Sponsor Spotlight - October 2016
Bay Life Gifts and Gallery
The Bay Life dream becomes a business - and a reality - for shop owner and president of the Old Town Merchants Association, Janice Guido.
- stories and photography by Ellis Anderson
So it’s not surprising that her shop, Bay Life, is filled with a selection of art, décor and tableware that has most shoppers wanting to linger longer. The overall statement is one of relaxation and restoration. The soft aqua wall color, the enormous windows and the historic brickwork create a perfect backdrop for the shop offerings.
There’s a special focus on Mississippi made art and products too. Best sellers include the Oxford line of Soy candles, bath and dish towels by Hanging By A Thread, a colorful throw pillow line by Little Birdie and A La Luna jewelry, made just up the road in Petal, Mississippi.
Local artists are heavily represented too, with oyster shell ornaments, crosses and frames by Michelle Savoy, bold paintings by Tehle McGuffee of Gulfport and Tracy Stieffel’s woodblocks and pewter cutouts.
Since sharing meals is a main component of life in the Bay, Bay Life carries lots of tableware. Caspari’s line of placemats, napkins and greeting cards are some of Janice’s favorites – and she’s found that customers share her enthusiasm. Maurice Milleur’s pewter tableware has been a coast mainstay for decades, and now Janice represents him as well.
Like any great Southern hostess, Janice works hard make shop visitors relax and feel at home. She orchestrates the music, the colors, and even the scents that greet shoppers. And it’s all selected with one thing in mind.
“I’ve lived a very stressful corporate life and a lot of my customers are the same,” she says. “So I’m trying to create a fun and peaceful place where they can slow down for a minute, and maybe even leave here feeling inspired.”
It’s a strategy that’s worked for Bay Life. Opening on Second Saturday in March 2015, the store may be young, but it has already established a large and loyal following. In addition to a large cadre of long-time locals, the shop’s customers include many people who live in New Orleans or other regional cities and have second homes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Janice says that a lot of her customers have become friends.
That’s to be expected from someone who has spent most of her career working in the home and hospitality industry. She was born and raised in Natchez, where her father owned an insurance and home-building business. She has fond childhood memories of accompanying her father to home construction sites. “He believed everyone needed a good place to live.”
Janice attended St. Mary’s Dominican in New Orleans, graduating with a double major in history and education. Along the way, she spent a full year with Loyola in Rome, an experience that broadened her perspectives.
After stints teaching and selling real estate, she found her true niche in the hospitality field – mostly in New Orleans. For nearly thirty years, Janice worked at sales and marketing for some of the most famous hotels in the U.S., including the Windsor Court New Orleans, the Le Meridien New Orleans, the Fairmont/Roosevelt New Orleans and the Willard Intercontinental in Washington, D.C. She ended her hotel career at the famous Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter after helping to launch the Irvin Mayfield Jazz Playhouse and Restaurant Revolution. While her jobs may have been stressful, she found that making people feel at home came naturally.
In 2001, while working at the Windsor Court, she purchased her first house on the coast, in the Garden Isles neighborhood.
“We had a boat and would go explore all the bayous. It was only about an hour away, so I could get back quickly if there was a hotel emergency. But being on the coast made it easy to forget everything.
“I’d traveled all over and realized that the landscapes here were as beautiful as anything the East Coast had to offer. I fell in love with it and made a plan.”
Janice’s plan was to eventually retire, move to the Bay full time and open a gallery/gift shop.
“I held that dream in my heart as I as finished out my career,” she says. “I wanted to be my own boss. And I love it. I count my blessings every day.”
One of those blessings is to be able to compare notes with her sister, Gail, owner of Silver Street Gifts and Gallery in Natchez. The two go to market together and share sales tips with each other. Their mother gets in on the act too, as her daughters swap ideas and talk about new products they’ve found.
The last few years have been busy ones and Janice and her partner have renovated and added onto their historic cottage on State Street in Old Town. In addition, soon after opening her shop, Janice was quickly tapped as president of the Old Town Merchants Association. So while there hasn’t been much time lately to explore the bayous by boat, Janice is completely contented.
“I thought I would miss New Orleans more than I do,” she says. “I’m so happy here. My Bay life in reality is even more wonderful than the dream.”
Comments are closed.