Here is a complete list of all nominees with the Chamber's official write-up about each:
Businesses of the Year - Bay St. Louis
With every weekly issue, the Shoofly Magazine enhances enjoyment of life for residents, introduces people from elsewhere to the unique Bay-Waveland community, helps area expatriates remain connected, showcases and supports local businesses and increases community pride and awareness.
With 10,000 + Facebook/Instagram followers and 4,000 subscribers, the Shoofly garners thousands of readers with positive stories. As a digital publication, it reaches a national audience - more than 50% of its readers live outside the area.
The community calendar is the most comprehensive on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, keeping readers and visitors updated on all local events and happenings. The Shoofly Magazine also plays a great role in reaching homeowners and businesses seeking to relocate. Working with local non-profits, it offers pro-bono help to raise awareness about programs and promotes events and fundraisers.
Beginning as a volunteer neighborhood newsletter in 2011, The Shoofly it grew in size and popularity, becoming a full-scale magazine in 2014. The magazine’s professional team of writers and photographers takes great pride in their work - and in serving their community.
This family-owned business on Beach Boulevard in the heart of downtown has been serving customers since 1981 and remains a favorite local spot for good food, cold beverages and live entertainment provided by local musicians. The Murphy family, fully committed to their business and the revitalization of Hancock County, rebuilt an expanded space after Hurricane Katrina, and their new location offers residents and visitors a place to enjoy beautiful views, the best in local entertainment and the family’s unique signature recipes, like the roast beef poboy and the fish reuben. Chef/Owner Daniel Murphy and the entire Murphy family, who are lifelong residents of Bay St. Louis, are dedicated to their team at the restaurant and maintaining an establishment that welcomes everyone as though they are a part of the family.
Opening a business in the Covid era is no small task, let alone two! And that’s exactly what Fleurty Girl has done in Old Town Bay St. Louis. Founder and Owner Lauren Leblanc Haydel has already brought a fun new flair to Main Street and demonstrated her commitment to the Bay by opening a temporary weekend pop-up shop while transforming 216 Main Street in a new retail space and She Shed, which will serve as a studio/workshop space and venue for classes and activities. Tenacity is Haydel’s middle name. She got Fleurty Girl up and running online in 2009 as a single mom with $2,000 from her tax refund check, which she put into designing and printing t-shirts that celebrated New Orleans. That humble business has expanded into a string of storefronts that are well known for their New Orleans-inspired line of clothing, gifts, home goods and jewelry. The ties to Mardi Gras, the Saints, seafood and other iconic New Orleans connections feel right at home in our community. This is Fleurty Girl’s eighth location and the first outside Louisiana.
Garcia and Sons Development is a Hancock County-based residential construction company that has been developing properties for more than two decades. Brothers Garrett and Jason Garcia are dedicated to providing thorough service for their clients, assuring that a Garcia & Sons build will be a seamless process that they will enjoy for years to come. They specialize in ground-up construction of custom homes with an emphasis on quality. They always go the extra mile for their customers, often assisting in property selection and choosing the amenities and details. The company then manages all stages of a project, from pre-design through construction and delivery. This holistic approach to the construction process sets them apart, as it ensures a smooth build and guarantees that each project feels like a home from the moment they break ground. Garcia & Sons has completed more than 200 custom homes, built to their high standards.
The Wedding Collection is a full-service Bridal Experience, providing customers with all of the services they will need to make their wedding the day they’ve always dreamed of. The Wedding Collection handles everything from the dress to the planning. It’s all done with love and on the premise of building everlasting friendships. The Wedding Collection looks forward to working with every #CollectionCouple to bring their wedding vision to life perfectly. Owner Kerri Pellegrin wanted to build a brand vs a business. She wanted it surrounded with service as the most important element and a hands-on approach to the planning. It has been their branding point as she continues to create additional platforms within The Wedding Collection brand. Having a project management background for over 25 years, Kerri took the skills learned in the corporate world and her passion and love of all things wedding and turned it into a unique “one stop wedding shop.”
