Flying Concessions | Community
Jose Ramos tours O’Hare’s Terminal 1 with Zeke
When you look up the word “mentor” in the dictionary, the definition will read something like, “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” Alongside the definition, you might also see a picture of Zeke Flores— a Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation mentee and the first to also become a mentor.
Flores, a first-generation Latino-American, is the Founder and CEO of Flying Concessions, an experienced airport retail, food, and beverage concessionaire that focuses on the core competencies of food and beverage, retail development, airport concessions, merchandising and consulting. Flying Concessions is federally certified as an Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise in nine different areas of airport operations.
"One of the best and most rewarding moments in my early professional years was being an Eisenberg mentee," Flores said. He became a mentee in 2006, as a young professional in real estate. "The experience I gained from the program helped me beyond words. It introduced me to incredible professionals and had a key effect on my own business." His first mentorship was so influential he went on to complete nine more.
His experience not only gave him the education and assistance he was looking for, but the connections that are so crucial to young professionals.
"One of the early mentors I had the good fortune of learning from ended up becoming one of my first investors in my company," Flores adds. "To have that boost of confidence from someone I looked up to honestly gave me the belief that I could really walk down a path of success in real estate."
This past June, he mentored graduate student Jose Ramos, which had Flores thinking he was looking in a mirror. Ramos, a three-time Eisenberg mentee, was given the opportunity to spend a day with Flores and learn about airport concessions, the "commercial real estate" areas of airports.
"I was with an Eisenberg mentor one day and he said, ‘You need to meet Mr. Zeke Flores,’” recalls Ramos. “My mentor went on to describe Mr. Flores as being in real estate and public policy, so it made sense for me since I have a public policy background."
"The Eisenberg Foundation puts you in contact with and in connection with people you otherwise would not have contact or connection with,” Ramos explains. “We can see someone like Mr. Flores in Crain’s Chicago Business, but how do we get to that person? How do we experience what he’s experienced? The Eisenberg Foundation is that bridge for a student to get into an industry like Mr. Flores works in."
Flores and Ramos spent the day at O’Hare International Airport, where Flying Concessions is involved in six retail, food, and beverage operations: America’s Dog and Brookstone in United Airlines' Terminal 1; and Brighton’s Collectibles, Brooks Brothers, Green Market and a second Brookstone in American Airlines' Terminal 3. Flores utilizes his real estate experience when looking for opportunities in airports and applies his public affairs knowledge and connections to navigate through the public policy needed to conduct business with the City of Chicago.
Ramos shadowed Flores as he met with a business partner to redevelop America’s Dog, attended a lunch with a representative of the concessions department from the City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation and discussed the challenges and rewards of commercial real estate development in aviation.
"My favorite part of the mentor day was being behind the scenes and seeing how the airport retail/concessions works," Ramos says. Also, meeting and connecting with other people in the industry who are involved or play a role in making everything happen.
"The main thing that stuck out in my mind was the idea of entrepreneurship. Gaining experience, knowledge, and skills from corporate America is important and needed but ultimately doing something (no matter how small) for yourself."
"Jose Ramos has a very bright future," Flores adds. "Any day I can spend with a young businessman and give him the opportunities the Eisenberg Foundation gave me is more rewarding than words can describe."
"I think Mr. Flores is an innovator and pioneer in the aviation industry," said Ramos. "He is not only breaking barriers but setting an example for others of what is possible. I see him being a role model in the industry for me and others looking to enter the field."