Sponsor Spotlight - September 2021
- by Wendy Sullivan
Bay St. Louis’ The Wedding Collection (TWC) helps couples make their dreams come true.
- by Wendy Sullivan
For over 36 years, Linda Keenan has offered natural fiber clothing for both women and men looking to beat the heat.
- by Kim Ranjbar
A historic beachfront building with a sleek new addition is home to one of the coast’s top restaurants.
- Story by Wendy Sullivan
Bay St. Louis attorney Brehm Bell has spent his career advocating for accident victims. But after more than 27 years in practice, one of his more recent cases proved to be the most challenging – in part, because of the pandemic.
Skip Higgins’s company, Custom Movers Direct, helps members of the clergy relocate, providing peace of mind for the people who care for others.
- story by Dena Temple
An intriguing labyrinth of shopping delights awaits every retail explorer in this antique emporium that goes on… and on…
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
Dr. Frank Conaway, who runs one of Bay St. Louis’s oldest dental practices, helped shape the rules that govern how dentists operate in this age of COVID-19. Here’s his story and what to expect on your next dental visit.
- Story by Dena Temple
Founded in 1896, The Peoples Bank is a cornerstone of the financial success of the Gulf Coast region. Get to know CEO Chevis Swetman, and learn what he sees in our future.
- Story by Dena Temple
One of the gallery’s longtime exhibiting artists talks history, community and the current state of affairs in our resort town.
- Story by Dena Temple, photos courtesy Gallery 220 and Ellis Anderson
You could call Nikki Moon the Ambassador of Bay St. Louis - it’s her love of the coast that motivates everything she does.
- by Dena Temple
Whether advising her customers on Medicare solutions or caring for at-risk children, Kristine Gurley and her staff are in the business of helping people.
- by Dena Temple
A new family business for the Wylys: greens from their Kiln farm create decor magic with fresh wreaths and garlands.
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson and La Terre Farms
Their first order came in late October, and a few others have followed. “Our overarching theme is, we’re selling fresh and local,” Teri said. “We only work when we get an order because it has to be fresh.” The finished product is boxed up and delivered by Connor.
Teri said their greenery is “free-flowing and natural, not a lot of pretense.” Orders can be customized with additions such as eucalyptus or unique flowers. Customers can also send a photo of what they’re looking for, and the Wylys will duplicate it.
“Everything we produce – garland, wreaths or just greenery bundles – will be custom made, again something that makes us a little different,” Connor said.
Since Teri and Connor both have day jobs, they work on the greenery mainly on weekends. Their venture has had a modest start with no social media or advertising yet, but they see potential beyond holiday orders. Products like theirs are in high demand among people who enjoy greenery in their homes and businesses. They’ll test the concept out for a few years to see where it leads.
This new venture comes at a time when Teri, an attorney, is nearing retirement and is looking forward to a second career, “something that’s exciting and that I am passionate about.”
The Wylys bought their first 80 acres in the Kiln 30 years ago from Judge Dan Russell. They were headed from a Biloxi conference back home to New Orleans on a Sunday when the car overheated. They found a realtor’s office open and went in to call for a mechanic.
Bubba asked about land for sale and learned the Russell property had just been put on the market. “We bought it that afternoon,” Teri said. The couple ultimately moved to Bay St. Louis and joined law firms in Gulfport.
The garlands and wreaths may turn out to be the start to expanding use of the farm. Teri said possibilities include you pick ‘em blueberries and sunflowers, harvesting honey from bee hives and eggs from cage-free chickens, and even creating an ecotourism retreat.
Connor works at INFINITY Science Center but is interested in one day being his own boss. “I always wanted to own my own business. Trying to think of businesses that would be a good fit for the farm, it seemed natural that it would be a family-based business.” Connor says his brother Grady, a born salesman currently working as a commercial insurance producer in New Orleans, will help on the marketing/sales side of the business.
Bubba’s family has a farming operation in North Louisiana. Teri says, “Much of the farming advice comes unsolicited from my lawyer husband, but is welcomed nonetheless.” Over the years Bubba has enjoyed his work on the property that Teri jokingly calls the “Bubbarosa.”
