What Men Want

Photos by Andrea Hutchinson

For the second year in a row, we present to you What Men Want, a Q&A with four local fellas who share what matters to them. Our subjects come from different professional backgrounds and have varying interests, but all of them care deeply about family and community. Here, they share what they hope to accomplish in life, how they’d like to see Louisville transform and a few of their favorite things.

Chris Burns

Profession: Personal Stylist

Business: Rodes for Him

Degree(s): B.A. – History/Political Science

Alma mater: University of Louisville

Boards, volunteer or community work: Rodes works closely with Gilda’s Club to raise money and awareness for cancer survivors, victims and their families. We are proud to partner with them for a number of events, including Wigs on Tap & Gilda’s Night.

What do you want out of life? Wealth, health and happiness for myself, my friends and family.

What would your ideal Louisville look like? The Highlands! Just with more parking. In all seriousness, I would like to see the city continue to grow, particularly west of downtown. There has been so much development in areas like NuLu, Germantown, Butchertown, etc. that it would be great to see similar development occur in areas like Parkland that have so much historical and cultural significance to the city. Having lived and worked here my whole life, it’s been exciting to see all the changes going on throughout the city. I hope we can continue to build upon those and strive to be even better, and more cosmopolitan, than ever before.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A professional basketball player. I played at Ballard High School for three years, and it wasn’t until I played alongside guys like Quentin Snider, Devante Parker, Kelan Martin and Keisten Jones that I realized I probably wasn’t cut out for the league. From then on, I’ve focused on my education and then developing a career in men’s fashion and retail.

What most people may not know about me: I have a deathly fear of heights. It causes me to truly hate getting on planes even though I love to travel. And roller coasters? You can forget all that. I like my feet planted firmly on solid ground, thank you very much.

Achievement I’m most proud of: My senior year of college, I completed a senior honors thesis for the University of Louisville Honor College centered on the anti-apartheid movement at UofL in the 1980s. Dr. Tyler Fleming of the Pan-African Studies Department and I looked at the student-led sit-in that occurred on the Belknap Campus in April 1985. It was the first historical examination of the event and helped put the University of Louisville squarely within the narrative of the nationwide anti-apartheid movement in the late ’80s and ’90s.

Dream I haven’t achieved yet: One of these days, I will design suits for players participating in the NBA draft. It’s my absolute favorite night in sports fashion. Guys truly go all out, and you can see each stylist’s personal touch and expression in every outfit. It’s like a fashion show for tall, lanky dudes who are 6’6” and over. I’d love to one day be a part of the spectacle.

Favorite milestone: Starting my work at Rodes on Aug. 1, 2017. Rodes is a company that is so esteemed, so renowned in the community, and with a reputation that stretches back over 100 years. There really is no company like it in the city of Louisville. I consider it a true privilege to work for such a well-respected and well-known business that’s family-owned and customer-driven. I’m hoping it’s the start of a long, successful career here.

10-year prediction: In 10 years’ time, I hope to have traveled the world more, spent more time learning and perfecting my craft and hopefully have started to give back to the Louisville community that has provided me with so much.

Favorite Things

Sports team: University of Louisville Cardinals and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Pastime (what you do in your free time): I enjoy playing basketball on my off days or whenever I have the opportunity. Also, any time that I get to spend being active, outside, running around with my little corgi-mix – coincidentally named Rhodes – and my beautiful girlfriend Leah is time well-spent.

Vacation: Estes Park, Colorado. We’ve been going there since I was young to visit my grandparents, and I’ve just fallen in love with it. It has awesome hiking spots, great places to relax and unwind and the weather is always perfect.

Watering hole: Anywhere with good bourbon.

Cocktail: Woodford Reserve on the rocks with a lemon.

Local restaurant: Anoosh Bistro.

Dream car: Red 1985 Lamborghini Countach with tan interior and butterfly doors.

Clothing brand: Isaia. They are the epitome of Italian style and luxury.

TV binge: “The Office” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” if I’m feeling extra nostalgic.

Special heirloom piece or accessory: I have a wool, gingham plaid tie that is made with the traditional Burns family pattern from Scotland. Every member of my dad’s side of the family has an article of clothing with that same print; the guys all have ties and the ladies have scarves. It’s a reminder of our roots and also ties – pun intended – us together even though we all live in separate states.

