Name: Jordan Wallace
Occupation: Bartender/server and almost realtor
Where we found him: Elevator in downtown Rochester
You were wearing some pretty cool shoes when we met. I do love fashion. I probably have over 50 pairs of shoes in what’s become a very expensive closet.
Fashion inspiration? Just to be different. I figure if I like something I should be able to wear it—and hopefully someone out there will appreciate that I was bold enough to wear it.
Celebrity moment? I got to meet Matthew McConaughey and had a conversation with him for about three minutes. He was exactly who you’d think he is. He remembered my name. Said, “Have a great night, Jordan” when they left the restaurant.
I don’t have any stories like that from my restaurant days. I love people. Everyone’s unique and so it’s nice to be around different personalities all the time. I’ve lived and worked in different places and met so many different people. I like Rochester because it’s constant moving people. It never ends. There are so many interesting characters from so many backgrounds—from Serbia or Russia or Kuwait or El Salvador.
What would someone be surprised to learn about you? People are shocked that I grew up in foster care and was homeless for nine months. I was in foster care for six years and then was adopted by my biological uncle. It didn’t quite work out, so at the age of 17, I was homeless for nine months. This was in Iowa City, Iowa. It was very difficult. I ended up meeting a few people who taught me how to get help, how to get things to eat, and navigate my way.
How did you get out of that situation? I went into Jimmy Johns six or seven times to ask for a job and put in an application, and they finally said, “Get this kid a job.” I started working there, got my first apartment in a basement for $300 a month, and that was good enough for me.
The winter had to be especially tough. Downtown Iowa City is like Rochester. It has parking ramps and stuff like that; you learn that near the elevator shaft is warmer. I was typically with one other person who showed me the ropes and helped me get out of there.
Are you originally from Iowa? Yes, I was born in Iowa City—no, Fort Madison. I’ve lived in so many places, I forget.
How many places? Five different states: Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and now here for three years. I lived in quite a few cities in Iowa. You move around a lot in foster care. I went to eight to nine different elementary schools. Two junior highs. Four high schools. I graduated while I was homeless. That was one thing I was determined to do. No one expected that, that is for sure. My entire family came to my graduation.
How did you end up in Rochester? My future wife. We met on Tinder, which is crazy and not where most romances happen. I was living in La Crosse and we talked for three months before we met. Then, probably around six or seven months, I thought, I might as well move closer. Three years later, here we are.
Where do you work? In mid-March I’m starting with Keller Williams in real estate. For now, I work at the Olde Brick House. I’m bartending. The interior is amazing. Everything is imported from Dublin, so it’s a traditional Irish pub. Good food, good music, and a great atmosphere. It just opened, so I think I’ve worked 125 hours over the last two weeks. It’s been crazy. I love opening new restaurants. It’s so fun to make people happy.
You’ve opened others? I worked at Pittsburgh Blue when it opened. And one in Columbia, Missouri. And I opened up the Chipotle in Iowa City, though I don’t know if that counts. But it was free burrito day on the first day and that was one of the worst days of my life. College students lined up around the corner.
Scariest moment? When I was 19, I rode around the country in an 18-wheeler with a friend for 10-1/2 months. He had his CDL. I did not. He ended up letting me drive once. It was supposed to be a straight shot. But there was a cliff around this corner and I almost went off it at 60 miles an hour. That hurts my heart still to this day to think of it. My friend was sleeping in the back and jumped up and ran to the front and said, “What did you do?” I almost killed us.
Not something you’re likely to forget. No. I’ve been to 47 out of 50 states because of that, though. We’d go to one spot, pack up someone’s house into the truck, drive it across country, and wait two days for the next pick up. The coolest place we saw was the Grand Canyon. Pictures do not do it justice.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I hope I’m successful and happy and selling houses to make other people happy. In the service industry, you’re able to make people happy with food. I’m buying my first house and gaining that knowledge, learning how this process works … and there’s nothing like buying a home for making people happy.
What would you tell your teenage self? Trust the process. Don’t stress so much. It will all work out in the end.