Businesses of the Year - Diamondhead
Brothers Eric and Adam Diaz have operated their small business for 10 years, first in Bay St. Louis before moving to Diamondhead. The brothers create a wide variety of products in their full service print shop, from business cards and menus to large banners and wraps for vehicles. Working closely with their clients, they craft fresh visuals that help make their customers stand out among their competitors. Diaz Brothers is more than just a print shop. Eric and Adam are also marketing communications experts, and assist businesses in developing branding and visual communications plans that get noticed and lead to growth. Customers appreciate the friendly, professional service offered by this growing business and consider Diaz Brothers’ products and services an asset for the local community.
As a new business, Lazy Gator has already become the “hot spot” for live entertainment in Diamondhead. It is the Bunners’ newest addition to their international restaurant group, which includes restaurants in Belize and the Bahamas! Their investment is bringing new life to Paradise Bayou and new activity to the Diamondhead Marina and Kayak Launch, which are adjacent to the restaurant grounds. The bustle around the restaurant is bringing locals and visitors to its downstairs open patio, the perfect venue for enjoying live bands and watching sports, and to the upstairs dining room for delicious coastal cuisine served inside or on the waterfront deck. Their robust menu includes many local seafood options, plus a few ingredients from the Caribbean, such as conch and coconut! The owner and staff are committed to customer satisfaction, providing a high-quality dining experience and hosting numerous charity and community events.
Rouses is the largest retail business in Diamondhead with more than 100 employees. The store is part of the Rouse family chain, the Gulf Coast’s largest independent grocer. Rouses took over the Diamondhead supermarket in 2008 and opened in its new building in 2011. Under the leadership of General Manager Chuck Clark, the store has been involved in Diamondhead and the surrounding communities through support to schools, churches, nonprofits and by sponsoring events. Last year, the store adopted the Memorial Woodland Village and enlisted the community to help bring Christmas presents and Valentine’s Day gifts to residents. Other organizations supported by Rouses include the Boys & Girls Club, CASA and Cruisin’ the Coast. Rouses remains committed during the pandemic to being the best “essential” and its employees challenge themselves daily to living up to that responsibility.
Businesses of the Year - Waveland
Benfatti Construction, founded in 1994, specializes in building custom homes and major renovation projects. Benfatti, which means “well done” in Italian, focuses on delivering high quality homes and outstanding customer service with a mission of building each customer’s dream home and exceeding expectations. The owners, Donna and Mark Benfatti, are also former restaurant owners, and apply the same approach to customer satisfaction they learned in the restaurant to the construction process, guaranteeing that everyone who comes to them to build a home enjoys both the process and the end result. Benfatti Construction is dynamic and enthusiastic about its projects, selective about those undertaken, creative in finding solutions and committed to providing the personnel, service and technology needed to ensure success.
Planet Fitness Waveland is among the newest of more than 2,000 locations. Waveland’s club offers a clean and safe welcoming environment were its 3,000 members have access to high quality equipment to work out at their own pace or take advantage of free fitness training. Nationally, Planet Fitness ranks #1 in customer service. Although a franchise, Planet Fitness Waveland is managed by Coast native Zack Hagin, who has worked at clubs all over Mississippi prior to becoming Club Manager in Waveland. He is delighted to be back on the Coast and to see the impact the club has had on the community since it opened in December 2019. Through its philanthropic initiative, Judgment Free Generation, Planet Fitness is combating bullying by creating a culture of kindness and encouragement. The Waveland club also supports the Boys & Girls Club and offers a Teen Summer Challenge program for high school students to work out for free.
Susan’s Sassy Sweets
Susan Allen is the owner of Susan’s Sassy Sweets, and has had a love for baking since childhood. She learned at the hand of her mother, who was a whiz in the kitchen. Susan started out making custom cakes for friends and family from her home - a business that she has been able to take with her through multiple military assignments. After moving to Mississippi and earning a reputation as a home-based baker, Susan completed Boots to Business and opened her first-ever storefront in Waveland in May 2020. She has seen incredible growth in the few months it has been open, and credits much of her success to her crew - her daughters Nicole and Hailey, and to the support of her husband Mitchell. Susan, Nicole and Hailey make gourmet cupcakes in 12 to 16 flavors a week plus cake pops, macaroons, scones and cinnamon rolls, among other treats. Everything is made from scratch and made to order.
