I knew who Joe was before I met him. He’s a bit of a local celebrity who dresses particularly and is known for his restaurants. But I knew him as the only person in my area who owned a Vespa. And I had just bought one. So about three years ago, I introduced myself, asked if I could go along on any group rides he was planning, and somehow found myself helping to open the future Liberty Market. But be careful! Once you are Joe’s friend, you must succumb to all kinds of crazy adventures-many of them involving blind taste tests of food. And believe me, this guy will wear you out! He’s made me visit more than five espresso joints in a day.
You can find many interviews with Joe and his journey of starting the Coffee Plantation, Joe’s Real BBQ, or the housing development complete with childhood-home-turned-restaurant Joe’s Farm Grill, but I would like to illuminate the more personal side of Joe. Because I dare to ask the questions!
JM: Please tell us a little about yourself.
JJ: That is an open question, so I’ll answer it a bunch of different ways.
I am happily married (to the lovely, talented, power-house: Cindy), have two married sons, and live in Gilbert.
I am chubby, moderate in build, wear a hat, have a titanium rod in my leg, blood pressure within the normal range.
I am self-deluded in thinking I can eat anything and not gain weight, that I am 30, that I am not dying, and certainly much more that I am oblivious to.
I am a visionary. I don’t mean that in a proud way any more than if I was to say that I am an artisan, a craftsman, or a farmer. The primary gift that God has given me is in the realm of ideas and how to advance them to become reality.
JM: I love the story of how you and Cindy met, would you mind sharing the tale?
JJ: At the time, I was an engineer and happily single, living in an apartment. I don’t mind being alone and don’t get bored easily, so I enjoyed working on cars and general tinkering. My mother was quite concerned that I would never get married. For one thing, she identified me as a nerd with fashion problems that might make me un-datable. To work on my fashion problem, she sent me to “Sincerely, Sandra”, a modeling and personal improvement shop at Dobson and Elliot. The basic idea was that the owner, Sandra, would color drape me and then teach me how to shop for clothes. Sandra is a vivacious lady of Lebanese ancestry. Through the process of figuring out that I was a “spring” and taking me shopping at Marshall’s, she decided I was a normal person, so she asked me if I would like to meet her sister. She hooked me up with her little sister, Cindy, who was living with Sandra and her husband at the time. It took me a while to get around to a first date. When we met, I thought she was beautiful … we got along fine. For many months we went out, just as friends and then we fell in love. That’s the best way.
JM: You have a distinct fashion style. Tell us how you created it and what your inspirations are.
JJ: My awareness of fashion started in the same way I met Cindy (see above). Since then, I have become more interested in fashion and have developed certain philosophies regarding dress:
1. Be comfortable with who you are and where you live.
I am a bit chubby (but cuddly), have a short inseam, a bald head, and ordinary looks (which I think of as a blessing). Doesn’t sound like a promising physique for fashion, but I have come to accept my situation and be happy about it. I also live in a warm state. Given these factors, I try to dress in ways that make sense. Being bald has opened up the world of hats, an area where people with hair seem timid to explore (except with the baseball cap [yuck!]). It protects from the sun and has many more options than hair. Being chubby, tight fitting clothes are a big no-no. Guayabera shirts are a favorite. They are loose fitting, a traditional shirt in warm climates, and come in great colors. I do not wear jeans. They emphasize the wrong part of my body. T-shirts: only at the gym.
2. Don’t go with the trends.
I used to wear classic Hawaiian shirts for the same reason as a Guayabera. Then they became popular and started showing up at Costco and all sorts of unstylish people started wearing them in horrible ways. I stopped wearing them. Hats have become popular again (I’ve been wearing them for 25 years), but most people buy cheap ones from China at Target, so it really hasn’t diluted quality hat wearing and I am not planning on abandoning hats. I avoid trends like “Affliction” shirts, Ed Hardy, and all of that stuff. I prefer classic, timeless pieces that go together well and last.
3. Buy quality.
I don’t buy poorly made stuff. It won’t last and it won’t feel good. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Just be picky about quality, inspect your goods carefully, and then try to get the best price. For instance, my go-to fedoras are US made and are fashioned from wheat straw. They are very well made and cost about $35. Yes, that’s more than a Chinese “felt” fedora, but not that much more. It fits and lasts, plus you’re helping US workers. Some things are just plain expensive, but worth it. My LV “murse” is a great accessory that I use daily. It is SO well made and perfectly designed. It will last forever instead of some bad fitting, cheap mini-messenger bag. There’s some truth in the phrase “you get what you pay for”.
JM: Would you please share some Joe “before” pictures?
JM: Would you like to share an internet link?
Best food related periodical: http://www.artofeating.com/
Best antidote to Rachel Ray: http://bitchinlifestyle.tv/
Thanks again Joe for participating in my interview series! Please feel free to ask all your burning questions of Joe in the comments below!
And you can follow him on twitter (@realjoe)-although rumor is he might take a hiatus for a month in February!