Pascagoula businesses battle back from recession

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX)- Linda Ash is facing some hard decisions for her store, Wild Azalea, in Pascagoula.

"I have considered closing," Ash said.  "It's a real challenge right now to make a living.  I don't want to close but I'm struggling right now."

She said merchandise isn't moving.  Pink tags offer big discounts on almost every item in the store.  She said its a disheartening last ditch effort to keep her hometown business afloat.

"I put my heart and soul into opening this business in Pascagoula instead of say Ocean Springs, where it might thrive a little better," Ash said.  "Because this is my hometown."

Pascagoula City Councilman Frank Corder (Ward 4) said she's not alone.  He said sales tax revenue has been down about $70,000 every month this year.

"If you talk to any business owner, if you talk to any person in the service or product industry here in Pascagoula, they're trying to make payroll," he said.  "They're trying to buy health insurance, they're trying to pay their taxes and change their product lines or market themselves properly."

Reports are circulating on-line and in national media suggesting Pascagoula's recession is moderating.  That may sound like good news, but business owners say there's something else dragging down Pascagoula's small businesses.  They said people just don't realize how many local businesses Pascagoula has to offer.

"No one knows about the restaurant that has oysters on the half shell, or Emmy Jack's that has that unique children's outfit, or that suit you can buy at Coast Clothing Company," Corder said.  "We're trying ot highlight those things.  And show folks that they can find what they want here in Pascagoula."

Ash agrees.

"I have people every day that don't even know I'm here and I"ve been here 3 years," Ash said.  "Its maybe just a mentality that people don't realize that if they don't shop locally, that there wont be anything locally."

Robyn Rivard, manager at Preservation Grill down the street from Wild Azalea, said business at the restaurant is steady.  Although her business is weathering the sour economy, she has noticed others not doing as well.  She said a better small business environment is possible, and lies in the hands of Pascagoula residents.

"There is a market here," she said.  "We really need to get out to our local people, is what we're all about.  We want our locals to come out, and Ocean Springs Gautier, to come and see us.  To come to our downtown."

Corder said even though times are tough, he believes a bright future is just around the corner for small Pascagoula businesses.

"I've said for a long time, Pascagoula is poised for progress," Corder said.  "And we are. But we cannot go forward, we cannot succeed we cannot thrive like we all want us to see without people's support.

Pascagoula invites the public to their first ever "Think Pascagoula First" business expo this Thursday and Friday, July 30th and 31st.  The event will be held at the Pascagoula School District's Applied Technology Center, and will go both days from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Organizers hope the event will allow the public to see firsthand all the local business community has to offer.

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