP, specialty markets, including theatre accounts.

During his tenure with Ricos, Charlie has witnessed multiple changes, especially when the Liberto family sold their distribution locations to focus solely on their own brand of products—Ricos Products. He also saw Ricos Products passed on to the fourth generation of the Liberto family as his good friend and mentor Tony Liberto assumed the role of president.

Charlie was born in Austin, Texas, where he spent his formative years. When he was four, his family moved to San Antonio when his father found a new opportunity calling on food stores and grocery businesses. Even though he left Austin, he was born a fan of the Longhorns and remains loyal to the Texas program.

In high school, Charlie had an athletic build and enjoyed all sports but particularly football, where he starred as a wide receiver. (At 5’7” in height, he decided not to challenge himself in basketball.) “No one would ever believe I played wide receiver in high school,” he chuckles, since his current frame is that of an NFL offensive guard. He is now an avid golfer. “I don’t have to run as fast,” he snickers, “and at my height and weight it is easier to ride in a cart than chase footballs.”

Charlie attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years before a crisis arose: His father had a serious heart attack and Charlie returned home to assist his family. He did continue his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio and ran the family food-brokerage firm until his father fully recovered in 1988. This is where Charlie gained his initial expertise, as he was forced to learn the sales and management of foodservice and grocery operations to keep the family business afloat while his dad recuperated. Like it or not, he was forced to excel at his profession, and at age 22 he did.

Initially, Gomez worked in the family business as a sales representative at Cardinal Brokerage in 1987, calling on grocery and convenience stores throughout Texas. His tenacity and prowess led him to take on the position as VP of sales in 1992. He served in that capacity until 1998, when Cardinal was sold. In 1999, he was approached by Frank Liberto, the principal owner and CEO of Ricos Products to fill a vacant sales position. Charlie proudly accepted, as Liberto and Charlie’s father had a longtime relationship. It was as if this match was meant to be.

Charlie has been a devoted employee ever since that invitation to join the Ricos team. His salesmanship and professional attitude have proven valuable as he increased the nacho cheese and chips sales dramatically throughout the cinema channel. Not only did he manage the current accounts, he increased the number of cinema users by 30%. Based on his success, Gomez was elevated to VP, specialty markets, overseeing the entire United States.

Ricos Products specializes in nacho cheese, but that’s not all if offers. Charlie will sell you chips, chili, salsa, jalapeños, dill pickles—anything that will make the movie experience better. “My thought is that any time I can help a business man/woman make the experience better, they will succeed. When they succeed, they stay in business, [and] I will sell more items. It has never been about the highest sales, it has been about serving the customer!” Charlie assists in equipment choices, dispensers, warmers and educational training options. His knowledge and expertise transcend nacho cheese; they are multifaceted.

Charlie was appointed regional VP on the board of directors at NAC ten years ago. This service has made him influential in conducting training sessions throughout the Southwest region. He has been instrumental in producing no less than five regional seminars in his tenure on the board. His devotion to the educational processes in the cinema channel is frequently seen; he and Ricos are not only presenting sponsors for such events, he secures funding from other patrons for scholarships to assist those less able to afford the seminars. Charlie is also at countless regional charity events including Variety, Al Lapidus and the Will Rogers Foundation, sponsoring holes, donating gifts and supporting each event with generosity and good cheer.

Charlie hopes to visit Italy in the near future. “Visiting the ruins of ancient Rome and seeing the development of civilization is a dream,” he states. “I might tour a vineyard or two as well.”

Asked about his favorite movie snack, “I guess I am supposed to say nachos—yes, that and a carbonated beverage. Be sure to put jalapeños on the nachos!” His favorite movie of all time? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (somehow I thought it would be Blazing Saddles) “But if I can’t have that, I really like The Godfather,” he adds. His hobbies include golf, but more importantly working with his children in their sports ventures. His daughter Analisa, an avid volleyball and cross-country athlete while in high school, is 20 and a junior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His son, Charlie, is 15 and a sophomore at Central Catholic High School, where he plays football and runs track. He also volunteers as a football coach at St. Matthew Catholic School. Charlie and his wife Sonia just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary in June.