Still firmly rooted in Bay St. Louis, the Wylys’ ultimate goal is to spend more time in the country and expand the greenery business to the nearby New Orleans market.
“As we grow into different products like blueberries and flowers, we think our location close to the interstate gives us a solid market with access to the Gulf Coast as well as New Orleans,” said Connor.
“From what we can tell, there aren’t a lot of others providing fresh local greenery in the area. We think we have a chance to offer something unique to the public.”
Said Teri, “We feel confident there is a demand and not just for the holidays. And we’re well placed to do that.”
To inquire about ordering garlands and wreaths, call Teri at 228.369.4438.
“High energy” doesn’t begin to describe her; Holly Lemoine-Raymond is a force of nature.
- Story by Dena Temple, photos courtesy Holly Lemoine-Raymond
Everyone seems to know Holly, and for good reasons. Holly worked in a marketing capacity for one of the area casinos before she opened the Cypress Café, a restaurant in the city hall building. An interest in real estate prompted her to sell the business and pursue a real estate license. Just two short years later Holly opened HL Raymond Properties, today one of the most successful real estate agencies in town. 2019 is shaping up to be the company’s best year yet, according to Holly.
Holly and her staff of 12 (with agents) provide boutique service for their clients from their office on Ulman Avenue. The building, formerly an orthodontist’s office, was transformed by Holly in a palette of sophisticated grays accented with reclaimed architectural salvage.
Upcycling other people’s castoffs is Holly’s signature style. “If I can take something discarded and give it a new life, everyone wins,” she says. “Plus, I think it looks great.”
Two of her favorite items to reclaim are old windows and shipping pallets. Holly regularly writes step-by-step DIY articles for the “Beautiful Things” column here in the Shoofly Magazine.
Holly’s marketing background, she feels, gives her an edge in servicing her real estate clients. “Selling a house is about three things: location, timing and price. We try to give our clients an edge by thinking outside of the box and coming up with unique ideas to attract the right buyers for their homes.”
A good example of that out-of-the-box thinking was her 2017 appearance on HGTV’s Beachfront Bargain Hunt, a series where prospective home buyers tour several homes in one beachfront town – in Holly’s episode, Bay St. Louis.
After this appearance Holly also appeared on an episode of the show, You Live in What? This show, on the GAC Network, featured homes (again in Bay St. Louis) in unusual buildings – one was a converted gas station that Holly renovated, and another, the historic Webb Schoolhouse, a Mississippi Landmark. Holly also helped scout other locations for the show.
These experiences lit the spark of a new idea for Holly, and soon she was pitching the idea for Inside Out with HL Raymond Properties to local TV executives. The show features local homes, and viewers are left to match up the interior and exterior views of each home.
“It’s a great way to show off our town and some of its homes, with a twist!” explained Holly. She pitched the idea to WLOX in Biloxi, and several weeks later she gave an expanded pitch to network execs from stations in Hattiesburg and New Orleans, too. The network liked the idea, and Inside Out with HL Raymond Properties was born. The show is #2 of its type and has since been picked up for a second season, which will feature a different type of property in each episode: antebellum homes, for example, or tiny houses. Plans are to expand to the Baton Rouge and Jackson markets next.
Holly says she does her best thinking around water – the beach and the Washington Street Pier are her favorites – and the ideas just keep coming. “However,” she cautions, “I won’t take on any project that will affect my business or keep me away from my family. Those are my priorities.”
Holly’s husband, Leo, owns a commercial plumbing business in New Orleans. Her son, Landry, was born with tarsel coalition, a painful bone condition in his feet. In spite of this, he is a healthy, active 19-year-old who ran cross-country in high school at St. Stanislaus.
Landry is working on getting his own real estate license, as well as his drone license. He and Leo also started a lawn care company, Blade Lawn Care, while Landry prepared for his first year at Millsaps College in Jackson. It certainly appears that personal drive runs in the family, and Mom couldn’t be prouder.
Holly and her team also make time to give back to the community. In general, she prefers to roll up her sleeves and donate her talents, feeling that effort makes more of an impact than a cash donation.
