If you’ve visited jLofts, it’s likely you’ve received a warm welcome from concierge Joseph DeRozza. Tall with clear eyes that sparkle when he smiles, he is as dapper as he is genuine.
So what does DeRozza do?
“I do a little bit of everything,” he says—which is a pretty big understatement.
DeRozza is a man of many talents, including concierge, music, and art. Originally from San Francisco, he came to Omaha in 1964 to serve in the Air Force. At the end of his three-year stint, he stuck around to play with his band, The Rogues.
During this time, DeRozza fell for Omaha’s “easygoing” appeal, developing a particular fondness for the Old Market, where has done concierge work for 21 years. Having previously worked and lived at the Brandeis Building and Farnam 1600, he now owns a home in Midtown with Aggie, his wife of 19 years, but loves working Downtown.
DeRozza says he prizes the unique flavor of Downtown Omaha.
“It’s far more interesting, Bohemian, and cosmopolitan than any other area of Omaha,” he says. “You’ve got this little village—it’s like
The Village in New York.”
DeRozza says he enjoys the Old Market because of the atmosphere that’s similar to but on a smaller scale than his home back in Frisco. He calls it a delightful level of strangeness.
“It’s not your average place,” he says. “And you’re actually living in the concept. It’s not like you’re just thinking about it; you’re actually living in it, working down here.”
DeRozza loves what he calls the “boutique” feel of the Old Market. Many of the shop and restaurant owners are familiar with DeRozza, he says. He mentions some of his favorites: Nicola’s, 13th Street Coffee, Havana Garage, and, of course, the dearly departed French Café. He’s eager to try Le Boullion, which has sprouted in the latter’s place.
“It’s already a vibrant scene, but we can always use more new places,” he says.
DeRozza is also a member of Downtown Omaha Inc., a group of Downtown residents, business owners, and managers.
The jLofts lobby where he works is surrounded by DeRozza’s art, including his favorite piece. He prizes the vivid giraffe painting because of its “reality and difficulty.” He does mostly oil paintings and pencil; science fiction, wildlife, and fantasy. He’s also begun exploring contemporary art—that’s why he’s named a newer, non-canvas-based piece The Future.
“At this point in my life, I’m pretty low-key,” DeRozza says. “I just want to do a good job, do the job I like the best, and keep doing good artwork.”
DeRozza’s sharp, realistic work belies the fact that he’s entirely self-taught. Perhaps it’s the length of his tenure as an artist: He began at age 11. He shares some small prints of his typically life-size pieces. From Eve in The Garden, to an ornate parrot, to a rendering of C-3PO, the colors are lush and the representations accurate. Even his fantasy pieces have a sharpness to them that suggests simultaneous reality and surreality. Some subjects are imagined, others are realistic, including a portrait of his grandson.
Although he’s friendly with many jLofts residents, most may not even know their entryway is adorned with art by their concierge.
“It’s a combination of odd jobs,” he says of concierge work. “Anything you can imagine.” Dog-walking, plant-watering, rides to the airport, accompanying service workers, errands, and lots of coordination, is just a shortlist.
“You’ve got to be able to do it all. A hotel concierge, they just pick up the phone and call to have it done. I am Have It Done,” he says.
And he truly loves being that go-to guy.
“I love helping people. It makes you feel good,” says DeRozza. “At the end of the day you think, ‘I’ve really done something that mattered.’”