The Restaurants and the Bakeries
- by Pat Murphy
It would be impossible to list or talk about all of the businesses that existed in the downtown area of Bay St. Louis when I was growing up. In this chapter I will try to talk about the bakeries and restaurants that really stand out in my memory. It is impossible to talk about some without talking about what came before. A lot of the information that I have been given came from my lifetime friend, Mr. Edward “Buster” Heitzmann who lived in Bay St. Louis since his birth in 1912 until his death in 2015. His recollections are priceless!
Growing Up Downtown
Manieri’s had a very classic Southern/New Orleans style seafood cuisine and décor. There was a separate room for the bar with a separate entrance on the front sidewalk and an entrance from inside the restaurant. I remember the food being very good, the shrimp creole and oyster poboys being outstanding.
There is one mystery that I haven’t been able to solve so far, even with the help of the Manieri family. At some point in the mid 1940s, it appears that the Manieri’s location was occupied by a restaurant named The Gem Café operated by one L.J. “Frenchy” Barras. My proof is in a photo, which is in my collection. There are also several ads for the restaurant in various publications. I think that the establishment was only located in the Manieri building for twelve to eighteen months (possibly immediately after Mr. Manieri’s death) and then the Manieri sisters reopened the restaurant in the same location. The mystery continues because I just found out that the yearbook ad from the Bay High Scroll was from a 1940 yearbook!!!
After the building was destroyed along with everything else in 1969’s Hurricane Camille, the sisters moved the business into a family home next door to my grandfather’s building on Main Street. But in most people’s minds, it was never the same. The Manieri sisters closed the business and retired in 1981 after 111 years of operation.
By the turn of the century, the establishment was being operated by Dutch and Vee’s father, Andrew “Dad” Manieri, in a building at the end of Washington Street at South Beach Boulevard on the water side. This location was next to Stokie’s Wharf which was one of the main ports of trade in Bay St. Louis. At the time, there were other businesses located on the water side at Washington Street.
I don’t remember there being many tables but there was definitely a long lunch counter. Mr. Russell also put on a huge St. Joseph’s alter in his home on Main Street. This building that housed his cafe is located on the corner of State Street and North Beach Boulevard. Later Mr. Russell’s nephew, Ronnie Maurigi, ran a bar named The Sandpebbles in the same location in the mid 1970s. The building that housed Maurigi’s still stands today and is the location of 200 North Beach Restaurant.
What sticks out most in my mind was the thirty-five cent roast beef poboys. You could get a roast beef and a root beer and get change back from fifty cents! Those were the days! I also remember that Mr. Tom used to pay off on the pinball machines, which was a pretty common practice in my youth.
At some point in the early nineteen sixties, attorney Bill Frisbie, bought the building and tore it down and Bressler’s moved to another location on the water side of South Beach Boulevard close to Demontluzin’s Drug Store. Mr. Tom Bressler was a bookie and took sports bets. This was a great unkept secret in Bay St. Louis, but no one seemed to mind, including the local law enforcement people. My dad loved to play the horses and football pools so, much to my mother’s chagrin, my old man and Mr. Tom Bressler were close buddies!
Later, Mr. Ray opened a restaurant and bar further down Ulman Avenue, almost across from where the Greyhound Bus Station was located at the time. In the 1940s, this location was previously operated by Charlie and Bernice Flink as a praline and gift shop, featuring rental tourist cabins. This was when Ulman Avenue was still Highway 90. Mr. Ray always served great fried seafood, outstanding hamburgers, excellent roast beef poboys, and very, very cold beer.
Later in the early 1970s, Mr. Ray’s son “Lil Ray” opened his famous seafood and poboy restaurant out on highway 90 in Waveland. Daddy Ray continued working out at Lil Rays in the kitchen and especially cooking his signature roast beef for the poboys.
Daddy Ray’s son, Davy Joe Kidd continues to run his “Lil Ray’s” in Gulfport on Courthouse Road and Lil Ray’s son, Trey, operates Lil Ray's on Jeff Davis Avenue in Long Beach. I’m sure that Daddy Ray is smiling down on the tradition of great restaurants that he created and passed on to his children and grandchildren.
Sunshine’s Café & Ice Cream Parlor
Mr. And Mrs. Gliem operated Sunshine’s on North Beach Boulevard next door to Ramsey’s Department Store. Jean and Gordon Gliem started business in a Waveland location at Central Avenue and Terrace. Mr. Gliem manufactured his own ice cream (the cherry-vanilla is supposed to have been excellent) and ran a route truck delivering the product. The Gliems also operated a snack shop and ice cream parlor in this Waveland location for a time.
I’m not sure exactly when Sunshine’s on North Beach opened but Mr. Tony “Trap” Trapani told me that he knew for a fact that it was open by December of 1941 because he was walking from his parent’s bar over to Sunshine’s when someone in the street started yelling that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.
Sunshine’s was the downtown teen hotspot of my youth, and had been so for quite a while. Mrs. Jean Gliem sold gifts from a counter on the right as you walked in. There was a soda fountain and lunch counter along the entire left wall. Tables and chairs filled the rest of the room and the jukebox was against the back wall. At some point Mrs. Gliem sold toys out of the back room where the bookie had operated when the building had been a pool hall. Mr. and Mrs. Gliem were an elderly couple who were about my grandparents age and they were all good friends. I remember that they attended my grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary party.
