President & CEO
Since he was 15, Rick Ross has been involved in the confectionery industry, first as a buyer for his mother’s gift and candy store in Dayton, Ohio, then as a distributor and retail entrepreneur, and finally as ceo and president of Galerie.
“I love making people happy,” he explains. “Also, my father was a dentist, and I wanted to ensure his job security,” he’s joked.
Born in Columbus, Ohio on May 26, 1961, to Helen and Allen, Ross grew up with brothers Dave and Marc. He graduated from Fairview High School in Dayton in 1979 and enrolled in the University of Cincinnati, majoring in business. At 19, he took a leave of absence from school to become a distributor for Jelly Belly Candy Co. in Alhambra, Calif.
Ross opened his first Jelly Bean Factory store in a Salem, Ohio, mall in 1978. Two years later, his first permanent store launched in the Cincinnati Union Terminal, followed by a larger-format outlet in the Cincinnati Westin hotel, Galerie Au Chocolat. This retail shop featured premium chocolates and an automated bean-dispensing wall fixture offering shoppers a choice of 72 flavors.
Eleven more stores in major cities followed in short succession. By 1981, Ross was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Orders from other retailers for the company’s novelty wares eventually drew Ross from retail to wholesale and the founding of Galerie, which designs and fabricates more than 1,500 gift and novelty items annually, including premium private-label confectionery items.
Under his leadership, Galerie has been ranked among the Deloitte Cincinnati USA 100 Best Places To Work five times and earned the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce International Trade Award of Excellence in 2008 as well as its Economic Vitality Award in 2001.
Further, he actively supports the United Way, the Alzheimer’s Association, AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, and is a founding member of the national and local chapters of the Human Rights Campaign.
Ross has served as the National Confectioners Association (NCA) State of the Industry Conference committee chairman for four years and is a member of the association’s executive board. He has also served three terms on its board of trustees.
In addition, he is involved in the NCA Young Professionals Network, and currently mentors three local candy entrepreneurs.
In spite of “wanting to slow down and spend more time on things I love” — skiing, football, mountain biking and service on the Human Rights Campaign and University of Cincinnati Women’s Health Board — Ross’ 10-year plan includes giving back more to the community and mentoring within the industry.