A good example of this was her “She-shed” raffle, which benefited Habitat for Humanity. Holly took an ordinary garden shed and over six months transformed it into a peaceful, stylish sanctuary. The “she-shed” was then raffled off, and the funds helped Habitat for Humanity renovate several area homes.
One of the homes belonged to Connie Lyons, a driving force behind another area charity, King’s Kitchen, which provides meals for the homeless.
“That was so satisfying,” Holly recalls. “We were able to help someone vitally important to our community who really needed help at that time. The proceeds from that raffle are still helping our neighbors today.” Holly also is working with the Boys and Girls Club of Hancock County on their November event, “Taste of the Future.”
When asked to pick one thing that not everyone knows, Holly replies, “I’ve had a lifelong fascination with sharks.” She had hoped to be a marine biologist but had to switch gears in college due to a medical issue.
However, she did swim with sharks to fulfill her lifelong dream. “Doing anything dangerous is about knowing your risks, and conquering your fears. I didn’t just jump in; I did research, eased in, and I had a rope, a lifeline – just in case.” She follows that same philosophy in business and in life. She always does her homework and calculates the risk before easing into any new venture.
Holly tries to keep things positive all the time. “Every morning, you have the choice to be the best that you can be,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to do the things I want to do, yet even the things that didn’t work out brought me to where I am today.
“There are always going to be issues, you know? What defines you is how you handle them. And now that I’ve found my passion,” she concludes, “I’m happy to help others find theirs.”
He's proud to represent his clients and is working to improve life in Bay St. Louis through improving our court system.
- story by Dena Temple
“Our job is to clarify and then handle the immense amount of paperwork to expedite their claims."
“I get paid for helping people. What could be better?” says Brehm with a smile.
Brehm met his future wife, Jenny, while in college. Jenny is a Methodist, and Brehm is a member of the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
In another family this difference of faith might cause problems, but the Bells’ beliefs comfortably co-exist through mutual respect and understanding. The couple even attends each other’s church services once a month. Jenny runs a respected advertising agency and is a graphic designer.
The Bells raised three sons and a daughter in Bay St. Louis. The pride is evident in Brehm’s voice when asked about their current lives.
“Our eldest recently moved back to Bay St. Louis and is pursuing a career in printing,” he begins. “My second son graduated from Emory University with a divinity degree and is working as a Methodist youth minister in the Atlanta area.”
He pauses, then continues with a smile. “My third son is a senior at Mississippi State University studying business, and he intends to be an entrepreneur. Our youngest child, my daughter, is currently attending Southern Mississippi University.”
Volunteerism keeps Brehm Bell very busy. He is active in the Young Men Organization, an auxiliary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which promotes the growth and development of young men ages 12-18.
In addition, Brehm is still involved with the Hancock Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and its Teachers’ Appreciation Dinner, and the Bookworms program, in which volunteers read books to elementary-school classes to help engage students in books and reading.
A particular source of pride for Brehm Bell is Hancock County’s Youth Court system. Ten years ago Bell served as a Youth Court judge. At that time the position was part-time, and support staffing was inadequate to properly manage the case load.
Bell was instrumental in establishing a full-time Youth Court judge for Hancock County. Today, Judge Trent Favre holds the position full time, supported by a fully staffed DHS office. Backlogs are gone, and the public is far better served.
Bell and others sought to create the local County court system for reasons related to not only the Youth Court. Previously, Hancock County employed the Circuit Court System for handling all civil and felony criminal cases.
Bell explains, “We have four circuit court judges. Two spend three weeks in Hancock County each year, and the rest of their time is spent serving other counties. The other two circuit court judges serve here twice a year for three-week stints. These are all fine judges, but they have other duties serving Stone County and two separate courts in Harrison County, one in Biloxi and one in Gulfport.”
Bell pauses. “It was their responsibility to hear all the criminal and civil cases in the county. If there were more cases than there was room on the docket, the cases were postponed, sometimes for months or years. That wasn’t efficient, and it wasn’t fair to people who look to the courts for help with civil claims.”
