Friends, neighbors raising money to help rebuild Wilson’s Bar-B-Q on North Side
Friends and neighbors of Wilson’s Bar-B-Q don’t want a Nov. 5 fire to be the end of the beloved restaurant on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
“He’s just a great guy, and I love him in the neighborhood,” said Michele Petruccelli, who lives a few doors from the North Taylor Avenue spot, which has been a staple of the Mexican War Streets neighborhood since 1970.
“When this happened I was just devastated for him, for the barbecue, for the neighborhood,” Petruccelli said.
She and North Side businessman Jonathan Iams started a GoFundMe for George Wilson Jr., who took over the barbecue last year when his father died. Wilson, 60, wasn’t insured and lived above the restaurant.
The fundraiser had tallied nearly $5,000 of its $100,000 goal by Monday morning, and Petruccelli and Iams are working to spread the word to get more support.
Iams, who is working to renovate the James Street Gastropub in the nearby East Allegheny neighborhood into a new restaurant/bar and home to his engineering firm, is empathetic to Wilson’s plight.
“Imagine if in one two-hour period you lost your home and business,” Iams said. “This just seemed like a great opportunity to help him out.”
Wilson’s father moved the barbecue to its present location in 1970 after operating on Pennsylvania Avenue. The family’s Southern-style sauce recipe dates back 200 years, Wilson said.
“Man, it’s just been beautiful,” Wilson said of the outpouring of support in the week since the fire.
It’s beyond financial support, Wilson said, and friends and neighbors have shown so much concern it’s been unbelievable.
Iams and Wilson have walked through the building. Wilson said the damage doesn’t appear to be as bad as it looks. They’re working to come up with a plan to gut the parts of the building that are damaged and to repair the structure, Wilson said.
Wilson and his longtime partner have been staying at a hotel thanks to the Red Cross. They are pursuing other short-term places they’ve been offered as the rebuilding effort gets underway, Wilson said.
“It’s going to take effort, time and money, but it’s not unsalvageable,” Petruccelli said. “The first thing we’re trying to do is have George back on his feet.”
Wilson’s attitude was positive Monday morning. He called the challenge to rebuild “a big mountain to climb.”
“We’re still trying to do what we’re trying to do,” Wilson said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .