As one of our concessions partners at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) begins his retirement he leaves behind thriving businesses and strong advice for future entrepreneurs.
We want to congratulate Manuel Soto on his retirement and look forward to continuing to work with his family and their businesses here at LAX.
Manuel opened his first gift and news store, I Love LA, in 1994 at LAX. The store was run by the family business, Soto & Sanchez, he started with his brother, Steve Soto, and two sisters, Debbie Seanez, Patricia Lee and uncle, Joe Sanchez. The company is 100% Hispanic and 51% women-owned.
While Manuel is retiring, the family business will continue. His siblings will continue to operate the business and his adult children have now embraced leadership roles. His children Manuel IV, Louie, Oscar, John Soto and Priscilla Baricuatro also have started their own airport concessions company, AIR and Skyline Concessions, which are both Airport Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE).
One piece of advice he has for his children and others starting out as an ACDBE partner is to be an asset in the partnership.
“Be supportive and as helpful as possible,” he said. “Be a good partner and you will be kept in mind for future opportunities. And don’t give up, learn from your losses. Treat everyone with respect and you get respected.
Today, the company operates I Love LA (Terminals 1 and 5), Treat Me Sweet (Terminal 1 and Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), See’s Candy (TBIT) and Sol Surf (Terminal 1).
“We wish Manuel well as he begins his much-deserved retirement,” said Maral Matossian, General Manager, LAX. “Soto & Sanchez is a great example of not only a family-owned business but one that showcases diversity and a woman-owned business. Manuel is an excellent mentor for young entrepreneurs and his children.”
Starting a family retail business was a natural fit as the siblings grew up in a retail family with their parents, Manuel and Dolores, and uncle, Joe Sanchez, running a grocery store (La Quebradita Market) in Los Angeles. Manuel worked at the store while growing up and into his adult years.
In 1992 he was approached to open an airport retail location and became certified as an ACDBE operator upon partnering to open his first store.
“I’m very fortunate to AMAC and ACDBE program because it would be very difficult to get into airports on your own,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do business at an airport without it. It is wonderful for companies like URW to now offer opportunities for small businesses to bid and get a space.”
Soto & Sanchez has been in the airport business for more than 28 years including a partnership with Pacific Gateway Concessions where they opened 65 locations at 12 airports across the country. He was a partner in the business for 24 years before selling the company to a prime operator in 2019 to refocus on his LAX spaces.
Manuel Soto and his sisters, Debbie Seanez (left) and Patricia Lee (right) opening their first I Love LA store at LAX in 1994.