Today, a full-time and fully staffed County Court judge can hear most civil cases without having to burden the Circuit Court judges. Hancock County Judge Trent Farve can hear most civil cases and youth court cases. This is helping to relieve the system of its logjam.
Improvements in the courts system help make life in Bay St. Louis a little better for its residents, and Brehm Bell is proud to have been partially instrumental in the creation of a full-time County Court judge position for this purpose. What else paints a bright future for BSL? Bell says smart downtown development will bring more visitors – and more tourism dollars – to our town.
What does the future hold for Brehm Bell? He says he has no plans to retire, but when he does, he is not leaving Bay St. Louis. “My home in Old Town will be my last,” he says.
“We love living here. We have everything we need –beaches, galleries, restaurants, and most of all, family and friends.” And Bell is working to make Bay St. Louis a better place, thanks to his tireless advocacy and desire to serve the community.
Quality and professionalism are the hallmarks of every project at Hansen Custom Painting - and it shows, on buildings across the coast.
- story by Lisa Monti
"Handling it all" is not an inflated claim. Hansen's wife is Jackye Crane, president of Crane Builders, a company started by her father, Jimmy Crane in the 1980s. Jackye grew up working alongside her father, who developed a reputation for meticulous craftsmanship.
In 2010, Jackye graduated with honors from LSU with a degree in Construction Management. She officially took over the helm of Crane Builders in 2017.
She and Hansen worked together on many projects through the years and married in 2016. The couple enjoy working together on projects, each of them bringing experience and a love of their professions to the table.
The work and family environment extends to the Hansen Custom Painting crew, many of whom have been with Chris for years. He describes the team members as dependable and dedicated to the shared goal of providing quality service to each customer.
Safety also is something that’s important to Hansen Custom Painting and the crews carefully follow guidelines for coatings and equipment that are called for by OSHA.
Another thing that sets Hansen Custom Painting apart is the use of high quality paint products, which make their paint jobs look fresh for years. It’s an investment that Chris says, “makes our work an exceptional value.”
And Chris has a favorite quote when talking about making an investment in a home.
“Like my father-in-law says, ‘If you think hiring an expert is expensive, just wait ‘til you hire an amateur.’”
A new publishing enterprise seeks to highlight Gulf Coast art, culture and food, while providing opportunities for local writers. Meet The Cultured Oak creator, author Michael Warner.
-story by Lisa Monti
“There’s a rich talent pool of writers on the Gulf Coast, and historically has been for many years in New Orleans and on the Coast. And there are some good publishing outlets in Mississippi and Louisiana, but it struck me that right here along the Coast there is a lot of talent that’s not been tapped into really,” he said.
Warner unexpectedly set out on the path to publishing while putting together a work of his own. “I was working on a project that turned into a book and I thought a good way to approach it would be to set up a publishing company and make it the first project out the door.”
That project is a newly published book. A Lyle Saxon Reader is a collection of stories by the legendary Times-Picayune reporter whose byline started appearing in the New Orleans newspaper around 1919.
Warner, a native of New Orleans, started working on the anthology back in November 2017.
“A lot had been written by and about Saxon but his early works were largely ignored,” Warner said.
Warner had his interest on Saxon ignited while working on a biography of Charles Richards, a New Orleans artist who was born in the Mississippi Delta in 1909 and died in 1992.
“My mother, Jeanne Warner, knew him quite well. She was a longtime Bay St. Louis resident and she introduced me to him many years ago. I have almost 20 hours of taped interviews with him. His life was just fascinating.”
The research led Warner to Alberta Kinsey, an early French Quarter artist who painted scenes of local courtyards, patios and buildings. “I was researching her life and it turns out she was a close friend of Lyle Saxon,” Warner said.
Writing is the newest layer is Warner’s varied career. He earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and did research in St. Louis before deciding to pursue a law degree and combine that with chemistry.
He then accepted a position in San Francisco, heading legal work at a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals research site. He retired from Pfizer a few years ago and now works as an attorney for a small biotech startup in San Francisco. Warner and his wife, Connie, divide their time among Bay St. Louis, the St. Louis area and San Francisco.