Businesses of the Year - Kiln
Crosby’s Furniture is family-owned and operated in the Kiln by the Crosby family, who believe in providing outstanding customer service and top quality furniture. They established their first store in Picayune over 50 years ago, and opened a second location in the Kiln because they saw the opportunity and value of the Hancock County market. They are a small retailer and under the leadership of Darienne Crosby, provide a level of service, support and commitment to their customers that would rival even the largest, most well-established chain. To make shopping simple and convenient, the owners have created a process to understand the shopper’s needs, narrow down the options and discover furniture matching the customer’s taste and budget. What sets them apart is their approach, which is unique, innovative, personable and empowers customers to create the home of their dreams. Crosby’s offers over 9,000 products, ensuring their customers will find what they’re looking for.
The Hancock County Farm Bureau Insurance office in Kiln has been serving its members since the 1960s. The local agents offer life, auto, flood and homeowners insurance as well as general liability and farm policies to its 2,250 members. In addition to advocating for the various agricultural commodities its co-op members represent, the nine-member board of directors are actively involved in the community, especially in Hancock County’s schools. The Farm Bureau team, led by Marcus Ladner, can often be found supporting local events with their mobile kitchen serving up his delicious jambalaya. They also offer scholarships to local students, support the youth safety program, sponsor the Sea Coast Echo Player of the Week, and work to educate area students about career opportunities in agriculture.
A well-established bastion of culinary excellence for Hancock County, the Jourdan River Steamer has been in business since 2003. They provide an exceptional dining experience, and have made great strides to better serve their patrons this year. Owners Hank and Lori Plauche have opened up the downstairs area, which is now available to comfortably accommodate more than 40 guests for al fresco dining. Diners also can choose to enjoy the famous fresh seafood specialties and steaks upstairs in the dining room, the lounge and on the deck which all offer dreamy river views. For the first time, customers can make reservations, so they can be seated immediately upon arrival at the always bustling eatery, which was named best seafood restaurant in 2019 by the Coast Observer among a multitude of additional accolades.
Hancock County Citizen of the Year Nominees
After Hurricane Katrina, Cami and her husband Dave brought their family to Hancock County as volunteers, fell in love and made Waveland their home. When their children, Danna, Duncan and Baylie, were in school at Bay High, Cami was involved with the booster clubs for baseball and cheerleading. After they graduated, she became involved with more community-oriented groups. Cami is constantly pushing to improve Waveland through volunteer services, good citizenship and involvement in cultural and governmental services and events. Since 2016, Cami has been a board member for the Hancock County Tourism Bureau and is currently serving as President. She also serves on the Coastal Mississippi Advisory Committee, eager to serve and promote all things that contribute to Hancock County. Serving as the Chair of the Waveland Economic Development Committee, Cami is on the Destination Waveland committee. For the past 18 years, she has worked as the Controller for Burbank Emergency Medical Group and Burbank Urgent Care, both located in California.
Penelope “Penny” Wallace Crawford
Penny’s many contributions as a dedicated volunteer can be seen throughout Diamondhead: serving as president of the Diamondhead Garden Club, co-chairing the Diamondhead Pilgrimage, co-founding “Keep Diamondhead Beautiful,” working to develop the Maluhia public garden, designing the landscaping of the City entrance and spearheading the creation of Diamondhead as a “Bird Sanctuary.” She also co-organized planting over 150 live oak trees, helped scouts plant native trees on the public walking trail and consulted and worked on the Rotten Bayou Watershed project. As an artist, she has donated her time and artwork to many charities, the City of Diamondhead and the Diamondhead Library. She teaches painting to veterans and adults and chairs an open weekly painting workshop. Penny and her husband Ping have made hundreds of bags of cotton candy for the annual Diamondhead Christmas on the Town Green. She also provides hand-made hats and blankets for cancer patients. Penny has supported the City as designer for their award winning booth at the Rotary Chili Cook-0ff. She also played a critical role as volunteer and brand designer for the highly successful “Paddle Paradise” event attracting over 100 kayakers. Of course she says her most important accomplishment is her 56-year marriage to Ping.
