Have you heard the whispers? Rochester real estate mogul and Boulder Coffee Co. owner Lyjha Wilton is planning his next big move.
Rumor has it, it’s another coffee shop. No, wait. Maybe it’s a hotel, or a shopping mall, or a nightclub or, perhaps, nothing at all.
As Jay-Z once said: “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”
In reality, none of the rumors surrounding Wilton are true – yet. But that hasn’t stopped people from talking. Even Wilton’s ears have been ringing.
“I’ll be sitting at a bar somewhere, all incognito, and I’ll hear someone talking about me,” says the 34-year-old. “They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, it must be ‘Lyjha’ buying up this property or that property.’ It’s like the telephone game.”
Wilton’s mythical status in the Rochester real estate scene is a result of his continued success. He spent last year building on an already impressive portfolio.
Last April, Wilton purchased two of the three closed Spin Café locations in downtown Rochester. He turned one into a Java Joe’s and the other into a Boulder Coffee location on Park Avenue.
In total, Wilton now owns 50 properties in the area. And from what he told us, there are more on the way.
So maybe some of the rumors aren’t as farfetched as we thought:
You’ve got the whole coffee shop thing locked down. What’s next?
Here’s the thing about the coffee shops that’s been great. I always thought of them as a side job to my real estate development company. But now I get more attention from the coffee shops. And now, with the addition of the new stores, it’s to the point where I have to focus equally on both. I’m looking into new locations for more Boulders potentially on East Avenue or in the North Winton area. We’ll see.
How old were you when you bought your first property?
I must have been 23 or 24. So it’s been about 10 years.
What was the first one?
It was a house my wife and I moved into. It was like a hut house, in Charlotte on a cute street right off Lake Ave just north of Stone Road. It was a cool house from the 1920s. We got it for like 50 grand or something. Then, right in that same time frame I bought a four-family over on Bond Street.
Did you ever imagine when you bought that first house it would get to this point?
No. Anyone who’s into buying properties will say the same thing: It’s an addicting process. It’s the hunt, the chase. The whole process is fun once you get good at it. Once you do it, the more you understand how deals work. It’s fun to out-position people. But I’ve gotten to the point in my life and career where I’m not as aggressive as I used to be. I’m actually able to say no now. Before, if I could put the deal together and it made even a remote amount of sense, I would go for it, because I was trying to accumulate mass. Now I’m pickier.
You own 50 properties, including the coffee shops. You have a wife, and five kids, yet you never seem stressed.
Oh, I get stressed. Four years ago, I almost lost it. It was the year I bought Java Joe’s in the springtime. I remodeled and opened up The Colony (Bar) right after that. I was also doing the Brooks Landing opening (for Boulder Coffee) and I was working in Sodus Point on two properties that were undergoing renovations. I was also having a kid and doing Boulder Fest. It put a crack in my soul. After that I really had to keep myself in check. I was having issues with anxiety and holding everything in. I’m very good at masking my stress on the outside, but that shit can eat you up on the inside.
So you’re in your mid-30s and you’re already slowing down.
Yeah. My wife worries that I’m going to die young.
I get that a lot from people, actually. I’m a little reckless. I like fast cars and fast motorcycles.
What other hobbies do you have?
Anything vintage. I like vintage collectibles, vintage cars and motorcycles. I’ve really tried to focus on spending more time with my hobbies. If you’re not careful, before you know it you’ll have no hobbies and you’re just working your life away.
When did you get your first tattoo?
It was the dead fish [on my ankle]. I was barely 18 when I got that.
What’s the meaning behind the sleeve on your arm?
It started as a tree of life with my wife and I making up this tree with the branches spread across my chest. And then there are five cherry blossoms that represent each one of my kids. It’s fun when you have kids that can have an input. I told them I was thinking of getting more tattoo work done and asked what they think I should do. My daughter came up with the idea that I should do butterflies. Butterflies aren’t that manly, so I was said, “How about I do some moths?” She thought that would be cool.
~ Story by Troy L. Smith, photos by Christopher Cardwell