Warner said his choice of The Cultured Oak name for his publishing effort is another bit of creative experimentation, tying the iconic Live oak with the South’s literary tradition.
“It’s evocative of the region here and I wanted it to be evocative of literature.”
Warner is looking to expand The Cultured Oak’s offerings by attracting writers looking to be published.
“I’m hoping to find some neophyte writers along the Coast who might have an interest in submitting their writings for publication.”
If you would like to be considered as a guest blogger, send your ideas to info@CulturedOak.com along with some information about yourself. No experience is needed, just a good idea.
Sample a few Cultured Oak stories below!
One distinctive building in Old Town Bay St. Louis is home to four different businesses - each meshing to make Bodega a comfortable place for locals and visitors to town.
- story by Denise Jacobs, photos by Ellis Anderson
If that isn’t enough, the upstairs portion of the building holds a fourth business - Loft Yoga.
The social cornerstone of the operation is The Parrot Head Bar and Grill. At the helm is Rickey Peters, who began his career working with Paul Prudhomme. The chef has more than two decades of experience pleasing local diners. His first restaurant was a namesake – Rickey’s in Waveland, and then later in Bay St. Louis. The popular eatery attracted foodies from the entire region and won the hearts of locals.
A recent Sunday afternoon found Douglas Niolet, a local Parrot Head patron, enjoying a little something at the bar. Niolet said that every sandwich on the menu is delicious and he complimented Chef Ricky, saying "he makes the best food."
Niolet listed the pleasant staff and the bar deals during “important” football games,” as items that keep bringing him back.
“It’s a hard place to beat,” he said.
The same Sunday found local Liz Maio on the back porch with her goldendoodle, Bella, chatting with Chef Rickey. They were reminiscing over the original menu from Rickey’s in Waveland, and Maio is remembering Mardi Gras potatoes.
Rickey told Liz that an outdoor kitchen will be constructed next year, including a grill and a pizza oven.
“We’ve got things in the works,” he said. “It will be like an exhibition kitchen, where people can sit here at the bar and watch us cook. We hope to do burgers and fish and kebabs.”
To demonstrate the convivial nature of the bar and grill, Liz told a story. One night she came in and ordered a beer and two tacos. The waitress told her that she was out of tacos. “This guy at the bar says, ‘you can have one of mine,’” Liz said. “Then another guy says, ‘you can have one of mine too!’” Liz laughs. “So, I wound up with two tacos and a beer, anyway!”
Sharing the same Court Street frontage, Bodega Spirits & Liquor stocks more than 200 labels of wine and 250 brands of liquor. Bodega owner Kevin Jordan comes from wine country in California, where his family owns a vineyard and sells grapes to popular U.S. labels. Jordan knows his spirits and wine and stocks the store accordingly.
Upstairs, The Loft Yoga spreads out across the second floor in a light, spacious studio.Owners Christine Neese and Alyssa Dausman offer power yoga classes, as well as basic classes. Current class schedules can be found here.
If you're a visitor looking to get around town during your stay - or you want to help your out-of-town guests with the same - check out Bodega Adventure Rentals and Sales. They rent everything from bicycles to golf carts to kayaks and paddle boards.
Tourists can tool around town on the carts, or explore the local waterways with the aquatic options. If biking is your bag - or a bicycle built for two - rent one from Bodega. Visitors can take the seven-mile beach bike path to where the beach road ends at Bayou Cadet - if they have the stamina.
Then they can grab something from Rickey’s menu and hang out with the locals, maybe catch an “important” football game, maybe check out the yoga studio and make a plan for another day.
It’s all good at Bodega.
Looking for the heartbeat of the real Bay St. Louis? For twelve years, this family-friendly coffeeshop/restaurant/live music venue/community center has served up great food and good times and wonderful memories.
- story by Lisa Monti
Owner Alicein W. Schwabacher, who founded the Mockingbird with her former husband, Martin Chambers, says the ‘Bird’s philosophy is simple: “We always try to be gracious hosts to the community.”
She and the dedicated Mockingbird team led by longtime managers Laura Hurt and Whitney LaFrance have succeeded in making everyone feel welcome, well fed and entertained.
