Wilson’s mixes business with hospitality

Southdown Marketplace a shopper’s delight
November 22, 2011
Samuel Hunter DesLatte’
November 25, 2011

Cathy and Karl Wilson have lived in other parts of the world, but when it came to settling down, Cathy, a native of Terrebonne Parish, and Karl, a native of Oregon, contend that Chacahoula is the only place they want to call home and where they wanted to build their future.

Cathy’s, maiden name Cocke, family has lived in the upper Terrebonne area for 200 years primarily as sugar cane growers.

Twenty-five years ago the Wilsons decided that residents of their area needed a store where patrons could buy groceries, supplies for outdoor activities or even a good meal be it breakfast or dinner.

A 11/2-acre site at the intersection of Bull Run Road and La. Highway 20 was cleared for the business and Wilson’s Kountry Korner took shape.

Before the 2,400-square-foot cypress structure, raw materials were grown, cut and crafted in the immediate area, with spotless rustic interior was built, the store owners realized this place was a treasured location historically as well as personally.

“The property that the store sits on was a Civil War encampment,” Cathy said. “This particular piece of property is listed in the book ‘The Battle of New Orleans’ and we found numerous relics from the Civil War days.”

In their home, Poverty Flats Plantation, four miles down the road, the Wilsons keep a display case of the artifacts that include mini artillery-balls and tools for making ammunition over open fires, glass bottles, thimbles, coins and other items. “We have a huge padlock but no treasure chest,” Cathy said. “Someone must have gotten that before.”

Back at the store, Karl cleans the parking area and exterior every morning as Cathy and their crew prepare the interior for the day’s regular crowd and new visitors.

For the past quarter century, Wilson’s Kountry Korner has become a landmark in its own rite.

“I got no complaints,” patron James Sevin said as he admitted to having breakfast every morning at Wilson’s Kountry Korner. “Miss Cathy is very nice. She treats all the customers with excellent care.”

Wilson’s is decorated with historic artifacts, mounts from fish to ducks to antique agricultural implements. An eight-table area is filled at different times of the day with people eating meals before and after work.

The grocery store provides an expected inventory ranging from ice chests and paper towels to bread, chips and soft drinks.

“We cater to the working man and woman,” Cathy said. “We are family oriented. I consider the people who work for us family because they are part of us. We get a lot of tourists through here as well.

Wilson’s will receive large orders for poboys and other meals for area businesses that count on serving their employees’ lunches.

Bulk orders expand to companies calling on Wilson’s to provide meals during their employee training sessions.

“If we did not put out a good product they would not come back to us for those orders,” Cathy said.

The Wilson’s have made friends with customers traveling through the area from other parts of the country to the degree that when devastating storms hit Terrebonne Parish, churches and businesses from as far away as Minnesota sent food and relief supplies to nearby St. Lawrence Catholic Church on Bull Run Road to help area residents.

Two additional claims to fame for Wilson’s include being where the first Louisiana Lottery jackpot winning ticket was sold in 1991 to 12 couples camping at Hideaway Ponds near Gibson. They ended up sharing $12.8 million. A second winning lottery ticket sold from Wilson’s in June was valued at $459,000.

In 25 years of business Cathy said she has learned that you can’t please everyone. “But for the most part if you got a grill and stove you can please just about everyone,” she said.

“I love it,” Cathy said of operating the store. “I love meeting the customers. Some remember me as a child. The people are so willing to help you here. From their soul.”

“See ya, shorty,” a male patron that came in for a quick purchase shouted across the store to Cathy, who barely stands 5-feet tall. “See ya later tally,” she responded to demonstrate regional friendliness that is the foundation on which she and Karl built their business.

On a historic site where Civil War artifacts have been discovered, Cathy Wilson operates Wilson’s Kountry Korner in Chacahoula. MIKE NIXON