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Published July 12 2013

Faces of our community: WIL’S JOURNEY

Fargo - Don’t be surprised if Wil Dort throws in a little hug after you get a haircut at Skill Cutz Barber Shop in Fargo.

That sort of personal touch goes along with his warm smile and friendly manner, and it’s probably one of the reasons for the success he’s had as a barber.

“You gotta be a people person,” said Dort, who opened Skill Cutz at 2512 7th Ave. S. with Brendan LaFrance in 2008.

Despite his happy, easy-going manner, Dort’s life hasn’t been without mistakes and setbacks. Dort moved from his native Haiti to the U.S. in 1997 and graduated from Fargo North in 2004. After high school, he began using and then selling drugs, mostly methamphetamine.

“I was out there just living a wrong life and selling drugs and doing drugs, and hanging with wrong friends and whatever,” said Dort.

Dort ended up getting busted for dealing dope and served nine months in 2006 and 2007 at the Cass County Jail. He says he had stopped selling before he was found out but was still using. And he believes he would have eventually started selling again.

Dort, 28, hid this darker side of his life from Mb (short for Mbang), with whom he was involved romantically at the time.

“I was living a lie,” he said.

“It was a shock for sure,” Mb said. “Just feeling like you don’t really know the person at all. … I obviously felt betrayed and all of those feelings and emotions that come along with that.”

But she didn’t give up on Dort. Dort said Mb and her mother bailed him out of jail after he turned himself in in 2006.

“I always saw that he had a good heart,” she said.

Dort served his time, and his life began to change.

“I remember when I went in there I knew I didn’t want to continue the life I was living and I had to change something, and God and the program that they had there really set that for me,” he said. “And it helped me to become the person that I am.”

Dort became a Christian while in jail. He went on to finish barber school just after he was released in 2007, and he and LaFrance opened Skill Cutz in 2008. He married Mb in January of this year. Dort called her a “guardian angel.”

“At times I sit and think, just, like, man, just at (what) I have put her through and her family, and she’s still there for me,” he said. “I’m just blessed to have her in my life. And I would never want to hurt her or do anything like that again.”

Mb said Dort is like a new man.

“I feel like today he’s just a 100 percent different person; just a strong man of faith. He always had a good heart, but it just really shines through now, just an amazing husband, good friend, driven in business and all that,” she said. “God definitely changed him very, very much.”

In this installment of “Faces of Our Community,” Dort talks about his early interest in barbering, his life selling drugs, the change he’s undergone and more.

The effect a haircut can have on a person:

“You know, you get a good haircut, you get your confidence back in a way … because the day might be going wrong, with a good haircut, you still get a little happy feeling inside. ‘Yeah, I look good.’ ”

His early interest in barbering:

“Aw, man, barbering, it’s kind of in my genes in a way because, like, I remember back in Haiti, and all my uncles used to cut hair. And I remember my mom gave me a little bit of money, and I went and what I did with that money – I remember I was probably about 8, 9 years old – I bought a pair of scissors and a couple of things of razor blades. And I remember when my uncles used to cut hair, I’d always watch, you know, just standing in the way. They were always telling me to move … I’ve been cutting hair since then. Just really a God-given talent.”

Life in Haiti:

“It was a tough living as a kid. … The house I grew up in, it was, like, a straw house. It was just basically two rooms and six of us were living in it. Just looking back, you know, how God has blessed me and blessed my family to be able to get out of that situation.”

How he felt about the people being hurt by the meth he was selling

“Living that lifestyle you don’t really think about that. The cash covers everything because the cash is coming in and you’re like, you know, you don’t feel for others. It’s just me, me, me. And when I was sitting in jail, I had time to think and, you know, families and people that are dying on that stuff and then people that smoke it one time and you hooked; most people don’t ever get off. It’s a terrible feeling knowing that you’re a cause of that.”

Turning himself in:

“My brother called me on the phone, like, ‘Hey, what are you doing in the most wanted paper?’ I’m like, ‘What?’ I was in shock. I knew at that time that I couldn’t run away. And then I remember the same night I told him, ‘Drive me to Cass County. I’m turning myself in.’ And that’s probably one of the best decisions I made … because something like that, you can’t run away from. Eventually they will catch you.”

The beginning of the change in his life and responding to an altar call at church:

“They had the program over there. We went to church like three or four times a week and God was dealing with me. A lot of guilt, a lot of shame. … The work release folks sit way in the back, you know, it’s a big church. So I remember I had to walk down, just with my head down. … It was a walk of shame, and I’m glad that I did it. … And that’s when the changes started.”

On asking his former high school teacher for help when he and his business partner, Brendan LaFrance, were starting their barber shop:

“We found a spot; now we got no money. … We were broke, and then, when it was time to get it started – I remember this – my old high school teacher. And I had nobody else to call … And then I asked him for like $2,500. And then, he gave it to us. … Man, he’s an angel. … He helped us out, and I’ll never forget that. And then we started this little barber shop for $2,500. We started that, and then it took off.”

Having a hangout barbershop:

“I like that … I tell everybody just be respectful of everybody that comes in and just watch your language and all that stuff. And just come in and enjoy yourself, you know, because it’s like there’s no problem with us coming in, talk about sports, talk about the Bible because we have all types of conversations. … It’s a blessing. I get to work with nice people and get to have just a hangout spot. Who gets to hang out with their friends and make money?”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

Skill Cutz Barber Shop

Address: 2512 7th Ave. S., Unit 4E, Fargo

Hours: Monday noon to 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday

10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Online: facebook.com/skillcutz