» POST-COVID ECONOMIC BOOST IS BEING FELT ACROSS THE MAGNOLIA STATE
Nancy Isaacson discovered the Southern Bagel Company in Long Beach on a 12-mile bike ride from her home in Waveland. The retired teacher joined customers buying bagels to go at the small Mississippi Gulf Coast business.
“This will be my regular stopping place – it’s a great place to have a bagel,’’ the Quincy, Massachusetts native said on a busy Mother’s Day. A Team Good Beer bike club member, Nancy promises to pedal back next weekend after her initial visit that Sunday morning.
Nearby, a steady stream of bagel fans lined up for this delicious breakfast treat in Harrison County. It is a positive sign for small businesses in Mississippi as America turns the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic. About 58 percent of American adults received at least one COVID vaccine, and reports show coronavirus cases dropped to a seven-month low nationwide.
With the USA opening back up amid an easing of health protocols in recent weeks, that’s good news for Southern Bagel Company co-owners Anne Marie Guille and her husband, David. They are thrilled to see the sales uptick at their home-grown business in the Friendly City.
An Army veteran and full-time Mom, Anne Marie feels blessed after the tough times in April 2020 when their bagel business closed for a month. The shutdown happened because of the scarcity of food supplies. Cream cheese, flour, sugar and yeast were nearly impossible to find. That nightmare is now in the rear-view mirror. This spring, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Long Beach couple notices more customers meeting friends for breakfast at their outdoor dining tables. The owners serve folks in growing lines at the front window asking for bagel specials.
“Now that the pandemic is lessening, we hope that we can let people back into our bakery. We have seen business improve with some of the best months in 2021, since we opened in 2019,’’ says Anne Marie Guille. “We are looking forward to the summer and an increase of visitors to the Gulf Coast.’’
Whether they wear masks or not, customers agree there are reasons to support this local business.
“The bagels are excellent and the service is incredible,’’ said Gulfport resident Heather LeBlanc while awaiting her go-to breakfast item – the Long Beach bagel is her favorite.
Whether customers ask for Jalapeno Cheddar bagels, or varieties like cinnamon raisin or pecan, South Mississippi people and folks from other states keep coming. “This place is becoming a habit,’’ says Pass Christian resident Amanda Reading.
Just a couple of miles away on Jeff Davis Avenue, the Harbor View Café welcomed a heavy influx of Mother’s Day customers. Off of U.S. 90 in Gulfport, slot machines were steadily ringing at the Island View Casino. A Bronco Badlands giveaway, a diverse mix of card games and free cash deals for new members were other draws near the region’s beaches.
A three-hour drive from the Gulf Coast, Houston Cottrell, owner of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Madison County, is delighted his martial arts business is bouncing back, too.
It’s quite a comeback story. On March 4,2020 straight line winds devastated his building. “While trying to rebuild, the state was shut down due to COVID-19,’’ Cottrell said. Working to rebuild the structure, classes happened for Jiu-Jitsu patrons via Zoom. Struggles persisted, but the Mississippi business lived on.
“We took a tremendous economic hit,’’ Cottrell said. At the same time, many clients “continued to believe in us and support us by sustaining their memberships. This speaks to the community in which we live.’’
His small business gets an economic boost from people across metro Jackson. “Small businesses rely on the community to survive,’’ Houston Cottrell said. “This was the reason we chose Madison to establish our business. It is a wonderful place to live and work!.’’
A 2018 Liberty University graduate, the 22-year-old Mississippian sees student enrollment growing again as the health emergency begins to wind down. The Madison resident says his business served about 200 students before the pandemic shutdown and those numbers plunged more than 50 percent. “Today, we are down about 25 percent. We are very thankful for the ability to be open and offer classes to students wanting in-person activities.’’