Will’s Bio

Will Samuels, 44, has played active roles in the fields of entertainment, tourism, event-planning, and communal service in his native New Orleans. Most recently, as President of Zevcorp LLC, he is the owner of La Dolce Nola Snackery and Gelateria in Old Metairie. This retail establishments features homemade gelato and sorbetto (made by his wife, Jennifer), as well as fresh juices and smoothies, baked goods, king cakes during Carnival, candies, chocolates, and other delectable edibles. In addition, Will and his wife own and operate Pizza Nola, a popular eatery in New Orleans’ Lakeview/West End neighborhood (which was recently named one of the top 10 pizzerias in the city by New Orleans Magazine) as well as Bawk, the weekend breakfast “pop-up” located inside Pizza Nola. In September, 2012, Will and Jennifer launched GoodToGoNola, offering healthy meals for individuals and families, with a different healthy meal available each weekday.  Will’s prior restaurant experience includes developing and selling French Quarter Pizzeria & Bar, a popular restaurant in the heart of the historic district of New Orleans.  Opening in February, 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the eatery grossed sales of one million dollars annually and became a favorite of both tourists and locals while also earning a great reputation among hotel concierges. Located a few doors down from House of Blues, the restaurant seated 90 plus included a full bar, delivery to downtown New Orleans, a lunch buffet, and live music.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Will served as Vice-President and Director of Operations of Basin Street Records, a Grammy-nominated, award-winning independent record label in New Orleans. Working with his brother, Will oversaw the day-to-day activities of the label, including working closely with the label’s nine artists and side musicians, managing the staff, interns, and contract laborers, and helping to supervise the creative and production aspects of the label. He was also instrumental in the development of the innovative and creative marketing campaigns that have made Basin Street Records such a vital part of the New Orleans music and entertainment community. During Will’s five year tenure with Basin Street Records, the label was twice named as New Orleans’ “Music Business of the Year” by OffBeat Magazine and frequently won the magazine’s award for the city’s Best Record Label. As part of his role with Basin Street Records, Will served for two years as a Mentor in Loyola University’s College of Business Administration Executive Mentor Program.

A Collection of Basin Street Records’ CDs

From 1996 through 2002, Will served as Regional Director of the Southwest Region of United Synagogue Youth (USY), an organization comprised of synagogue-based youth groups for young people in high-school and middle-school. As Regional Director, Will coordinated several regional events each year and wrote and produced a number of innovative multi-media educational programs. He worked closely with the youth regional board, helped train chapter leaders and advisors, and developed innovative publicity and promotion of USY activities and programs. Prior to serving as Regional Director, Will worked for two years as Regional Fieldworker and served for several years as Chapter Advisor on the local level of the organization.

With the same spirit that Will contributes to his business ventures, he devotes a considerable amount of his time, talent and creativity to a number of community organizations that are significant in his life.

Will is currently serving as Membership Vice-President of Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation in Metairie. Under his tenure in 2010-2012, the synagogue has enjoyed a 30% growth in membership with a large number of new young families joining the congregation. Over 80% of the new individuals joining the synagogue are under the age of 40, and the synagogue  recently became the first New Orleans area synagogue to exceed its pre-Hurricane Katrina membership total. Will has served in various capacities on the Executive Committee for many years holding the positions of Executive Vice President, Programming Vice President, and Ritual Vice President. From 1997 through 2001, he was employed as Managing Director of the synagogue. As a volunteer lay leader, he is active in service leadership, program planning and special event coordination and has helped coordinate and produce several fundraisers for the organization, including serving as co-chair of the synagogue’s recent gala weekend celebrating 50 Years of Conservative Judaism in New Orleans. For the gala, Will produced and edited a 45-minute multi-media video retrospective combining pictures, slides, video, 35mm films, and audio recordings into a historical documentation of the development of the synagogue.

During a recent transition in the synagogue’s Rabbinical leadership, Will served as one of two interim Spiritual Leaders—conducting Shabbat services, writing and delivering sermons and creating innovative teaching material. He also  helped to develop and lead the synagogue’s Musical Shabbat services, produced and created the satirical annual Purim program for eight years, and he created and produces the synagogue’s annual “Musical Passover Seder” featuring an all-star band of noted Jewish New Orleans musicians accompanying the traditional Passover songs. Following the events of Hurricane Katrina, he was instrumental in getting the synagogue re-opened and served as interim Spiritual Leader for several months before the Rabbi returned to the city. Currently, he is instrumental in developing the synagogue’s online identity including creating and maintaining the synagogue’s Facebook page, coordinating online advertising, creating a fundraising program in partnership with Amazon.com, and helping to develop and edit the synagogue’s newly-revamped website.

Will also serves on the Executive Committee of the New Orleans Jewish Day School, which is named after his late sister-in-law who, along with the entire Samuels family, was instrumental in developing the school. He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Hillel Foundation of New Orleans which supports Jewish programming for students at Tulane and Loyola universities. In 2005, Will graduated from the Federation’s Lemann Stern Young Leadership Program, a selective two-year program targeting and developing future community leaders. In recent years, he has traveled with the Federation on multiple missions to Israel and to Ukraine, visiting communities that are assisted by the Federation’s fundraising campaigns with the goal of increasing support for local and international programs.

In 2006, Will served as Artistic Director of the inaugural New Orleans International Jewish Music Festival, a two-day event featuring noted entertainers in Jewish Music as well as local New Orleans talent. The event was developed following the events of Hurricane Katrina as a way to help rebuild Jewish education and cultural enrichment activities in the greater New Orleans area. In conjunction with artist Gary Rosenthal’s Hiddur Mitzvah Project and Moment Magazine, the event included 11 Jewish bands/artists (including Sam Glaser, Neshama Carlebach, Blue Fringe, Yom Hadash and Ukraine’s Efim Chorny) as well as comedian Joel Chasnoff who served as Master of Ceremonies for the second day of the festival.

Will was recruited to be on the founding Board of Directors of the Kohlmeyer Circle, the young adult group helping to develop programs at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and has been active in many of the Smithsonian affiliate’s programs and activities. He also served as the Entertainment Chair for the 2004 Sweet Arts Ball, the annual major fundraiser benefiting the Contemporary Arts Center.

Along with his wife, Jennifer, and four-year-old daughter, Will remains dedicated to the rebirth and rebuilding of both the Jewish community of New Orleans as well as the city as a whole. Through his energy, attitude and love for the city he calls home, he looks forward to continuing to develop and promote the essence of New Orleans through his business ventures as well as via the organizations that are fortunate to have Will as an advocate.

Contact Will at willsamuels@gmail.com

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