Wilbert Wilson’s first barber shop was at the corner of South Derbigny and General Pershing streets in Broadmoor for two years, but the 10 feet of floodwater from the levee failures after Katrina forced him to relocate his business temporarily to a picnic tent with a generator in an abandoned Shell station parking lot. In 2007, he opened Mr. Chill’s First Class Cuts on South Carrollton, deemed by a NPR correspondent at the time as “a bright light in a city where every reopened business is a small victory against despair.” Since then, the shop has hosted LEAP test tutoring programs and even cultural events such as teaching young boys how to tie a tie.
Last week, Wilson obtained enthusiastic City Council approval to open “Mr. Chill’s Broadmoor Dogs and Sweet Pastries” back inside his original location in his old neighborhood. He said the shop will have both hot dogs and baked goods like cupcakes, cookies and even cakes for special occasions, and that he’ll split his own time between the two locations after it opens next month.
“You can get you a hot dog and you can get you some sweets,” Wilson said in a phone interview.
One unique aspect of the store, he said, will be its location within the neighborhood instead of on a commercial corridor, giving it both a nostalgic feel and returning to a more traditional business model.
“You don’t see too many old-school businesses inside the neighborhood,” Wilson said. “It’s not on the thoroughfare; it’s in the neighborhood, like New Orleans used to be.”In his appearance before the City Council, Wilson was praised and encouraged by council members Jackie Clarkson, Stacy Head, Susan Guidry and especially LaToya Cantrell, who called him a “pillar of the community.” She noted that the neighborhood association is strongly in favor of the shop.
Wilson said the support of the neighborhood has been crucial to him — so much so that ‘Broadmoor’ is part of the shop’s name.
“Broadmoor is the reason why I became ‘Mr. Chill,’ ” Wilson said. “I was just ‘Chill’ when I was in Broadmoor, but after the storm I became ‘Mr. Chill’ because of what the Broadmoor community has done for me.”