Food Interview: Pizza, Community, And Everything In Between

Speaking With Eric Brower, Winner Of A Free Year Of Pizza

Dan Pennington
5 min read
3-foot slice of pizza
The 3-foot slice is truly bigger than you expect. (Dan Pennington)
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Richie B’s Pizza has been around for a hot minute now, and with a new owner in place, many wondered how the experience would change. The good news is here: It only got better. Chuck Ruiz has managed to maintain the level of quality you expect from them, while finding new ways to expand their offerings and bring new people into the fold. For example, recently, Ruiz gave away a year of free pizza to whoever guessed the exact number of pennies above their door. Eric Brower was the lucky winner, local quiz master for Geeks Who Drink and all around great guy, so I got the chance to sit with him and talk pizza, life and community work.

Weekly Alibi: So explain the contest that you won.

Eric Brower: They have a section on the wall here, and the exact number of pennies would win free pizza for a year. So it’s a slice for every day that Richie’s is open, which is six days a week. And so I’m a competitive son of a bitch. He posted pictures on Facebook, and I was able to count down, and then was my basic math skills, I was able to come up with a rough estimate. So within my first guess, I was within like 500. Once I got it down to the ones, he was like, you’re getting closer. And then we had my wife’s birthday party here, and I made everybody order seperately for 10 chances.

What exactly has got you so in love with Richie B’s?

So the first night we came here, it was just the closest thing to New York pizza I’ve ever had. And so in my own greed, I’ve always wanted this place to succeed because you see the small great places open up, and then they shut down because they’ve got no business. It’s like, I need this place to stay open because it’s the closest thing to home that I’ve ever had. So I’ve always taken people, and I’m a huge fan of the local business and supporting the local guys too, but it’s just good food man.

A lot of people might recognize you, because you’re kind of an active guy locally. What has you so engaged in the community?

So you know, being entertaining and being the center of attention, most quiz masters are actually introverted. So it takes a lot of energy to get in front of people and talk and put on a game face and then go home and cry because it’s so hard to stand in front of 100 people and be energetic and funny for two hours. I’ve been with Geeks for seven and a half years, and I’ve got my 700th quiz coming up.

So using those connections that you’ve got, you tend to be very engaged in helping people either with fundraisers or finding work or getting people hired. Essentially, you’re just kind of like a pillar of the community. You’ve got so many hands in everything.

I’m also part of the construction industry for the last 20 years, I’ve gotten highly involved with ACNM (Associated Contractors of New Mexico). I’m on two committees with them. I’m always trying to find them new members, and we help with giving out scholarships to engineering students, as well and raising money to support those scholarships. Then there’s another committee, the CLC (Construction Leadership Council), which is a leadership committee for youth. It’s supposed to be like under 40, but they needed help. So I’m sitting on that committee to help find charitable events in the community. So we’ve done events for Paws and Stripes, we’ve done North Valley Academy. We did South Valley Little League, they had seven baseball fields, and guys went in on the weekends and rebuilt baseball fields. You got little kids out there with stickers and stuff in the field and uneven bases on the playing field. So we went out there and fixed seven baseball fields and made them look new again this season. The school in the North Valley? They had opened up an area, and they wanted to put some planters and benches. And they were like, is there where you can help them? So we took those wire baskets with rocks they use for erosion control and were able to take those baskets and make benches out of them, and then make good planters. It was cool. They sent like a nice video, the kids were out singing and stuff with their class.

So if someone wanted to find you, where would they do it?

Yeah, I do Geeks Who Drink. My venues are O’Neill’s in Nob Hill, Sunday nights. Red Door Downtown on Tuesdays and Boxing Bear on the Westside on Wednesdays. Then I do Dinner Detective also on the weekends at the Hotel Marriott (2101 Louisiana Blvd. NE).
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