Big Buzz Business News
story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Main Street in Old Town has always been a focal point for locals and visitors to Bay St. Louis.
But now it’s “cooking with gas,” according to one resident. Since the first of the year, six new businesses have opened on the 100 block alone.
And on Second Street, which divides the first and second blocks of Main, four more shops have recently launched in historic Century Hall (112 S. Second Street).
This Big Buzz
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Field’s Steak and Oyster Bar
111 Main Street/A
Chef Field Nicaud heads up the new restaurant. He recently returned from New York after studying at the Institute of Culinary Education and gaining experience in two of Manhattan’s fine dining establishments.
Nicholas Carter, who has worked for the Nicauds for eight years as their “all around guy” and opening manager, says that the family of restauranteurs has always had its eyes on the Bay.
“It had to be the right space and the right time,” said Carter. When C&C’s Italian Bistro closed earlier this year, the Nicauds scooped up the location and began redecorating. Carter said that although it was a beautiful space before, the goal was to lighten and brighten the atmosphere.
One C&C’s fixture that stayed behind was the custom brick oven which now turns out flat breads and oysters.
Field’s is open Wednesday for dinner (6pm – 9m, bar opens at 3pm), Thursday through Saturday (11am – 9pm, Friday and Saturday ‘til 10pm) and Sunday, 11am – 2pm for brunch.
According to Carter the food is so special, “some people are coming here twice a day.”
“I might be biased,” he said with a smile, “but I feel guilty calling it just ‘food.’”
Marina Soap Company and
The Warehouse Event Venue
(111 Main Street, D)
A few doors down, Ocean Springs business Marina Cottage Soap Company, opened its Bay location in March. Owner Vanessa Mueller was met with a warm welcome and has since become a resident of Bay St. Louis.
Mueller carries natural skin care products, catering to those with sensitive skin. One best seller is her Gneau Gnaughtly Gnat natural insect repellent, voted as most effective by Outdoor Life in both 2014 and 2015.
In the back of her spacious storefront, she’s been working on “The Warehouse,” a new event space that is slated to open this summer. The venue will be able to host receptions, parties and weddings. Special events that are open to the public will be ticketed through online sales, with a limited number available.
“It’s basically a community driven space, 1700 square feet of fun,” Mueller says. “We want it to be different from other establishments on the street.”
“The city’s been fantastic to work with” during the build-out process and the entrepreneur says she loves living in the warm-hearted town.
“It’s nice to have people wave and greet me as ‘the Soap Lady,” as I walk down the street, she said. “Everybody’s looking out for everybody else. It’s why I wanted to move here.”
124 Main Street
Fashionista and owner Chelsea Cure’s new space may be small, but it’s packed with power.
“Our concept is to carry clothes that are trendy, but classic – pieces that become wardrobe staples,” said Cure. “I want designs to be current and fashion-forward, but still feel great and look good a year from now.”
The lines Sage carries also appeal to a wide range of customers. Their denim line, Liverpool, is especially hot, said Cure. One day recently she sold pairs of the pull-on pants to a 15-year-old and to a 70-year-old woman.
Accessories like Buddha Girl bangles are a big hit as well, since they’re wearable in the water and at the beach and the soft, flexible material doesn’t make noise when several are worn at once. Cure carries gift items like unique candles as well, with more on the way.
While many of her customers are locals, a good number are out of town visitors and boaters who have docked in the harbor.
“We had people in here last week from Australia,” said Cure, who grew up on the coast. “They love what Old Town has going on. And so do I.”
126 Main Street
Also opening doors this spring is Salty Soul, specializing in nautical themed clothing, décor and gifts – but with a masculine slant.
Owner Jane Alford’s first boutique, Bay-tique, has become an Old Town anchor over the past several years. Yet, she noticed men twiddling their thumbs while their wives were shopping and realized there was nothing in Old Town to interest them. The large space at 126 Main became available in April when fellow boutique owner Melissa Hamilton purchased her own building a few doors up. Alford jumped.
She’s had the idea for Salty Soul years before and went into the new business with plenty of experience and established relationships with quality vendors. Alford, who designs many of her own products, is also carrying yoga and sportwear.
Steel Magnolia Decorating and High Tide Builders, LLC
146 Main Street
Locals began celebrating when they saw construction work taking place at the historic Creole cottage at 146 Main Street. While major structural repairs had been undertaken after Hurricane Katrina, the building had been vacant for 14 years.
Last fall, real estate developer and Kiln resident Harry Fisher began plans to renovate the cottage as a duplex and build an addition. His first tenants are Jay and Elise Kobs, a contractor and interior design duo.
Jay Kobs hails from Hattiesburg and his wife grew up in Pittsburg. The couple moved to the Bay from Colorado to be closer to Jay’s father who recently turned 80.
The couple leased both sides of the duplex so Steel Magnolia Decorating and High Tide Builders, LLC are side by side. They plan to have a ribbon cutting in the near future.
When pressed for a date, Jay laughed. “She’s an interior designer,” he said. “Until it’s perfect, nobody’s coming in.”
Restored by Vicki and Doug Niolet and Ann Tidwell post-Katrina, the lower two levels have hosted arts, antiques and gift businesses since 2008. Yet, the building’s third floor remained uninhabitable for years until New Orleans developer/owner Jim McPhaille purchased the building and began work last year.
Artist Tami Curtis Guy first opened Tami Curtis Studio in the lower floors of Century Hall last year. Now the well-known Louisiana artist has expanded and added one of the new spaces upstairs as well, where she’ll be able to offer painting classes and group “paint parties.”
Transforming another one of the third floor spaces into a scene from a French living room is Holly McNaughton, owner of Holly House, which offers "imaginative home décor."
Century Hall manager, Susan Peterson, said in July, they’ll be joined on the third floor by Jane Evans Designs, an award-winning artist who works on canvas and in ceramics, focusing on religious and cultural iconography,” according to her website.
On the second floor, earlier this year the Century Hall gallery reorganized. Managed now by Susan Peterson, the sleek space features contemporary art by some of the region's top talent.
Across from the gallery, a new home design store has settled in, Sassy Bird Interiors. Holly Harrison, a residential interior designer for more than 30 years in Baton Rouge, teamed up with Shannon Stage, also originally from Baton Rouge.
Stage and her husband owned a house on Sycamore Street pre-Katrina and built back in 2013. Now she spends as much time in the Bay as she can and likes to call it “home.”
Stage’s experience ranges from 17 years as owner of a wholesale giftware business to being executive director of a green-building non-profit. Both Stage and Harrison have a special interest in “creating inspiring spaces that are healthy.”
The two carry artwork, lighting and lamps, pieces for home entertaining, home accessories and furniture. The mix is “lots of fun new things with antiques mixed in.”
“We both believe that spaces should be beautiful to look at, but also healthy places for families to be, “ Stage said. “That means we pay attention to everything from rugs to upholsteries to make sure they’ve been made using environmentally sound practices.”
For instance, the pair sought out washable cotton cocktail napkins that can be reused. Durability is important too, as they want the things they sell "to be treasured for a long time.”
As for the name? Stage says she’s been called “Sassy” for years and Holly’s been known as “Birdy,” so Sassy Bird Interiors was born.