Ronel "Ro" Sanchez, 32, is nothing short of a movie buff. Seated on the couch near the front door of Video Café, he takes a look around at the vintage movie posters that line the store's walls. "I always loved movies" he says. "Movies can change your mood for the entire day."
A native of the Philippines, he moved to the United States at 18 and settled in Mississippi; his aunt worked at a mental health center in Woodville. From the start, Sanchez knew he wanted to settle in Jackson. After serving as manager at various retailers across town, he went into nursing for a short time, and then back to managerial retail. He felt strongly about personalizing his customers, not treating them as sources of profit.
While acting as senior manager of the Pearl branch of Hollywood Video, Sanchez met Richard Weiss, who approached him with the idea of opening Video Café. Won over by its ideal location (across from Millsaps College) and the concept of "dinner and a movie," Sanchez and Weiss went into business together, and the store opened in December 2003 under the name Flashback Video Café. It's a bistro where even sandwiches honor the greats: Coppola, Fellini, Renoir and others. "The big city doesn't attract me, but I want to make sure Jackson has those options," he explains. Almost two years and a name change later, the movie eatery continues to grow in membership.
Sanchez also stays active with his other interests. Passionate about martial arts, he occasionally provides in-service training for police departments, demonstrating basic maneuvers. He hopes to teach martial arts (his areas of expertise are Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido) for free someday, since he believes profit kills the essence of the discipline. He's also a skilled chess player, having regularly played the game as a child with his late father. He also taught choreography in the Philippines and is, reputedly, a great breakdancer. And to top it off, he was once a bouncer on the club scene.
Sanchez now resides in Belhaven, and is highly optimistic about the future of Video Café, as well as Jackson. "I think we're moving in the right direction," he states, reflecting on the city's development.
To combat its summer slump, the Café will join Rainbow Whole Foods for a fundraiser night of music, food and fun in Rainbow Plaza on Aug. 19 at 8 p.m.