What you splurge on: Clothes, accessories and shoes especially.

Music taste: Hip-hop/rap of all kinds, old R&B/soul and jazz. I enjoy lyricism and songs with meaning to them. Some of my favorite recent artists include Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Louisville’s own Bryson Tiller. However, when it comes to throwback jams, I love listening to old school R&B/soul artists like Boyz II Men; Marvin Gaye; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and the Isley Bros. I enjoy all kinds of music, but those are definitely some of my favorites.

Ryan Olexa

Profession: Marketing & Sales Analyst

Business: Class Act Federal Credit Union

Degree(s): Marketing & Music

Alma mater: University of Louisville

Boards, volunteer and community work: Every 1 Reads through JCPS

What do you want out of life? I don’t want to waste it on things that don’t matter. I want to care more about the people around me than I do about myself.

What would your ideal Louisville look like? It would look like people helping other people – even those they don’t know. Even little things like getting the door for someone or not cutting off the car next to you (in traffic). And people would stop shooting other people, but moreover, people would care for those that are lost enough to want to.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A rock star.

What most people may not know about me: I got attacked by bees when I was a kid. We’ve since come to an understanding.

Achievement I’m most proud of: I made the Indiana All-State band on saxophone my freshman year of high school, and it’s given me confidence in all areas of my life ever since. I guess reaching a goal that seemed almost unattainable makes everything seem possible.

Dream I haven’t achieved yet: Being a rock star.

Favorite milestone: Turning 16 was pretty great. It’s all been downhill from there! No, but I always wanted to drive and I still kind of love it.

10-year prediction: I’ll have a family of my own.

Favorite Things

Pastime (what you do in your free time): I like to write music or even just to play music.

Vacation: The lake with family and/or friends.

Watering hole: Does church count? That’s probably the place that I most consistently hang out at with other people. Otherwise, it’s whatever house, bar or coffee shop people are feeling that day or whatever venue my friends are playing at that weekend. Lately, I’ve been pretty into the Butchertown Social.

Cocktail: Woodford Old Fashioned.

Local restaurant: Butchertown Pizza Hall.

Dream car: Jeep Wrangler – I just want a car that I can take camping without blowing a tire.

Clothing brand: I recently learned that H&M isn’t crazy expensive, and I like their clothes.

TV binge: “Stranger Things” – about once a year when they decide to release another season.

What you splurge on: Recently, I got really excited about the prospect of camping and bought a bunch of gear.

Music taste: Anything of quality, really. I tend to bounce around week to week. Certain artists that stand out include Alabama Shakes, Diane Coffee, Cage the Elephant, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Vulfpeck, Panic! at the Disco and Caravan Palace. VT

Brian Bates

Profession: Mortgage Banker

Business: Wilson & Muir Bank & Trust Company

Degree(s): Business-Real Estate & Finance

Alma mater: The University of Texas

What do you want out of life? To live an honest life with no regrets, using each day to be kind, helpful and enriching the lives of those with whom I interact.

What would your ideal Louisville look like? I would love to see Louisville as a hub for rail travel to Nashville, Cincinnati, Indy and Chicago.

What most people may not know about me: I come from a family of aviators and have made many flights in hot air balloons and sailplanes. I was at Dallas Love Field waving to Jackie and JFK moments before his assassination. In college, I won jalapeno eating contests.

Achievement I’m most proud of: I’m fortunate to be married to my best friend and wife, Anna, for almost 33 years. We’ve raised a son and daughter who both have smart, loving spouses.

Dream I haven’t achieved yet: Waiting to hold my first grandchild!

Favorite milestone: Every wedding anniversary is an opportunity to thank God for blessing me with another year with my wife.

10-year prediction: I’ll still be awaiting the (annual) September iPhone event.

Favorite Things

Sports team: Texas Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys.

Vacation: I love the mountains in the summer, beach in the fall and any time in Italy!

Watering hole: Casa Bates, where there’s always a generous pour.

Cocktail: Bourbon neat, a Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan.

Local restaurant: Growing up in Texas, my go-to was BBQ or Tex Mex. Louisville is blessed to have so many creative chefs and local restaurants. Feast BBQ and bourbon slushies – enough said. El Mundo and Con Huevos for Mexican.

Dream car: Not yet available but coming soon. It is electric, autonomous, self-parking and will arrive when I summon it from my app.