Schwabacher says, “Our Mockingbird team gets it—we are all ambassadors of Bay St. Louis.” She adds that the Bird’s success is also due to her supportive partner Rebekah and her tireless work.
So it’s no surprise that fans range in age and interest. Students from nearby schools come in search of an afternoon treat. Runners and bike riders meet up post-workout for a cold beer and a bit. Families and friends file in for a lively weekend brunch gathering.
Special event nights also draw big crowds, spilling outside and on to sidewalks for Second Saturday and the seasonal Mr. Atticus Night Market, coordinated by Aryana Ivey, on the last Friday of the month.
The calendar includes game night sponsored by the Bay St. Louis Library and an open mic night for poets and musicians. “We have music from all over the world,” Alicein said. “A group of Italian bluegrass singers are coming back again for the fifth year.”
To keep things fresh and interesting, the ‘Bird remains a work in progress. The hugely popular brunch service was added a couple of years ago and it’s been a runaway hit thanks to a talented and creative kitchen crew led by Robin Hayes.
“Our customers love our pulled pork and grits,” Alicein said of a brunch favorite, along with chicken and waffles, homemade granola and eggs any which way you choose. And the biscuits and jam are made in house every morning. “We’ve got it down to a science. It’s so great.”
The signature Mockingburger shines on the lunch menu, along with
the Summer Garden Burger, sandwiches, salads and the Frittata of the Bay.
Of course, coffees and teas are the bedrock of the ‘Bird, and they’re made fresh all day. The large blackboard menu lists cafe au lait, hot chocolate and chai latte among the hot beverages. Espresso comes in seven varieties, and cold choices include mango ice tea and mocha. A seasonal pumpkin spice latte is made from house-roasted pumpkin mix.
Some recent refinements include an expansion behind the bar area to make the friendly service even more efficient. The ‘Bird also recently added libations - craft cocktails and wine - to its offerings. Brunch options include a flight of mimosas - the classic strawberry and watermelon - and the appropriately named Tequila Mockingbird plus dynamite Bloody Marys.
And to make your day run a bit more smoothly, customers now can order coffee, tea and cold drinks online so it’s ready for pickup when you get to the counter.
110 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Order coffee drinks online
Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Open later for special events
If style and comfort married, their offspring would be the elegant clothing found in this popular Old Town boutique.
story and photos by Denise Jacobs
Keenan has a most faithful following for good reason. While shopping for her Old Town BSL store, Keenan keeps in mind her returning customers’ taste in jewelry and color palette. You could say that Keenan carries both the basics and the flair, and her customers provide the style.
“Sometimes I add a little persuasion,” Keenan says, “and coax a woman into trying on something outside her comfort zone. It’s really rewarding when that works out and a woman falls in love with a new look.”
Thanks to Keenan’s extensive line of clothing, shoppers can choose from among the super chic, the subtle boho, classic black and white, and neutral flesh tones without sacrificing their personal style. From old standby brands like Flax and Matchpoint to Cut Loose, April Cornell, and Fridaze, Keenan carries the biggest and best line of Flax, wrinkle-resistant linen, and knits on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Between Keenan’s labels, her fashion knowledge, and her superpower buying skills, it is quite possible to build a strong foundation of timeless pieces that can be paired with almost anything in a woman’s closet.
“People come into the store from all over the country,” Keenan says. “And they often ask my sales clerks about the store’s buyer. ‘Who does the buying?’ they ask. The clerks point toward me, and, of course, I always look like I just fell off the turnip truck. Regardless—I’ve always liked putting things together. When I go to market, I don’t consider the trip a success unless I can come back with one or two pieces that will knock your socks off.”
Lots of local California Drawstrings customers wanted to get in on the action when they learned about this article. Kat Fitzpatrick, a local visual artist, modeled several jackets purchased from California Drawstrings through the years, each of them perfectly coordinated with a simple linen top and pants, also from California Drawstrings. Fitzpatrick’s jackets fall in the “knock your socks off category.” Members of a local book club - Club Nouveau - dressed in California Drawstrings attire for their most recent gathering.
