Second Saturday: New harbor adds excitement to Artwalk
By Echo Staff
Aug 8, 2014, 19:24
Melissa Hamilton of bijoubel, inside Century Hall on Second Street in Old Town Bay St. Louis.
While schools are back in session across the Coast, families can still revel in relaxing summer weekends in Bay St. Louis. Historic Old Town offers the perfect way to cap off an idyllic summer with music, food and art at the Second Saturday Artwalk today.
This Second Saturday, boaters will be able to take advantage of the new municipal harbor at the foot of Main Street in Old Town. Several slips of various sizes are being kept open exclusively for transient dockage, so overnighting on boats in Old Town is now a fun option (call 228-467-4226 or 228-216-1644 to reserve a slip).
Harbormaster Chuck Fortin points out that some of the best shops and restaurants on the coast are all within an easy stroll of the harbor. For boats without cabins, Old Town offers many charming lodgings, from vacation rentals to elegant B&Bs.
The Harbormaster predicts the harbor will be bustling every Second Saturday. Over the past twenty years, the monthly artwalk has become one of the most popular events in the region. Old Town stays lively all day, with many merchants and restaurants offering specials. The pace picks up from 4 – 8pm, when gallery openings and live music keep the streets humming with activity.
Each month two Old Town merchants are featured as “Hot Spots.” For the August Second Saturday, bijoubel (112 South Second Street in Century Hall) and The Bonner Collection (108 South Beach in the French Settlement building) take the limelight.
Bijoubel may have started small, but just two years later, the boutique is one of the largest in Old Town Bay St. Louis, filling the second floor of the historic Century Hall building with a colorful array of chic clothing, accessories and jewelry.
The quality lines of apparel offered at surprisingly affordable prices – have been one reason for bijoubel’s rapid success. Owner Melissa Hamilton is the visionary who has overseen the establishment of this new coastal shopping experience. Her exceptional business savvy comes from working for retail giants Wal-mart and Zales.
The two decades she’s spent in management (at one point overseeing more than 100 employees) led her to develop retailing ideas of her own. So when the opportunity presented itself to become an entrepreneur in 2012, Hamilton was ready with the know-how - and the dreams.
Hamilton’s background made buying for her own boutique feel like second nature. bijoubel’s main clothing line is Joan Voss, also sold in stores like Niemann-Marcus and Bloomingdales. Made from quality knit fabrics, the casual clothing combines comfort and style and is extremely popular with women in the 30+ age range.
Hamilton knows that shoppers love a bargain, so she offers Joan Voss closeouts at a fraction of the original department store prices. Since the designs are timeless instead of trendy, fashionistas can merrily lose their heads in the boutique. For instance, a dress that originally sold for $150 might be found at bijoubel for $30. Most clothing items range from $15 - $35. Shoppers can leave with lots of bags filled with upscale styles without spending a bundle.
“I have several good New Orleans customers who have spread the word in the city, so now a lot of people are making the drive over just to shop here,” says Hamilton. She smiles. “I’ve also had mothers tell me they can bring their daughters shopping here without worrying that they’ll spend too much.”
Hamilton stocks bijoubel with accessories too, like purses, scarves, shoes and jewelry, all reflecting the same sense of refined style and the same modest price tags. In the new dedicated bijoubel jewelry “store,” customers will find bold statement pieces and casual everyday pieces, like elegant pearl and leather designs.
According to Hamilton, four designer lines of jewelry are especially popular - Catherine Topesco, Marianna, Renaldo, and Earthgrace (which is made by a Mississippi artist).
The historic Century Hall location seems a perfect match for bijoubel. Enormous exposed beams invite customers to linger, while gallery lighting makes colors and textures come alive.
“I love Century Hall,” says Hamilton. “Years before I ever started my business, I’d come in here just for the atmosphere. I’ve always felt at home in this building and think customers connect with it too.”
That fits in neatly with Hamilton’s primary goal as a shop owner.
“I want people to feel relaxed when they’re in bijoubel,” she says. “And I want them to know they don’t have to spend a lot of money to have high quality things.”
Bijoubel’s Second Saturday specials will run all day today. Marianna jewelry will be 20 percent off and all $15 scarves will be $10. Joan Voss tank tops that are $15 will be on sale for $10. Refreshments will be served during the evening hours with local musician Cory Carr performing.
Stepping inside The Bonner Collection, visitors are surrounded by ship models and fish sculptures and vibrant paintings of wildlife. Every item in the shop seems to celebrate the rich quality of life along the Gulf Coast.
Located in the distinctive French Settlement building on Beach Boulevard, The Bonner Collection is just steps away from the new Bay St. Louis harbor. Tucked into the back of the shop is the studio of artist Jim Bonner, who’s created most of the remarkable original paintings and prints in the store.
Everyone in the New Orleans area is familiar with Bonner’s work, even if they’re not art collectors. The well-known graphic artist designed the iconic Barq’s root beer cans – along with many other popular logos and advertising campaigns during his stellar career.
Bonner spent decades in the demanding world of advertising, but it’s clear by glancing around the shop that he never lost his love of art. The paintings are the masterful works of someone who’s extremely competent, yet also completely in tune with his heart. For instance, while pelican paintings are more common than the bird s themselves, Bonner’s birds possess a majesty that sets them apart.
Originally from Meridian, Bonner seems to be one of those rare “born-artists.” He was only eleven when his older brother gave him a set of colored pencils, setting him on a lifelong path. The list of art and advertising awards Bonner has won could fill pages with fine print. While a small collection of his commercial “home-runs” are set up in his studio, it’s clear that Bonner is most enthused about his latest works.
Currently in high demand are Bonner’s exquisitely rendered watercolors of boats and wildlife. Sometimes the artist will use vintage boating charts as a painting surface instead of white paper. All his finished pieces make show-stopping classics that are sure stand-outs in any room.
Bonner also accepts commissions and enjoys painting anything from pet portraits to boats and airplanes for clients. His wife, Patsy, manages the retail part of the business. She’s worked in retail since the 1970s and the experience shows in the quality of the merchandise. While not an artist herself, Patsy was gifted with an eye for fine design and stocks the shop with coastal style jewelry and home décor that complement her husband’s art.
The couple opened their first shop together in Pass Christian more than 15 years ago. The Bonner Collection came to Bay St. Louis in 2003, moving into The Rink in uptown New Orleans in 2006. When the French Settlement Building was constructed on the Old Town beachfront two years ago, Patsy and Jim were lured back to the coast that inspires so much of the artist’s work. The new prominent location has boosted business, and the opening of the new harbor promises to keep the couple busier than ever. But business aside, it’s easy to see that the Bonners are glad to be living and working back on the gulf.
“Our home’s on the water in Pass Christian,” says Patsy. “We both have an enormous love for the coast and the beauty here.”
All day on Second Saturday, original paintings and prints by Jim Bonner will be 10 percent off. During the Artwalk, The Bonner Collection will be serving refreshments and featuring live music by Ray’s Island Sounds.
For complete Second Saturday information, go to www.BayStLouisOldTown.com.