Clothing brand: Patagonia and Hickey Freeman.

TV binge: Most recently, “Jack Ryan” and “Billions.” Awaiting the final “Game of Thrones” and “Top Chef Kentucky.”

Special heirloom piece or accessory: A vintage Steuben bowl that’s beauty is in its clarity and clean simple lines, making it a timeless classic.

Music taste: Willie Nelson’s “Healing Hands of Time.” It’s Willie at his best. I also enjoy Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, Tears for Fears and Tony Bennett.

Brian S. Merkley

Profession: Third-Generation Jeweler

Business: President, Merkley Kendrick Jewelers

Degree(s): Mass Communication – Photojournalism

Alma mater: Loyola University New Orleans & Trinity High School

Boards, volunteer, and community work: Merkley Kendrick Jewelers is involved with many different organizations in our community throughout the year. For the second year in a row, we were a title sponsor for Wine Women & Shoes benefiting Family Scholar House, SpiropaLOUza and CRAFT benefiting Cure CF Louisville and we are a partner of the Speed Art Museum and a sponsor of the upcoming Patron Circle Party in November.

What do you want out of life? I believe like most people, I simply want to make a difference. I hope to make the world a little better place. Starting with my children, I want to be an example and show others that our mental state is a conscious choice; to demonstrate the fortitude and faith it takes to navigate through life’s inevitable circumstances with a perpetual focus on being grateful, kind and understanding.

What would your ideal Louisville look like? It’s an exciting time to be in Louisville. With the growth and development going on around our city and the excitement the bourbon industry has ignited, Louisville is on the map as a destination for visitors and those considering relocating. While this growth is exciting, my ideal Louisville holds true to its history of being a warm place to live, priding ourselves with southern hospitality and considered a top-notch town to raise a family. I am proud to call Louisville my hometown.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? I’ve always been into music. And after a quick – failed – jaunt with a saxophone and discovering I had absolutely no ability to sing, I set out in college to be a disc jockey at a radio station.

What most people may not know about me: I’ve made a few poor hairstyle choices through the years, including a pretty stellar high school mullet that would have made any NHL player envious. And I attempted dreadlocks during my “dance” phase in college… eyeroll.

Achievement I’m most proud of: Personally, my greatest achievement is my children. They are such a blessing, and I’m more proud of the people they are becoming with every passing day. Professionally, I think my greatest achievement is earning the trust of our clients. We have the distinguished honor to play a role in so many of our client’s milestones, whether it be an engagement or anniversary, a professional achievement or a “just because” gift for the one they love. These special moments are ones we hold close to our heart, and we are forever grateful to be involved.

Dream I haven’t achieved yet: One day I hope to have the patience to learn how to fish and to have the time and calmness to sit for hours on the water.

Favorite milestone: I understand life is full of milestones. We celebrate those with our clients every day, but the first one to come to mind is my father’s retirement. It may seem like an odd choice, but his retirement is when the importance of my family’s legacy dawned on me. As I prepared my speech, I started to realize the importance of generational efforts. I came to know the path to my success and the platform from which I now work was laid by others before me. I’ve since understood the responsibility of ensuring the future success of my loved ones.

10-year prediction: The movement away from big box stores continues as consumers discern the need for service-oriented – not product price-oriented – shopping outlets. Also, mad advances in cryogenics, resulting in my passionate love affair with Amy Winehouse. We would probably meet at the Kentucky Derby and upon getting to know me, she would ultimately remove her emergency protective order and we will live happily ever after.

Favorite Things

Sports team: Sacred Heart Academy Girls Volleyball.

Pastime (what you do in your free time): Family farm, kindergarten soccer coach.

Vacation: Beach, peace, family.

Watering hole: Mr. Lee’s.

Cocktail: Old Forester.

Local restaurant: Cafe Classico.

Dream car: Reconditioning my 1989 Ford Escort – Yeah, you see me!

Clothing brand: Bespoke.

TV binge: “Ozark.”

Special heirloom piece or accessory: While it may not be mine, my father’s yellow gold Day-Date Rolex President. It was a gift to him upon his retirement from Merkley Kendrick Jewelers, where he served for 50 years. That timepiece signifies the jewelry tradition of our family.

What you splurge on: My loved ones. I enjoy gift giving and taking care of those in my life.

Music taste: Hip hop and country – they can coexist!