Story of a... Sign Twirler

Jose Melendez, 36, is the man behind the hat-tipping masked character that has become a roadside icon.



ROBERTO GONZALEZ

As Diamond Exchange’s Mr. Gold, Melendez has entertained passers-by at East Colonial Drive and Maguire Boulevard since October 2010. His employer created the character before Melendez began working there, but “I really brought it out.”

Melendez is constantly in motion, whether twirling his “We Buy Gold’’ sign, bowing or tipping his hat. “It’s so cute when parents roll down their car window for their kids to tip their hat at me like I do with mine. It’s like a trend now on Colonial.”

“My job is to make people smile. I thrive on making people’s days brighter. When I’m down sometimes, watching people enjoy me always puts a smile on my face.”

Melendez twirled his life around 180 degrees. After serving time for a drug offense, he faced unemployment in Orlando for more than 18 months. He noticed Diamond Exchange’s “Help Wanted” sign three years ago from the seat of a Lynx bus, and now drives himself to work in a car he bought with his earnings. “I have a home, a car and everything else I need. You’ve just got to start from the bottom.”

“I try to be a good influence now. I’m married, have two stepchildren and an 8-year old son. Even my friends see me working hard and they now have hope for themselves.”

Despite his very active job that allows him to “eat as many Honey Buns as I want,” Melendez exercises regularly on his own time. “I still work out each morning. It loosens me up before coming to work so I’m not stiff out there.”

He hasn’t always been a natural entertainer. “I was a very shy kid. I’m sort of surprised I’m doing this now, but I came out of my shell.”

“In Target, a woman told me her son was in speech therapy because he wouldn’t talk much, but she said whenever he saw me he’d say, ‘Mommy, there goes Mr. Gold.’ That brought tears to my eyes.”
His Facebook page (Orlando Mr. Gold) has pictures of him with passers-by. “People have called asking where I am on my days off.” He jokingly adds: “I’m waiting for my movie deal.”

“I don’t get tired. God has blessed me with this job. I go wherever in my costume; I’m not ashamed.”

 

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