Several new businesses have opened in Old Town in the first six months of this year, the lion's share of them on the first block of Main. Meet some of the business people behind this flurry of entrepreneurship.
story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Field’s Steak and Oyster Bar
As the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor reached its fifth year of operation this month, local officials announced plans to add more slips to the popular harbor. Work is expected to get underway sometime this fall to add Pier 5 with 43 slips. Work is slated for completion six months later.
“Right now we are at capacity,” said harbormaster Chuck Fortin. “There’s nothing available for long-term lease, and the majority of boats we are turning away are 50-foot plus.”
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Fortin said the harbor has experienced growth in occupancy and fuel sales since it opened in June 2014. The popularity of the harbor among boaters has brought customers to downtown restaurants, shops and galleries and has spurred new business growth and expansions, city officials said in making the expansion announcement.
According to the city’s economic projections, the harbor generates approximately $30,000 per year in Mississippi sales tax and $9,000 annually in state fuel tax. In the last fiscal year, it also generated $314,000 in slip fees, $75,000 in utilities and $298,000 in fuel sales. Transient dock age and ice were another $5,000.
The addition of Pier 5 with 80 percent occupancy will generate an estimated annual revenue of $81,192 for the harbor and $5,683 in State sales tax revenue, according to a statement from the city.
The last major project was adding a wave screen to reduce the wave action inside the harbor.
Hancock County committed $1 million to build the new pier, which is expected to cost around $1.5 million. Tideland funds will make up the difference. In announcing the partnership with the city, Board of Supervisors President Blaine LaFontaine said, “The expansion of Bay St. Louis Harbor will continue to invest in our downtown and assets at a time where we are seeing unprecedented growth and tourism in Bay St. Louis.”
Fortin said the majority of slip holders are from out of state, with most of those from Louisiana. Others are from Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee. “It’s their getaway. It’s almost like a second home for a lot of folks. Some people get a cabin in the woods or a house on the beach, and some people get a boat.”
Boaters stay overnight or for three to four weeks. Many will boat over to a barrier island or to Biloxi casinos. Recently a few boaters left their Bay St. Louis slips and headed for visits to Florida and the Bahamas.
- story by Lisa Monti
Two Hancock County signing events will be held with the four women from Bay-Waveland.
The first will take place at the Women’s Leadership Roundtable on Tuesday, June 25, from 5pm – 7pm at the Waveland Ground Zero Museum, 335 Coleman Ave. in Waveland. Publisher Dorothy Wilson will be present, as well as the four local writers.
A second Hancock County Unboxed event will be held Thursday, June 27, at Brandi Stage Portraiture, 833B U.S. 90, Bay St Louis. There will be light refreshments, drinks and networking starting at 6pm, with the writers sharing more about their stories.
Twenty-five women share their inspirational stories about how they unpacked negativity and rejection and stopped being boxed in by the expectations of others.
The result is the Unboxed Book Project, an anthology that’s filled with lessons on how to move forward and upward in your life and career.
The project is led by Dorothy Wilson, publisher of Gulf Coast Woman magazine and an accomplished leader in marketing and strategic planning. She brought together 25 Coast women to share their stories of becoming “unboxed,” from circumstances and people who had kept them from achieving their best life.
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Publisher Dorothy Wilson says that although she believed the finished project would be inspirational, even she was surprised by the completed manuscript, once all the stories were assembled.
“I knew this had the potential to be powerful,” says Wilson. “I had no idea how powerful until I read the final version before it was sent to the printer. I was overwhelmed and so, so empowered and encouraged to see what these women had overcome. I thought I knew them all, yet discovered so much more about them.”
All four of the Hancock County writers say that the project helped them grow further by pushing them to record their pivotal life experiences.
“I had learned to soar early on. My mom that taught me I could do anything I set my mind to do. I believed her, even in the midst of trials and tribulations that are inevitable in life.”
Local real estate broker, Holly Lemoine-Raymond, also wrote about her mother’s encouragement. “She helped me find the courage to pursue my career in real estate, even though it seemed riskier to step out on my own," says Lemoine-Raymond. Her mother passed away in 2005.
"Owning your own company is something you have to grow into. Mom helped me understand that it is a process and that I’d learn along the way. She's no longer alive, but it seems that she still here encouraging me.”
Southgroup Insurance company owner, Angelyn Zeringue, says she found writing for the Unboxed book “very introspective and humbling.”
“It made me realize that all the bad times and good times define who you become,” she says. “For the project, we were invited to share an inspirational story from our lives.
"I am always inspired by learning how others overcame obstacles and accomplished great things."
Ellis Anderson, digital publisher of The Shoofly Magazine and French Quarter Journal, found the Unboxed assignment challenging, even for a professional writer and editor.
“To reveal how you overcame an obstacle, you have to relive it,” says Anderson. “That’s not always easy. But writing about an experience gives you a better understanding about yourself and a deeper appreciation for all the people who helped lift you up.
The first coast-wide book signing was held June 13 at 5:30pm at the White House Hotel in Biloxi. Several of the authors spoke, followed by a group book signing.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
Resumption of passenger rail service from New Orleans to Mobile received a major boost today when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded $33 million to the Southern Rail Commission.
The money will go toward funding a $65.9 million railroad and infrastructure improvement project along the route needed to upgrade it for passenger trains.
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Southern Rail commissioner Knox Ross agrees.
“Restored passenger rail service will spark economic development along the coast,” said Ross in a telephone interview this afternoon. “The Mississippi coast towns are already set up for it. They have stations downtown, with vital and attractive downtown areas that have been the beneficiaries of substantial investments since Katrina.”
