As it concerns life-changing events, taking over Fred’s Texas Café as CEO or even moving from the sacred ground of the original location are down Quincy Wallace’s list of those kinds of big things.
Pondering a future with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, no feeling on his left side, and an inability to walk were not only life changing but a gut puncher.
It all started like a “hangover that wouldn’t go away,” he recalls.
Image Credit: Crystal Wise
Twelve years after that diagnosis, Quincy is leading a full life — let’s call it his best life — fully mobile and functioning, and, yes, the CEO of Fred’s Texas Café, which he is leading into a new era of a glorious Fred’s history in Fort Worth.
How he scaled to the mountaintop of the Fred’s institution is a story all its own. Fred’s, which has earned prestige for its unconventionality, is among the few places it could have happened. Everybody has a tale about Fred’s.
This one happens to be true.
Since the unfortunate advent of the five-day workweek, people have gotten out of bed in the morning, washed their face, brushed their teeth, and headed out for a job with some kind of ambition. For some, it was to earn money to pay the bills, put a roof over a family’s head, or eat. For others, it was to rule the world. Or try to.
Quincy’s hopes and dreams when he took a job at Fred’s, not quite 25 years ago, was far simpler but not uncommon for a guy who was then in his 20s with a wolfish appetite for a good time.
“I needed beer money,” he says. “I owned a head shop and was broke and needed beer money. And Terry needed a dishwasher on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights.”
Meet Quincy Wallace, age 47, a Fort Worth and Fred’s native.
From the head up, you could mistake him for Teddy Roosevelt, with the pronounced mustache out of the lawless Wild West, with a cowboy hat seemingly permanently affixed to his head. A distinguished chortle will turn a mood ring at-ease blue in mere seconds.
And he is a fantastic feller — that’s the way Will Rogers would have said it — who would give the shirt off his back for you. An Oklahoman remembers recently those dark days in 2013 when an F5 tornado again found room to operate in Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 during a destructive, unwelcome visit. Up from Texas drove Quincy and his wife Melynda with tanks of gas for welders to cut up twisted and defeated steel.
Quincy is the new face of Fred’s, taking over the role from Terry Chandler, the famed outlaw chef who is still cooking — and fishing and surfing — but in another part of the world after having decided to retire from Fred’s and the continental U.S. generally.
“He has come a long way from cramming toothpicks in the cigarette machine to relocating the whole restaurant,” Chandler says of the precocious Quincy he knew as a toddler. They both grew up, Quincy eventually joining Chandler, 10 years or so his senior, cooking on chuckwagons and “just being wild asses.”
If you know Fred’s, you know Fred’s, which made 10 o’clock closing time at one point on Friday and Saturday nights because “we liked to go drinking, too. How the hell do you get to a bar if you close at midnight?” (They’re back open on Friday and Saturday until midnight, by the way.)
The criticism of Fred’s in recent years was that it had lost some of its identity. Though Fred’s North and the original Fred’s were the same, they weren’t. Quincy owned the north location and Chandler the original. They were partners, but the two stores were solely independent of one another. The store on Bluebonnet Circle marked a third opening.
They tried to create an umbrella with a kind of corporate-type makeover that caused more issues than it solved.
Quincy is now The Guy, currently up to his elbows in alligators opening the new Fred’s Texas Café, which is set to unfurl the welcome mat to guests later this month. This newest and perhaps most anticipated incarnation of the property at 7101 Camp Bowie West Blvd., best known to West Siders as the site of Steak and Ale, the noted casual dining chain of restaurateur Norman Brinker.
He has hired Fabian Alvarado as head chef, carrying on what Chandler built in the kitchen and ensuring consistency of the brand. This new Fred’s Texas Café won’t be the last, either. Quincy says he has expansion plans.
He and his contractors last month were in the midst of “taking the Steak and Ale out of” the building. The only thing remaining will be the fireplaces.
“They’re everywhere,” he says.
He declined an expert in the field and designed the layout of the new store all himself. It cost him a lot of sleep. “I wouldn’t do that again,” he says.
One room will be a shrine of sorts to the original Fred’s, Texas, on Currie Street. The announcement that Fred’s on Currie was closing was comparable to a spokesman on the moon announcing that the moon was going away.
It was hard for Quincy, too. He grew up at the original Fred’s.
Carter Wallace, his father, owned a cabinetry shop next door and was a regular at Fred’s, as well as its predecessor, Ken’s.
“I predate the Chandler family at the Currie Street shop,” he says. “My mom would let me out of the house on Saturdays with my dad, who would take me to Ken’s. Fred’s original cook, Gracie, she worked at Ken’s, too. She would make me pancakes with a smiley face drawn with syrup. I’ve been in that building my whole life.”
Quincy really did merely plan to make some beer money when he went to work at Fred’s as a dishwasher, but circumstances being as finicky as they are, it turned out far differently. Like the new building on Camp Bowie, Quincy’s need of beer money turned into his dream job.
“My path is wild because … I hate to say this isn’t my dream job because it is. I just never knew it was my dream job,” says Quincy, whose first job when he left Arlington Heights at age 17 was at a construction site where he operated a broom. “It just turned out to be.”
He had always been friends with Chandler, so there was an inherent trust the two had. When a bartender quit or was fired — he doesn’t remember — Quincy, by then in real estate, picked up those shifts. Before long, he was working the bar every night.
Then Chandler wanted Saturdays off. Quincy became the manager on Saturday nights. Eventually he added the title of general manager after Chandler’s parents, JD and Gari, who bought the restaurant in 1978, retired in 2004.
“In real estate, it’s feast or famine,” he says, recalling picking up a shift behind the bar. “It was probably a famine week, and I needed some cash. So, I’m a bartender now. Eventually, I was real estate in the daytime and a bartender at night. That’s cool. I’m putting back some money.”
Quincy gave up alcohol with his MS diagnosis. Changed everything, he says, including his diet. He’s healthier now than he was 12 years ago, he says. He also participates in the annual MS 150 bicycle ride, which raises money to combat the disease as well as awareness.
However, there’s no mistaking the moral of this story: It’s amazing what happens when you need a little beer money.