Joshua Wallack is a visionary, perpetually looking towards the future imagining what could be possible. Following in the footsteps of his father, David Wallack, the two have created the empire of Mango’s Tropical Café, a world-class restaurant and nightlife entertainment destination in South Beach and now Orlando in 2015. In addition to being the COO of Mango’s Tropical Café, he is also the managing principal of SKYPLEX, a $300 million indoor entertainment complex coming to I-Drive in 2017, featuring the world’s tallest roller coaster and more. Together with the I-Drive community, he is pioneering the revitalization of one of the most beloved tourism corridors in Orlando.
I4B: Tell us about your career history and how you got to where you are today.
JW: I started my career with Mango’s South Beach in 1999. After seven years, I founded and was CEO of two startup companies in the 2000s. I developed “Nick on the Go,” a Nickelodeon-branded entertainment rental device for The Hertz Corporation, which eventually purchased the company. Before that, there was the DigEplayer for the entire Amtrak system. For both products, I sourced, negotiated and licensed movie and television content with major Hollywood studios and cable and network TV. I returned to Mango’s about four years ago and am excited about overseeing our expansion with Mango’s Orlando and our new Orlando ventures with SKYPLEX.
I4B: Your father was one of the drivers of Miami’s urban renaissance. What were the most important things you learned from him?
JW: My father has inspired me through his own actions and philosophies. Growing up, he taught me to trust my instincts and that anything is possible. Nothing is ever too daunting for us. We’re always up for a challenge. We’re third generational real estate developers. We build, own and operate to pass on to the next generation. It’s important for us to own our properties. We’re interested in being around for at least the next 100 years!
I4B: You could have chosen anywhere in the country to make this new development, so what drew you to Orlando, to I-Drive and where do you see this area going?
JW: International Drive has been an icon for the past 30 years, but is undergoing a renaissance with all of the new developments underway. Mango’s South Beach is one of the top ten grossing restaurant/night clubs in the US (as ranked by Bar & Restaurant magazine). We thought it made sense to bring this type of concept to Las Vegas, but in exploring opportunities in Orlando and on International Drive, we found an amazing building to purchase. Coming to International Drive was the best decision we ever made! I have what I call a 2020 vision for I-Drive, when the area will showcase an entirely new face. There are developers poised to take the area from the 20th to 21st century. We have enough momentum to make International Drive incredible. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful opportunity and are so honored and excited to be part of this growth and to make Orlando our home.
I4B:How will SKYPLEX and Mango’s together reinvent and revitalize I-Drive, and who will it
JW: International Drive does lodging and dining very well. We’re looking forward to contributing on the dining and attractions front with Mango’s Orlando and SKYPLEX to attract even more conventioneers and leisure guests to the area. Meeting planners and those who want a unique special event venue should find plenty of options with Mango’s 55,000 square feet of space. We also will strive to be a local’s favorite hangout. Mango’s South Beach enjoys about 40 percent of our business from locals, who are incredibly important to us. With the parking garage and pedestrian walkway, we hope to free up traffic and make International Drive accessible and accommodating for locals to enjoy.
I4B: What are a few of the biggest challenges you’ve come up against in this development?
JW: One of my most recent challenges was the engineering of the tower for the Skyscraper, which, when it opens in 2017, will be the world’s tallest rollercoaster and our anchor attraction for SKYPLEX indoor entertainment complex. The Skyscraper will be the world’s first Polercoaster (vertical rollercoaster) and destined to be the tallest structure in Central Florida at 570 feet. So you can imagine our challenges related to how the tower interacts with the build-out around it. Luckily, we found wonderful architects with US Thrill Rides, HHCP and Winter Park Construction, all in Central Florida, who have met the challenge. We’re always up for an adventure.
I4B: What is the status of the projects right now?
JW: We’ll be opening the 55,000-sq.ft. Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando this summer and breaking ground on the $300 million SKYPLEX entertainment complex by the end of 2015, with a grand opening in 2017. Through the years, we’ve learned many of our South Beach guests have driven from Orlando to enjoy the nightlife we offer. We’re excited to bring 55,000 square feet of this same world-class nightlife to Orlando. It’s something we think Orlando is ready for. The SKYPLEX entertainment complex, across the street from Mango’s Orlando, will be architecturally significant and an Orlando landmark with the 570-ft. vertical rollercoaster, the SkyFall 450-foot drop ride and 1,500-foot zipline, all wrapping around and within the SKYPLEX tower and complex. Along with the Orlando Eye, we will become focal points of the skyline, helping cement I-Drive as an entertainment destination apart from the theme parks.
All in the Family
Orlando’s tourism community has a long tradition of strong, family businesses. Regardless of whether they were homegrown or attracted to our destination by the number of visitors we welcome or the unparalleled culture of hospitality we represent, these companies helped make our area what it is today.
While Orlando is so well known for our world-class theme parks, we’ve also gained national recognition and increased momentum for a variety of tourism-related experiences, including dining, shopping, sports, recreation and much more. And this growth has become a magnet for businesses outside of Orlando to choose our destination for expansion.
A representative of one family new to Orlando is Joshua Wallack, who is being profiled in this month’s issue. Josh and his dad, David, built a very successful business in Mango’s Tropical Cafe Miami Beach. This summer, Mango’s Tropical Cafe Orlando will open its doors along International Drive, just one mile from the Orange County Convention Center. The new venture will be more than twice the size of the original location in Miami. But that’s not all. The Wallack family is also investing heavily in International Drive, increasing our local economy’s tax base, providing our visitors (and residents) with more high-quality, dining and entertainment experiences and creating jobs here in Orlando.
When it comes to business, Josh is fond of saying “keep going and don’t stop.” Thanks to families like the Wallacks and many others like them, Orlando’s tourism community is on pace to keep growing beyond expectations and not stopping, even when we far surpass those destinations we compete with for status as the No. 1 family vacation destination in the world.
– George Aguel, President & CEO of Visit Orlando