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
While the tree ultimately died from the storm damage, it holds a place of honor overlooking Bay St. Louis harbor, across the street from the new Bay Town Inn. Angels carved into the heroic tree ensure that new visitors will appreciate and honor its sacrifice.
There was never a question whether Nikki would rebuild the inn. While it took longer than anticipated to resurrect her dream, the impressive new Bay Town Inn opened in 2013 – and like Bay St. Louis itself, it was better than ever.
Today, Nikki Moon and the Bay Town Inn serve friends – er, guests – from all over the country and the world. “Many of my guests I consider my friends, the type of friend I can call on if I need something,” Nikki explains, smiling.
The Bay Town Inn experience
The inn’s two guest buildings surround an inviting courtyard and swimming pool. There are ten spacious, comfortable guest suites that include a living and kitchen area, full bath and bedroom with a king bed. Suite accommodations include free wifi, waffle robes, fresh flowers, a microwave and refrigerator. The suites are well suited for business travelers because the extra space allows room for casual meetings, and its proximity to Bay St. Louis’s “restaurant row” means the best of the Bay is within easy walking distance. In addition to the ten suites there is the “Lighthouse suite,” which is larger and suitable for four guests, and an ADA-compliant accessible suite on the first floor.
Pleasure-seekers appreciate the spacious rooms, and the care that Nikki puts into the casual décor and the food. A light breakfast is served during the week, which may include muffins, granola bars and fresh fruit. Nikki pulls out all the stops on weekends, with full breakfasts such as French toast, quiche or a frittata. “We want our guests to feel very pampered!” laughs Nikki. Gluten-free diets can be easily accommodated as well.
Guests at the inn particularly appreciate that breakfast is not communal, but delivered right to each suite.
“Not everyone wants to get dressed and socialize before they’ve had their coffee,” explains Nikki. “I used to feel that way when I traveled. So we deliver our guests’ breakfasts right to their rooms, so they can enjoy a lazy morning in their PJs, if that’s their ideal way to start the day.”
The Bay Town Inn garners universal rave reviews on travel sites like TripAdvisor, and it’s not hard to see why: Nikki Moon loves people. “I love to learn about [our guests] personally, and I love to help someone add a few days of R&R. I also enjoy telling them all about the Bay – you know, sharing our little secret.” It’s no wonder that the Bay Town Inn enjoys a more than 40% return rate. “I’m very lucky; people like staying here. They love the serenity and the people of Bay St. Louis.”
When asked to describe the inn’s typical guest, Nikki responded, “There really is no typical guest. Each of the town’s special events draw a different crowd – for instance, different people come for Arts Alive than come for Pirate Day in the Bay. We are very lucky here – most of our guests come from New Orleans, where Bay St. Louis gets great publicity.”
One trend she notes is longer stays. “Guests are more often staying an extra day. Instead of checking out on Sunday morning, they’re staying to enjoy Sunday in the Bay, which is a little more laid-back than Saturday. They leave on Monday morning and maybe go into work a little late back in the city – but that extra day really makes a difference. They leave refreshed.”
Nikki enjoys living in the lovely home adjacent to the inn buildings, overlooking the harbor and the sunsets with her Scottie Stella, 7, and a Cairn terrier named Miley who’s 11. The inn is dog-friendly and allows dogs up to 25 pounds in the first-floor rooms.
As much as Nikki loves running the inn, her true passion is promoting the city of Bay St. Louis. Nikki serves as president of the Coastal Mississippi Board of Commissioners; was president of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce in 2019; and is a member of the Old Town Merchants Association, the Library Association and the Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse.
If this sounds like a lot of community service – it is, and Nikki is driven to give her all. After her experience surviving Hurricane Katrina, “I decided I was going to give back – not if I had the time; I had to find the time. It was very important to me to help this community any way I could.”
“When guests come I talk up the town. I make sure to get them into the local shops and restaurants.” She also is working behind the scenes to restore Amtrak passenger train service between New Orleans, Bay St. Louis and Mobile. “This is a long time coming, but I think it will happen,” she says, hopefully. Then, more resolutely, “It will happen.”
In 2019, Nikki was recognized as Hancock County Citizen of the Year by the Hancock Chamber of Commerce. “What a surprise that was,” she said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so shocked!”
Sitting on her front porch sipping a glass of tea, Nikki is wistful. “A lot has happened in my life, but it got me here, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
I’m sure her pampered guests are thankful for that.
Like many local businesses, the Bay Town Inn is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions. At this writing the inn is closed until further notice but will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.