A Popping Good Fellow: NAC salutes Andrew Cretors with Bert Nathan Award

Cinemas Features

The National Association of Concessionaires’ 2017 Bert Nathan Memorial Award will be presented at CinemaCon to Andrew Cretors, president of C. Cretors and Company and a fifth-generation prodigy in a family credited with inventing the popcorn machine. He also serves as president-elect of the NAC.

The paths to both of these leadership positions have similarities. Andrew is modest in his description of his roles in both organizations, consistently referring to the pronoun “we” as opposed to his own accomplishments. He believes the success he has accomplished comes by “surrounding himself with really good people.”

Andrew Cretors was born and reared in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lake Forest High School, where he claims to have been a better lacrosse than basketball player. “My basketball coach in high school had me try out for lacrosse, and after one day he told me to stick to larosse,” he chuckles.

After high school, Andrew enrolled at Michigan Tech University and he earned his B.S. in Business in 1995. Charlie Cretors, his father, had a “rule” that the kids must work outside the company for two years before working at the family business; therefore, Andrew landed his first job in Grand Rapids, Michigan, selling safety videos to manufacturers. Sales and cold calls were not his forte, as he had a real desire to work with computers and database services. His next position set the tone for his career when he joined the global engineering department of Amway Corporation, headquartered in Ada, Michigan, applying his MIS (management of information systems) skills. It was here he honed his IT skills and mastered the ability to administer computer systems.

In 1997, Andrew received a call from his dad inquiring as to his availability to take over the job vacated by the computer systems administrator at Cretors. Andrew responded and immediately implemented a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system that managed everything from order entry to production management to invoicing. He was also responsible for integrating computer software that was compliant with the Y2K transition. “I think we were lucky that our software was new enough to pass the 2K test, but those were tense times.”  

Cretors credits the cinema industry for its role as the primary focus for the company. “I can’t say enough about the cinema industry and what it has done for us. The cinema industry allows us to continue the research and development of the popcorn popper, and while we have diversified markets, the movie theatres are where our roots are. Each one of us in the family grew up selling popcorn machines, five generations,” he unpretentiously notes. “If we excel, it is because we match the customer’s needs with our capabilities. It is our job to serve our customers by building lasting relationships merging respect for their necessities and integrity in our workmanship.”

He recalls his early days in the Cretors routine, riding the train to work with his dad in the summer. He fondly remembers the fabrication machines and his dad’s engineering creativity. “When I was eight or ten, my dad would take me with him and they let me work in the parts storeroom. Victor Reyes [who has been with Cretors for 39 years] gave me little jobs and I was proud to do anything. One day, Victor called me over and told me I had done a terrific job. He told me he wanted to give me a bonus of sorts. There was a cylindrical object wrapped in newspaper on a shelf and he told me I could have it as a bonus for my good work. I reached up and the thing was heavy, Victor told me it was a roll of quarters! I was so excited I ran to the door to show my dad, but before I left the room Victor hollered at me. He told me to open the newspaper—when I did, it wasn’t quarters, it was small gears. I still remember Victor laughing at the prank he pulled on me.” That may capture the environment at C. Cretors: hard work blended with a little humor. Never a dull moment in the 132-year history.

“I feel a bit unique, I happen to be a descendant of the guy who invented the popcorn machine,” Andrew says unassumingly. As the fifth president of C. Cretors and Company, he sees himself as a steward eager to provide his team of talented individuals what they need to produce the highest-quality mechanism possible.

As a board member at NAC, Andrew has served as treasurer and convention program director with the NAC staff. In July, he will take the gavel as president. “Shelly Olesen convinced me a few years ago that I had to do this,” Cretors recalls. While the Cretors family was a part of the original Popcorn Association and charter delegates of NAC, Andrew still sees the value the trade association brings to its next generation of representatives.

His role as a leader at NAC will present a few challenges in the coming months with the implementation of calorie counts and more discerning snack options. “I believe the movie theatre should be a ‘vacation spot,’ an escape from reality—a time when indulgence is allowed,” he declares. “Movie theatres now offer a full spectrum of snacks and patrons have options never offered in the past, if the average person only visits a theatre four times a year, why shouldn’t they be allowed treats?” he questions.

The cinema channel will encounter other challenges such as staying ahead of technology, compressed release windows and the entry of virtual-reality presentations. “Virtual-reality goggles could hurt the consumption of food and beverages,” he speculates.    

On the personal side, Andrew reports he has probably watched the The Blues Brothers a hundred times, making this his favorite movie, sticking to his Chicago roots. His favorite books are Unbroken and Devil in the White City, again with a Chicago theme. Cubs? Yep! Matt Damon and his portrayal of Jason Bourne lead his list of actors and his favorite city to visit is Amsterdam, where he claims history comes alive. His children dominate most of his free time, he humbly advises.

Andrew and his wife Laura are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and they have three children: Alex, 15; Emily, 13; and Sarah, 11.