Knox said that presently while there is some limited public bus transportation on the coast, there is nothing that runs between all the coast cities or between the coast and New Orleans. This puts the coast at a distinct disadvantage, because in the field of economic development, “the ability to get around is becoming more important all the time.”
“If someone on the coast needs to go to the New Orleans, they have to get a ride or drive themselves,” Ross said. “People in the Mobile ship building business are renting vans to transport employees across the coast and the New Orleans.”
Ross also noted that the coast is missing out on an important tourism market.
“750,000 people from other countries around the world are visiting New Orleans each year,” he said. “Many would love to take a day trip out of the city and see more of this country, but they can’t get to the coast unless they rent a car.”
The Southern Rail Commission will help put together operating agreements with Amtrak and between Amtrak and CSX Railroad (which actually owns the tracks). Amtrak estimates the improvements will be completed within 24 months.
When it begins service, two passenger trains will run from New Orleans to Mobile each day – one in the morning and one in the evening. A morning and evening train will also run from Mobile to New Orleans daily.
“We’re grateful to Senator Wicker and his team – and all the other supporters who understand what a difference rail service will make,” Said Ross.
Colorful architectural replicas are at the heart of Jenise McCardell and Mark Currier’s business, one that's found a special place in the heart of Bay St. Louis.
- Story by Lisa Monti
It’s been 35 years since ceramic artist Jenise McCardell left New Orleans, moved to Bay St. Louis and opened her own working studio at 220 Main Street.
She and husband Mark Currier’s house is right behind the art deco building that also is home to Gallery 220, a popular artists co-op that has never stopped evolving since the couple opened it in the front part of their building.
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All of the pieces are sculpted from white clay, hand-painted, and fired in kilns right on the premises. Over the years, thousands of Clay Creations nostalgic pieces have been exchanged as gifts, stuffed into Christmas stockings, decorated gift packages and walls and otherwise made their way to the hands of many a grateful recipient.
Clay Creations and Gallery 220 are longtime favorites for everyone who visits Old Town’s shops and stores and both hold a special place in the open door tradition on the Second Saturday ArtWalk.
That’s because after Hurricane Katrina roared through in 2005, Jenise and Mark were the first business to revive the Second Saturday tradition just a few weeks after the storm. With all of the destruction and disruption caused by Katrina, residents saw the return of Second Saturday as a welcome relief from the chaos and a chance to reconnect with the community. The couple even turned the monthly Second Saturday into a weekly gathering at their studio for several months.
Not surprisingly, in 35 productive and successful years, Clay Creations and its owners have been featured in news stories, on television and even in a mini-documentary about Bay St. Louis. Click here to see it on Youtube!
Jenise said that after 35 years, she’s seeing a new generation of customers collecting their own memories from among Clay Creations’ colorful inventory. “They’ll say, ‘My mom collected these,’ so they want to have their own memories for their children.”
Since the storm, the Old Town business district has been steadily revitalized, Jenise said, and there is more traffic in the area, which is good news for the city. “It’s so exciting to see all this vibrancy happen,” she said. “Everybody got on board and did it together.”
Jenise said Clay Creations is “going forward” in the future. “It’s been a really great ride, and we have enjoyed it. It’s our passion.”
Talk of the Town - June 2019
A restored PT boat made by Higgins Industries in New Orleans will give history buffs a rare chance to go aboard one of the craft credited with winning World War II.
- Story by Lisa Monti
PT-305, the National World War II Museum’s fully restored Higgins patrol-torpedo boat, will be open for tours June 22-23 in the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor. This will be a rare chance to step aboard a piece of World War II history on the Bay waterfront.
Among those who will be on hand will be Bay St. Louis resident Skip Higgins, grandson of Andrew Higgins, the larger-than-life boatbuilder whose New Orleans shipyard produced thousands of PT boats and landing craft. The boats were deployed all over the globe during the war, and most notably for the Normandy invasion on D-Day.
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Skip Higgins notes that when President Eisenhower met his biographer, the late historian Stephen Ambrose, his grandfather’s name came up. “Eisenhower told Ambrose, ‘I see you’re from New Orleans. Did you know Andrew Higgins? He’s the man who won the war for us.”
Ambrose, who lived in Bay St. Louis for several years, later co-founded the sprawling World War II Museum in New Orleans, which recently opened a permanent exhibit called “Bayou to Battlefield: Higgins Industries during World War II” that highlights the company’s history and accomplishments. It includes videos, artifacts, text panels and oral histories featuring former Higgins Industries employees.
Skip’s father, Roland, was one of four Higgins sons who worked in Higgins Industries under his grandfather’s leadership. Skip was just nine when Andrew Higgins died but he has a slight memory of his worldly grandparents entertaining guests from all over the world. Their friends included Argentina’s president Juan Peron and his wife Eva.
Andrew Higgins was one of the first equal opportunity employers in the South, according to his grandson. “If someone could do the job well, it didn’t matter if that person was a woman or a person of color or disabled,” said Skip. “They were hired and paid the same as every other worker.”
The shipyard also offered a nursery and a school for those who needed child care, along with maternity leave, unheard of at the time. At the peak of Higgins Industry’s production, nearly 30,000 people were employed, “around the clock.”
Skip said the PT boat coming to Bay St. Louis, USS Sudden Jerk, saw combat and was fully restored by hundreds of volunteers who devoted thousands of hours working on it at the World War II Museum. They searched worldwide to find original parts for the restored craft.
World War II PT Boat Tour
Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor
June 22 and June 23
Tickets available on site.
Admission: $12 Adults ($10 for military and kids age 8 to 17)
Must be 8 years of age
Not ADA accessible
Phone: 504-528-1944 Ext. 402 or email