Downtown Denizen - Joe Vergara

Joe Vergara
Founder, ChillSpot by SasaSweets and Stoned N Baked

What is something about you that most people don’t know?
I would say that I’m a total nerd but most people already know that. There are two things that most people don’t know about me: If I weren’t doing what I’m doing today, I would be running an aquaponic farm in Asia. Also, I’m an outstanding shot. Rubber bands, arrows, BB guns, and more. You name it, I can shoot it.

If you won $100 million, what would you buy first?
If I won $100 million, I would invest in my non-profit idea. In an attempt to curb corruption in third world countries, I feel that it’s important to give people access to their own food. I would create a village made of prefabricated housing, which would revolve around a central aquaponic farm. We would have fish, grow produce, and use the energy created to help provide temperature control.

If you had to choose just one place to vacation every year for the rest of your life, where would it be?
The Philippines. I love traveling throughout Asia but I specifically enjoy discovering the Philippines. It has such a mishmash of different cultures and is so different from the surrounding countries. The Philippines consist of very diverse ethnic groups, which I really appreciate. 

Which of your accomplishments has made you most proud?
Coming to the realization and accepting that no one is more in control of my destiny than I am. Once I realized that the universe owes me nothing, I was able to figure out that I can accomplish anything I want, but I need to go out and make it happen.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
I would like to be a primary school teacher. The earlier you begin a good education, the better foundation you build and the better potential that child has. I’d also make it a point to teach a class on being a good person. 

What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life?
My first job was with a printing press for the American Dental Association. I also worked at Baskin-Robbins, Häagan-Dazs, in both men’s and women’s retail, and for a period of time, I was a volunteer for UNICEF in Korea. I spent some time at DePaul University teaching an English as a second language program, I’ve been a consultant for a variety of organizations, and my last gig, before starting my own businesses, was in corporate IT.

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that inspires you?
“To hell with opportunity, I create opportunity.” –Bruce Lee

What motivates you to work hard?
I don’t think I have an answer because I don’t think I know of any other way to exist. No one else will do it for me. I often think about how I want to be remembered when my obituary is read aloud. I work hard because I want my legacy to say I did.

What was the last concert you attended?
It’s been a very long time. Not counting Life Is Beautiful since I’m here more for work, it has been so long I can honestly say I don’t remember. I think it might have been Sisters of Mercy with Public Enemy - it was that long ago.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?
The universe owes you nothing. I wouldn’t have had to wait until I was older to figure that out.

What is your favorite book to read or favorite movie to watch?
My favorite move is Blade Runner simply because it is about the ultimate questioning of what defines life in a being. As we move forward with developments in artificial intelligence, those are going to be very relevant questions.

What is one thing on your bucket list that you have already done or have plans to do?
To disrupt the structures that allow the corruption to exist in third world countries. It’s a lofty dream but it is something I think about everyday. If anyone in the downtown community wants to brainstorm, stop by and we’ll chat.

What do you love most about Las Vegas?
I love that the places that constantly reinvent themselves give their residents the ability to also reinvent themselves. I feel that it’s the most American city in all of the United States. If you look at Vegas from afar, you see sin, vice, sex, money, and all negative stereotypes of the U.S. But when you take a closer look, there are no natural resources, no real reason to exist and the only reason it exists is the sheer will and determination of its citizens to make it work every single day. I don’t think there is anything more American than taking something that most people think is absurd and making it work and making it a success. That is America.