The Gliems lost their only child, a son Richard, in an automobile accident before I was born, and I think the experience hardened them. Most of the local teens thought of them as being short-tempered and cranky, but they were always very nice to me. I can remember that Mr. Gliem had something like Parkinson’s disease because he would shake and twitch. Kids being kids, some took to calling Mr. Gliem “Shakey” behind his back as a nickname.
Sunshine’s was a typical malt shop-type teenage hangout and all of the kids would hang out there after school drinking cherry cokes and eating hamburgers, etc. As I said before, the jukebox was on the back wall and all of us kids knew how to reach behind it and turn the volume knob up. The music would get louder and louder until Mr. Gliem would come shuffling around from behind the soda fountain, walk to the rear and turn the jukebox down. He would turn around and shuffle back up behind the counter. The place would be jammed with kids and before he could get turned around at the soda fountain, the jukebox would be blasting out The Rolling Stones again.
This happened about two or three times during one afternoon until Mr. Gliem slowly shuffled back one last time to the jukebox. He bent over and unplugged it and then pulled out a pair of wire snips and cut the electrical plug off of it without saying a word. I remember that like it was yesterday!
Watkins Broadview #2
The Inn by the Sea (AKA Frosty Inn)
When I was a youngster this was where my folks and grandparents would take us to get ice cream, malts and sundaes. On weekends and hot summer nights they would just pile us into the car and take us down to “Wilson Webre’s” to go get ice cream. Eventually the name was changed to “Inn By The Sea”. This place was the classic small town Americana drive in with a drive that went all the way around just like in the movie “American Graffiti”. It was the same kind of scene. Once you reached the driving age (15), the rite of passage in Bay St. Louis was cruising The Inn By The Sea. This was definitely the place to see and be seen for teenagers. The hot-rodders could usually pick up a drag race by circling the place several times and I have lots of really great memories of cruising in and out of this place - sometimes twenty times in a night.
Hurricane Betsy in 1965 heavily damaged the building because it was literally on the beach. Mr. Webre moved the roof of building out to the property in front of his house on highway 90 and renamed the business “Murphy’s.” It enjoyed some success, but it was never the same as the old place had been on the beach.
The Sanitary/Gold Medal Bakery
By the time I was born in 1949 and in my early years, the business name had been changed to The Gold Medal Bakery and I think that the business was no longer owned by Vassali. The business was located at the corner of Washington and Hancock Streets on the opposite corner from Monti Carver Plumbing Company. I used to be able to walk to this bakery because it was only two blocks from where I grew up at Ballentine and South Beach Boulevard. This location was destroyed by fire in 1965 when I was fourteen and never reopened. Their French bread and cinnamon rolls - along with their donuts - were excellent!
Mr. Bennie Hille got an old car and removed the rear wheels putting the rear end up on blocks. He then welded a pulley system to the rear end of the automobile. When the electricity would go off, the car would be cranked and put in gear turning the rear end, which in turn ran the bakery’s conveyer belt and pulleys! The baking process operated as usual!
An interesting footnote about this business is the fact that Bobby Beningo, an older friend of mine, was Alfred Vassali’s nephew. Bobby was a Bay St. Louis history buff like myself and he knew that I liked anything concerning local history. A couple of years before Bobby died, he gave me the original Sanitary Bakery hand-painted wooden sign that originally hung above the entrance of the bakery. This old sign is one of my most treasured possessions.
The Bobbi Anne Bakery
Mr. Lawrence Jacobi learned his trade working in his father’s Waveland bakery beginning in 1933. This bakery was located on the corner of Terrace and Central (Rairoad Avenue) in Waveland. Mr. Vic Lizana, Lawrence Jacobi’s father in law, was the one who purchased the Crescent Bakery on Main Street for his daughter, Tottie and son-in-law, Lawrence.
The Bobbi Anne Bakery began business in the Main Street location on July 4, 1940 and operated continually in this same location until June 30, 1979 when the Jacobis closed the business and retired. I remember that after Mr. and Mrs. Jacobi closed the bakery, I used to joke that there were lost spirits who still roamed the first block of Main Street late on Saturday night in search of Mr. Lawrence’s hot French bread. The Jacobis continued to reside in the bakery building until their deaths. This building that was such a fixture of the downtown Bay St. Louis area was so severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina that it had to be demolished.
From what I’ve been able to find out, this bakery operated in the 1920s. Later, I’m told, “Daddy Ray” Kidd had a little sandwich shop on this property when it was still in his family. The business was located on the northwest corner of this intersection, next to where Pitalo’s grocery would be located.
I haven’t been able to get much solid information about this bakery other than to confirm its existence. Mr. Buster did remember that his cousin, Roger Heitzmann, drove a delivery truck for Ferdinald’s Bakery during the nineteen thirties. After Ferdinald’s Bakery closed there was a restaurant and bar in this location before Mr. Joe Loiacano opened his grocery there.
In retrospect, I have to say that what I miss the most about having these local bakeries around is the total absence of what I consider to be GOOD, fresh, old-time French bread! The soft, mushy deli-made bread that is available today in groceries and at Wal-Mart IS NOT real French bread. I know that both The Bobbi Anne and The Sanitary/Gold Medal Bakeries took extreme pride in that crisp exterior crust and soft, light interior. This was what customers expected and demanded. I’m told that this crust was achieved by lightly misting the exterior of the dough with water during the baking process.
The signature pinnacle of New Orleans French breads, Leidenheimer’s, while very good, really is just the standard of what we used to be able to purchase locally every day at any of these bakeries.