Rhonda Aime Gamble
A native of Hancock County, when Rhonda and her husband Jay, moved to Waveland, she didn’t wait for an invitation, she jumped right in and got involved. If there was a volunteer project, someone who needed help, she stepped up. When COVID hit, she put her skills to work, first starting an online Facebook group “COVID-19 Mask Response" in response to the shortage of face masks for front line workers. The goal was to get volunteers to sew fabric masks and provide them for free to any group that asked. The initial group of volunteers made masks at home and as the need grew and volunteers increased, Rhonda found space for a “mini-manufacturing factory” where volunteers worked in shifts cutting the donated cotton fabric, sewing and ironing. She worked out the tedious details and even perfected a pattern for the masks to respond to the shortage in a matter of weeks. She worked most of the 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, leading by example. The group started with 48 members and grew to 600 by June. At last count, more than 10,000 free masks were delivered to the military, businesses, first responders, nursing homes, schools, jails, USPS drivers and hospitals. The Mask Response Group is now focusing their time and talents working on projects for children in need. Rhonda has dedicated much of her life to quietly giving back to the community through many volunteer activities including her church, CASA, veterans and her work with prisoners.
Following three decades in the tourism industry, Janice made her dream come true six years ago when she opened her retail shop, Bay Life, first on Main Street and now at Century Hall. It was not long before she put her expertise to work for Hancock County. In 2016-2017, she served as President of the Old Town Merchants, focusing on limiting street vendors, and improving marketing. Never one to take the spotlight, she is a strong advocate for small town retailers. She gives credit to them who face the daily financial challenges brought on by unexpected disasters, yet graciously supporting local causes and helping visitors find their way around town. She served two years on the board of The Arts and later was tapped to serve on the Chamber board, representing the organization on the Hancock County Tourism Bureau. While growing up in Natchez as a protégé to her beloved father, she developed a passion for real estate development. As a tribute to him, she took on another role for the Chamber as co-chair of the Chamber’s Parade of Homes, showcasing 70 homes to more than 1,000 prospects from 8 states to drive $27.9 million in real estate sales.
Paul is a longtime advocate of economic development, community activities and tourism development and promotion, especially in the Kiln and rural areas of Hancock County. When he is not volunteering his time to help promote Hancock County, he operates his own property management business. Recently, he was appointed to the Tourism Board by the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. Under his leadership, the Hancock County Fair was re-established at the Arena after Katrina. He worked closely with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors to bring this event to a professional level as a thriving non-profit organization. As chairman of the Hancock County Community Committee, this volunteer group spearheads an annual fair, second to none featuring regional bands, livestock exhibits, carnival rides, local restaurants, a 4-D barrel run, exhibition horse races, and a high school rodeo. Proceeds from the fair support the annual event and improvements to the Hancock County Fairgrounds.
Connie is outreach pastor at The King’s Kitchen at Central Bible Church in Bay St. Louis serving under the leadership of Pastor Mike Ramsey and Terrie Ramsey. Kings Kitchen is phase one of an ongoing vision by the Church to serve and meet the needs of the homeless and indigent in the community. Through King’s Kitchen, the church provides a time of sharing and fellowship with others while providing a nutritious hot meal for the community. Connie’s passion is to offer those in need a better quality of life and direct them toward a healthy lifestyle. She believes feeding people is the way to their hearts. Her passion takes her in to the community to gather information and resources for those in need. She oversees the facility and recruits volunteers to keep The King’s Kitchen operating efficiently and effectively. She also has a fruit-bearing Ministry called “Under The Olive Tree,” and she hosts a Sunday radio show on Rejoice 104.3 FM. Connie believes in building an orchard that has grace, character and tenacity, clothed in righteousness.
Donna Cowart Martin
When Donna and her husband Bob moved to Waveland, little did they know what was in store. They decided to accept an invitation to attend the Hemingway Fest at the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum, he won the look-alike contest, and from that point on they were both recruited to help raise awareness and funds for the museum. Donna was recruited to serve on the Board of Directors for the Museum and now serves as secretary. Early on, she brought her PR skills as a retired journalism teacher to work generating publicity for the museum. Later, she set a goal to secure grants for the museum, using her experience as a non-profit director to establish new exhibits. Her work led to a $7,500 award from the 2019 Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area’s Community Grant. Under her leadership, a new exhibit: "When Wind and Water Speaks, the Voices of Katrina" was produced to collect oral histories of survivors, now the cornerstone of the Museum. An avid promoter of Waveland, her passion is her art. As the owner of her own fused glass and art studio: DragonFire she often hosts visiting artists from throughout the country, teaching the craft of her art. Recently she was invited by Mississippi’s First Lady to create a Christmas ornament for the Governor’s Mansion to honor frontline workers in response to COVID.
Lindsey Lind Richard
Lindsey goes above and beyond to serve as a community leader and give back to Hancock County. A graduate of Leadership Hancock, she recently participated in the Leadership Legacy program learning Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. She is an active member of Junior Auxiliary of Hancock and serves as membership chair. She contributes time and efforts to help the less fortunate children and adults of the community. Annually she is a supporter and sponsor for Hancock High school athletics and the Christian Blue Jordan Memorial scholarship. She is also a CASA volunteer and advocate and this year, she was named as a Maid to the Royal Court for the 10 Year Anniversary of CASA Hancock. She also serves on the CASA Poker Run committee raising funds to train and recruit new advocates for foster children. Lindsey serves in a leadership role on the vestry of Christ Episcopal Church where she also is a youth leader for the Sunday School program and a camp counselor for the annual Vacation Bible School. She is passionate about keeping a positive image for Hancock County as an active member of the Hancock Chamber and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty. She enjoys promoting the county to all of her new clients and customers.
Catherine and Jim MacPhaille
It all started with the building of a residential development on North Beach at Cedar Point . More and more, the residents began seeing an outgoing New Orleans developer named Jim MacPhaille coming to the Bay and investing in properties while his wife and business partner, Catherine, worked quietly behind the scenes. As we came to know, they are experienced historic property restoration developers from New Orleans who have developed more than 1,000 properties during their career. They see the potential, charm and beauty of the Bay and for the past 15 years, they have brought their talent, vision and resources to Hancock County. Never thinking they would be in the “restaurant business” they now own three—housed in historic structures they restored that collectively employ more than 100 people at PJ’s Coffee, the Creole Creamery and 200 North Beach. More restaurants are expected in the near future with their latest investment on Depot Row. They have also invested in restoring Century Hall providing a unique retail opportunity for 15 local business owners. Catherine and Jim also have a vision to restore the A& G Theatre, the Alcan Plant, the Second Street School, and the Waveland Resort Inn. Their passion is bringing historic structures back to life for everyone to enjoy and they have done just that with more to come.
Dina Hitt Rosetti
As treasurer of the Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse, Dina Rosetti works behind the scenes with her husband John for events throughout the year giving back to the community in a big way. Not only do these events fuel local small businesses but the proceeds they raise go right back in to the community through charitable giving estimated at well over $10,000 last year alone. Her volunteer career has evolved throughout the years first with the Hancock County Exchange Club. In the mid 90’s, her volunteerism was personal when she dedicated herself to the memory of her best friend’s husband to establish the Scott Demboski Bay Area Youth Soccerplex. In 2017, she became the second female commodore in the history of the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club (BWYC). In 2010, BWYC named her woman of the year. If you know Dina, you know of her passion for Mardi Gras, serving for 21 years as an officer of the Krewe of Nereids. Dina’s business is as active as its owner. In 2019, Rosetti’s Liquor Barrel organized Bourbon on the Bay, its second benefit for Starfish Café’s experiential education program. The business has also sponsored benefits to help allay the expenses of individuals in need of hospitalizations, among others. In 2009, Brown-Forman named Rosetti’s Liquor Barrel as Off-Premise Retailer of the Year.
For the past 25 years, Kristen Tusa's passion has been education as part of St. Stanislaus, Holy Trinity, Saint Clare, and Tusa Swimming. As a small business owner of Bay Books with her husband Jeremy, she saw opportunities in her hometown of Waveland to bring more attention to the city and Coleman Avenue. Established in August of 2019, Kristen is the force behind the ever-popular “Food Truck Friday,” bringing people together for a variety of good food and fun. Her passion for Waveland did not stop there. Her memories as a Girl Scout walking in the Veterans Day Parade on Main Street as the daughter of a Navy Veteran gave her the idea to bring that tradition to Waveland to honor veterans through an annual parade in 2019. In everything she does, Kristen makes it a point to include her children, Gabriel and Ruth Ellen with other youth. It is the youth, she says, who will carry on these traditions. Recognizing her many talents and passion for Waveland, Mayor Smith asked her to coordinate the Christmas events for the City growing to three events this year. She believes that being active in our communities is integral to the growth of that community. She proves this through her selfless actions.