September Second Saturday: 9/10
- by Grace Birch
Over the past twenty years, the monthly artwalk has become one of the most popular events in the region. Old Town stays lively all day, with many merchants and restaurants offering specials. The pace picks up from 4 – 8pm, when gallery openings and live music keep the streets humming with activity.
Each month, one or two Old Town businesses take the spotlight as “Hot Spots." Veteran Second Saturday patrons know these will be among the liveliest places to be during the event.
Hot Spots in September are Crawford Realty and Sycamore House
Crawford Realty Group
112 Court Street
Like many living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Crawford calls himself a New Orleans transplant.
“The Gulf Coast is no stranger to my family,” Crawford said. “My grandmother summered at her beachfront home on Scenic Drive in Pass Christian long before I was even alive. When my father had his own family he genetically passed that love on to his children. I have very fond memories of frequenting the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a child.”
Family is paramount to Crawford and his childhood memories are full of fun and adventure. Two cornerstones for the Crawfords are family values and building lifelong memories.
“I come from a loving family that is perhaps the greatest gift in my life,” Crawford said. “My father Bobby, mother Suzie, older brother Jordy, and younger sister Lacey are all my best friends. No matter where we were, as long as we were together everything seemed better.”
The family lived in New Orleans, but were pulled to the coast often.
“We started out renting a little house on the corner of Rabbit Run and North Beach Boulevard, where we would throw our cast nets in the bay over a can of cat food with holes punched in it to fill our nets with shrimp,” Crawford remembers.
Another favorite family pastime was crabbing with nets from the pier until all hours of the night and water skiing in the bay. “My Dad saw to it that my brother and I were up on water skis almost before we could walk,” Crawford said.
Crawford remembered one day his dad called the family into the kitchen in New Orleans and he told the kids to load up in the car because they were going on the ride of a lifetime.
“With the Times Picayune in hand he explained to us that he had found an interesting property located on the Wolf River that he wanted to go take a look at,” Crawford said. “So we loaded up in the white and brown family Oldsmobile station wagon. Little did I know that trip would change my life forever!”
The family arrived at an overgrown, magical, three-acre wilderness with a slightly burned and charred house. Crawford remembers a small footbridge crossing an overgrown pond with cattails that reached for the sky.
From that day on the family spent every spare moment they could at a place they called “Pass a Good Time.” With no TV, the family went on adventures to explore the woods and river systems, and rebuilt the house and pier.
Crawford went on to graduate from Ole Miss and worked for a yacht brokerage, then at Science and Engineer Associates. Later he helped create and launch Voodoo BBQ in New Orleans for the Doody group, but Mississippi kept calling him back.
“My friends thought I lost my mind,” he said.
Crawford decided to try his hand at real estate.
“It’s simple really. I have a passion for it,” he said. “It’s in my blood. My dad and I used to jump in the convertible and just drive the back roads trying to get lost. Always looking at property and learning what made it unique.”
All these years later, Crawford’s dreams are coming true by helping others live their dreams. His sister Laura introduced him to his wife Laura. The couple has two children — a son, Coerte, and a little girl named Lottye. All share a love of Bay St. Louis.
“I get paid for helping families find what my family was so fortunate to have found many years ago,” Crawford said. “This is the best job in the world. I am able to wake up every day of my life and relive the best memories of my life.”
The Sycamore House
210 Main Street
"When you live upstairs, you can’t play hooky," Michael said. "This is our home, so the decor had to be something we had to live with day in and day out. Between Stella and I, one of us is never not in the building."
The chef-duo lives upstairs with their two children, Alexander, 11 and MiMi, 9. Downstairs is a series of art-filled dining rooms. During Sunday brunches, sunlight drenches the tables and in the evening the ambient lighting makes for a romantic, cozy atmosphere.
In addition to the dining rooms, a screened-in porch and a long, welcoming bar near the back patio offer more seating options. There's also a large back patio for al fresco dining in the more temperate months.
Michael, a New York native, met his New Orleans girl, Stella, while they were both working at New World Home Cooking near Woodstock.
"We decided that we wanted to have our own place," Michael said. "One of my in-laws’ neighbors had a house in Pass Christian and were telling us that the area could use another fine dining restaurant."
The couple was staying in a bed & breakfast in Bay St. Louis when the heard the Landmark on Main Street was for sale and in November 2002, it was theirs.
From the moment the Sycamore House opened its doors, the menu represented the couple's love of travel, French cooking and Southern classics.
"Our menu started out in our French-based training," Michael said. "There's still no fryer. We want to keep things clean, simple and fresh."
The vast menu certainly has something for every palette. The Southern classics like barbeque shrimp and fish amandine are on the menu along side Asian-style dishes like Indonesian and Thai curries to South American and Spanish staples. Diners are treated to food that they can't find in other Bay St. Louis eateries.
The menu has evolved over the years to reflect visitors’ tastes, but also the chefs' favorites.
"Pizza is a new addition from the original menu," Michal said. "I love pizza because I’m from New York. We got some pizza stones for the oven and here we are."
Sycamore House is also well known for their Wednesday sushi nights.
"We both like sushi," Michael said. "Bay City Grill Restaurant used to do a sushi night and years later someone was talking about it. Stella and I said 'we could do something like that.'"
Like so many along the Gulf Coast, 11 years ago the couple spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and as many hours of sweat equity bringing back the Sycamore House from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
"It was weird, after the storm we had electricity and cable before we had gas, so we couldn’t come back fully until we could cook," Michael said. "But we had a Coleman grill and served hot plates to those who were back in town right afterwards. It’s so fulfilling to come back after something like that, but it’s hard to think about going through it again."
Especially in the past two or three years, the chefs note that Bay St. Louis has really grown. It's wise to call ahead for reservations to the Sycamore House these days, especially on a certain Saturday night.
"We are sold out most months for Second Saturday," Michael said. "It's a shame when we have to turn people away, but I'd rather do that and make sure that the people sitting have a good service rather than trying to stretch ourselves too thin."
Between their family and the restaurant, everything Mike and Stella could ask for is under one beautiful roof on Main Street in Bay St. Louis.
"Our kids have a good palette," said Michael. "When we used to do duck confit, that was their favorite. Alexander loves the turtle soup and Mimi's favorite is the sunchoke soup. As a family we make homemade pasta once a week and we hardly ever eat out."
Honestly, why would you eat out when you have one of the best restaurants in Bay St. Louis right downstairs?