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Western New York Foundation is a story that began in a 12-chair barbershop and continues today in an $18 million charitable foundation. The Foundation’s roots go back to the hugely successful hair tonic manufactured by the Wildroot Company.


Two barbers set up shop in Buffalo’s Iroquois Hotel in 1911, eventually becoming one of the largest hair care product manufacturers in the world. They concocted a preparation they claimed would make hair grow on a bald head and labeled it “Wildroot”, possibly because one of the ingredients in the dandruff tonic was a root that grew in a foreign country and had to be imported.

Wildroot’s most famous product, Cream Oil, contained lanolin instead of alcohol. When alcohol was rationed during WWII, this gave Wildroot a great competitive advantage. In the 1940’s, the company enlisted Nat King Cole to sing the popular Wildroot radio jingle. “Cream Oil Charlie” soaring the product to No. 1 on the national market.


In 1951, profits from the products manufactured at Wildroot were used to establish the Wildroot Foundation. One of the pioneers of the company was a man named Hoyt Shehan, the general manager of the hair tonic manufacturer. Welles V. Moot, Sr., legal advisor to the Wildroot Company, supported the kindness and vision of Hoyt Shehan, by setting up the Wildroot Foundation with Mr. Shehan’s Wildroot Company stock. The Foundation was incorporated with 10,887 shares of Wildroot Stock worth $100,000. In 1959, Colgate Palmolive Co. acquired Wildroot in a merger deal, increasing the assets of a foundation with limited means to one of WNY’s richest foundations, with assets soaring to $2,300,000. The name was later changed from Wildroot to The Western New York Foundation.     

Welles Moot, Sr. turned to his oldest son, Welles V. Moot, Jr. to run the newly established Wildroot charitable foundation.  Young Welles was joined by his sister, Cecily, and brothers, John and Richard. The four siblings have, in concert with other local and out-of-town trustees, provided a history of wise and generous leadership on behalf of a community they all loved and which they felt had been very good to them. We value the friendship and commitment of these four remarkable people to our foundation.

Over the last three quarter’s century, the Foundation has made thousands of grants totaling $17 million. The Foundation will continue to address ongoing needs in the Western New York region and maintain the same commitment exhibited by its older mentors.