Beach Blvd. bouncing back in Bay
By Geoff Belcher
Sep 27, 2013, 23:19
With the completion of the Bay St. Louis harbor and marina project still at least six months away, Mayor Les Fillingame said Friday, Beach Boulevard is already busier than it has been in the past decade.
"I think we have more traffic on Beach Boulevard now than we ever had before, even before Katrina," Fillingame said Friday.
He attributes much of that traffic to the Bay's newly-restored "restaurant row," particularly 200 North Beach Restaurant, which celebrates its second anniversary today. In 2012, North Beach was named the Bay St. Louis Business of the Year.
"North Beach were the first ones to take that pioneering plunge and open on Beach Boulevard (post-Katrina)," Fillingame said. "They have turned out to be an extreme catalyst to the rejuvenation of Beach Boulevard, so the community owes them quite a bit."
North Beach owner Ann Tidwell operated the Bay Town Inn from 1995 until 2003, when she sold it to present owner Nikki Moon. At 76, she still comes in to work every day. She laughs that she started 200 North Beach in 2011 "because I didn't know any better."
The reality is, she needed something to do with herself, and she knew Beach Boulevard had to come back from Katrina. She had already purchased the building – the first home of the Sea Coast Echo – before Katrina, and wanted to make it useful again.
"We all needed something to jump-start our thinking that Bay St. Louis was coming back," Tidwell said Friday. "We're proud to be a part of that."
Trapani's Eatery followed soon after, returning to its original location with a brand new facility.
"They built back bigger and better," Fillingame said.
Now, with the addition of the Blind Tiger on the opposite side of the street and the French Settlement down the block, he said, "all of the pieces are starting to fall into place. The success of Beach Boulevard is always going to greatly impact all of Bay St. Louis.
"We not only have more tourists coming in, now, they're staying longer because they have a lot of dining choices. The restaurants have given our day traffic staying power. In addition to what's on the beach, we have Lulu's, the Buttercup, Sycamore House, Mockingbird, Cypress Cafe – there are a lot of options for people who want to visit Bay St. Louis. People are taking extended trips because we have all the amenities.
"Bay St. Louis is now, I've heard, the most popular stop on the Coast between Mobile and New Orleans and south of Jackson."
With Cruisin' the Coast and BridgeFest 2013 scheduled next month, he said, "October promises to be one of the biggest tourist months Bay St. Louis has ever seen."
The harbor is tentatively set to open in May 2014, Fillingame said, and predicted it will "bring a whole new group of people to Bay St. Louis."