By the time this story runs, new fall linens—a little heavier fabric in darker hues than typically worn in the summer—will have arrived. Shoppers will find a lovely linen tunic dress for sunny days, linen trousers, and linen jackets—all beautifully accessorized with Keenan’s choice of scarves and accessories. Stop by and find your bling - or your bliss!
In today's convoluted and rapidly changing tax world, it's critical to have an accountant who keeps up with the new laws. But having one who can actually explain how the regulations affect you - in plain English - is even better.
- story by Ellis Anderson
That’s the reason one of the firm’s core offerings now is small business advisory services. If someone is starting up a new enterprise, they can make an appointment with Rigby. During the session, they’ll discuss what type of entity to form (corporation? sole proprietorship? LLC?), decide which bookkeeping method to use, even talk about marketing strategies. The firm can then prepare most – if not all – of the required paperwork for the entrepreneur.
When a small business owner is ready to expand, Rigby can analyze and assess partnerships, legal issues and tax consequences.
Small businesses can also look to the firm for Quickbooks assistance and support.
“The Quickbooks software has become the dominant program for bookkeeping, yet small businesses, even individuals, often need our help,” Rigby says. “They might come to us with a one-time problem. Or they might sign up for monthly or quarterly services.”
Rigby notes that Quickbooks is a bookkeeping program only. There’s a big difference between bookkeeping and accounting. Accounting is the necessary review and adjustment of your books for income tax preparation.
“We can teach clients to do their own bookkeeping, but we can’t teach them to do their own accounting,” says Rigby.
In the past year, major changes in the tax laws have kept Rigby and his staff studying and reviewing the laws. In the most recent tax season, he took extra time with clients who might be impacted by the new laws. In the meeting where he delivered their returns, he discussed in detail how the new tax laws would affect their taxes going forward. In most cases, he even worked up a projection of how their return would have looked under the new laws.
Rigby asserts that the new tax law hasn’t changed much for the typical taxpayer. The changes result in smaller savings than many expected. In some cases, people will actually pay more.
For example, many entertainment expenses are no longer deductible under the new laws. Rigby felt this single change alone would affect numerous clients, so he wrote a short article about it to post on his website blog. He writes understandable takes on accounting and tax topics – short reads that deliver need-to-know information.
Rigby also offers individual financial advice, although he stresses that he’s not an investment advisor.
“But I’m here to listen and consult with clients about their particular financial situation, including retirement planning,” he says. “I’m happy to help them consider different aspects they hadn’t thought of and become more confident in their financial decisions.”
As an example, Rigby says someone may have inherited a piece of rental property. “I’ll ask them to consider whether they want to be a property manager or a landlord. Some people hate it and others don’t mind it at all. I can offer insights based on my experience dealing with so many people and situations through the years.”
Another core service is specialized auditing – something most small-town firms don’t offer. The CPA explains that these type of audits are called Financial Statements and Compliance audits. All government entities (think libraries, senior citizens programs, water and sewer, etc.) are required by law to have an annual audit provided by an independent firm. Non-profit organizations are required to have them too, although only some are audited annually.
“Auditing is a very specialized area and requires extended continuing education to be able to provide these services,” Rigby says. He’s also extremely knowledgable about non-profit organizations and routinely advises them on a pro-bono basis.
Tax preparation, of course, is another major arm of the accounting firm, and Rigby has worked hard to systemize the process over the years, so customers know exactly what information they need to provide and how much they’ll be paying for the preparation – up front.
Last year during tax season, Rigby opened a second office in Diamondhead. The response was so promising, now the office is open throughout the year. Gerald Rigby is collaborating with his brother, Quinn Rigby – who’s a CPA in Gulfport - to keep the office staffed full time.
The Diamondhead office offers the same full range of services as the Bay location and clients there can also meet with Gerald to take full advantage of his financial expertise – and communications skills.
“Explaining complex financial issues that clients wouldn’t normally understand is an ability that takes time to develop,” Rigby says. “I enjoy the process - and the interaction I have with clients.
"And you have to enjoy something if you’re going to be good at it.”