A lot has changed in the six months since Swifty Serve swiftly closed its convenience stores. Take gas prices. A sign at one of the boarded up stores says that when it closed, gas was $1.37. At a newly reopened convenience store, it was $1.59.
Customers said price didn't matter. They were just glad convenience had been restored.
Sharon Micele was all smiles when she paid for her four pack of pudding. "Boy it's a convenience," Micele told the store clerk. "I realized that after they closed down."
The Highway 90 store and nearly two dozen others closed six months ago, when Swifty Serve filed for bankruptcy. Now Norman Barrentine's company is bringing some of the stores back to life. "We have 21 stores throughout the state already," Barrentine said. "Needed a few more on the coast."
On opening day, Barrentine still had to put prices on much of his stock. And he still had employees to hire. But before sunrise, he threw open his front doors and welcomed customers to Southern Oil Company's newest Gulfport location. The Collins based group will open a total of eight bankrupt convenience stores. Two are in Gulfport, one is in Biloxi, one is in Ocean Springs, one is in Pascagoula, and three are in Gautier.
Long Beach native Paul Tran bought the old EZ Serve on Beatline Road, and renamed it Super K. He said it sure looks a lot better than it did a few weeks ago, when he basically pulled it out of mothballs. "It was horrible," said Tran. "I mean the freezer was full of old milk. They had been closed for like six months. And it took us like three weeks to clean up. But we got it running."
Tran said his first week-and-a-half of business has been great. "People here, they really appreciate this location," he said, "because they live around here and work around here. So a lot of people come in and and say thank you for opening up. So I'm grateful."
Before bankruptcy, Swifty Serve had 32 Mississippi stores. About 20 of them were in South Mississippi.