Gerald Rigby, CPA
A Bay St. Louis accounting firm opens a new office in Diamondhead as a growing number of individuals and businesses discover the advantages - and value - of hometown expertise.
- story by Ellis Anderson
Fortunately for entrepreneurs and individuals on the Mississippi coast, Gerald Rigby enjoys working with numbers almost as much as he enjoys working with people.
In fact, the certified public accountant, business advisor and owner of Gerald Rigby, CPA, is probably one of the few people in the world who would pair the words “taxes” and “love.”
“Smaller CPA firms really have to love doing income taxes and at my firm, we do,” says Rigby. “It’s something the average person dreads, but we do everything possible to make the process pain-free.”
Rigby and his staff also offer advisory services for small businesses. An introductory consultation for start-up businesses is free. In the initial session, Rigby demystifies crucial topics like the type of entity the business should be (Incorporated? Partnership? Sole proprietorship?), what system of bookkeeping would work best for that particular business, labor laws, and more.
“When someone wants to open their own business, having us as their first stop can clear up a lot of questions,” says Rigby. “I’ve done these start-up consultations hundreds and hundreds of times. People leave feeling very positive about things.”
Now those who live in the north part of Hancock and Harrison counties will be able to avail themselves of Rigby’s services without driving to the Bay St. Louis office (724 Dunbar Ave.). The last week of January, Rigby opened a Diamondhead location at 5402 West Aloha Drive (next to the Burger King at the I-10 entrance to the city).
The expansion has been in the works for several years as the accountant waited for the “perfect” location to become available. But the enterprise is still a tight ship, with Rigby and six employees providing confidential service with a hometown friendliness.
However, Rigby says that if the word really got out about what a value his services are, he’d need a dozen more employees. Most people still believe that big box tax services are the most economical way to have their income taxes prepared and that a CPA firm will charge a lot more for the professional expertise.
“That’s not true at all here,” says Rigby, whose website gives a nuts and bolts price list that’s easy to understand. “In many cases, our pricing is lower than the big-name places out there. In addition, people are gaining a trusted financial advisor who will be there for them year around.
“So you absolutely don’t have to be in an upper income bracket to afford our services. We offer the best customer service at the most affordable price.”
Rigby acquired his appreciation of accounting at an early age. Born in Bay St. Louis, he spent his early years in Atlanta, then moved back to the Bay to attend high school at St. Stanislaus.
“Lil Ray” Kidd, the famous coast restaurateur, was Rigby’s uncle, while another uncle, Steven Kidd, owned his own accounting firm in Atlanta. Rigby worked in his uncle’s office in the summers and found he enjoyed the experience. So he graduated with an accounting degree from USM in 1987 with the intentions of moving to Atlanta to begin his career.
However, Rigby and high school sweetheart Janet Ellis married soon after he graduated. His new bride was a Bay native as well and the couple decided they’d rather raise their family on the coast. Rigby took a job with an accounting firm in Biloxi, where he worked for six years. He opened his own firm in Bay St. Louis in 1994, 23 years ago.
Now the two Rigby children are grown. His oldest daughter, Shelby, is finishing her degree in marketing at USM, while son Jerrod is attending Pearl River Community College, where he’s on the basketball team and a President’s List honoree. Jerrod may have inherited his fondness for basketball – Gerald has volunteered as an assistant basketball coach at St. Stanislaus for more than ten years.
In addition to his thriving accounting business, Rigby also owns Total Body Health and Fitness, which is managed by his wife, Janet Rigby. He purchased the building and opened the center in 2006, soon after Katrina. The facility has a loyal following that has only expanded in recent years.
While income tax preparation and small business consultations are key services Rigby’s firm offers, the accountant has also developed expertise in a number of aspects of business and industry - from marketing to human resources to establishing an Internet presence. This allows him to offer services as a chief financial officer to some small business clients. He also performs audits of government entities and non-profits.
Rigby looks to the future of Hancock County with a practical and optimistic eye.
“The people here are the area’s main assets,” he says. “It’s welcoming. The community is the kind of place that is very attractive to visit, to relocate, to open a new business venture.
“While the economy here has had its ups and downs over the past decade since Katrina, right now, we’re experiencing a construction and a real estate boom. We’re headed in a very positive direction. It’s taken us ten years to get back to the point we were in 2005 and now we’re finally back, better than ever.”