Ocean Springs' merchants upset construction is blocking business

By Patrice Clark – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Taking a drive or stroll to shop in downtown Ocean Springs is difficult these days.

"They are laying bricks across the walk, planting trees," merchant Jeannie Stevenson said.

The work and a big road project on Washington Avenue and Robinson Street are part of the city's streetscape project.  But the downtown makeover is blocking business, and merchants say they're missing out on cash and customers.

"I have no business and this has been a horrible month," store owner Kathleen Brown said.

"We are almost in the hole here. It has been really bad," