BRACK: Gwinnett Hispanic businessman finds success here and Southeast

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher |  It’s a beautiful story of a Mexican and his wife coming to this country, working hard, and finding success. He’s one of the most achieving of Gwinnett businessmen, building a multi-company empire since arriving at Georgia Tech to pursue a master’s in engineering in 1980.

Since then, he has founded a 11-restaurant chain in Metro Atlanta; unexpectedly needed to form a meat packing company to supply his restaurants; now has two highly-regarded top-class restaurants with Luciano’s in Duluth (and another in Charlotte, N.C.) and award-winning Pampas in Johns Creek; and also owns 17 Hispanic radio stations, and one, and soon three, televisions stations.

He’s Norberto Sanchez, 59, of Duluth. His businesses now employ more than 1,000 people.  Most recently, he agreed to take over the nightly 1818 Club dining room on the third floor of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce building with a traditional steakhouse, named Frankie’s. It’s open to the public, and has seen patronage average 175 people a night since starting February 13.

Sanchez

He says: “The inspiration for Frankie’s comes from a desire to offer Gwinnett County the best quality steaks in a great atmosphere.” He adds: “This is our first restaurant not on ground level, but the people like it. We have free valet parking every single night.”

When Mr. Sanchez came to the United States, his choice of Atlanta was because of an agreement between Monterrey (Mexico) Tech, where he got his undergraduate engineering degree, and Georgia Tech. Initially working in business, he found he wanted to be his own boss, and with a partner, started La Cozuela Family Mexican restaurant. Soon it grew to four locations. He and his partner decided to split, and each took two restaurants. But Sanchez had to come up with a new restaurant name for his two.  “We decided to ask our customers, then held a contest, and got 5,000 entries. Julie Jackson from Conyers, who now lives in Peachtree City, came up with Frontera, because it means border. It is a mex-mex restaurant, not tex-mex as before. Her prize was $10,000.” Today there are 13 Fronteras.

In 1992, Sanchez did not plan it, but felt he needed a better quality of meat and synergy for his restaurants. Today his meat-packing firm, Prime Meats, supplies high-end meats to the East Coast out of Tucker. Prime Meats will expand to warehouses in Nashville, Tenn., and in Virginia, and is in the planning stage for another plant, probably in Texas.

Meanwhile, his food business were doing well but had a low return. Sanchez turned to the Hispanic radio business for a higher profit on his investment. He leveraged his business to eventually own 17 stations in North and South Carolina and Florida, now the largest Hispanic media network in the country. He also has a Hispanic television station in Charlotte, and is in the process of acquiring two other Hispanic stations in Charleston, S.C. The media business is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. His Hispanic stations emphasize local programming.

Two years ago, he transformed his companies with a mission statement, having “God as the center of our company.” His firm includes two chaplains, one Catholic in Atlanta, the other, a Baptist in Charlotte, on staff. “We dedicate money to our employee Caring Committees, where they determine how to help our people in need. I go to the meetings, but do not have a vote. These committees are our best accomplishment, for it helps our own employees.”

These days, Norberto Sanchez is concentrating his time on the new Frankie’s concept, which he hopes someday to use as a model for expansion.  “We want to make sure Frankie’s succeeds in Gwinnett.”

What a successful immigrant story is Norberto Sanchez!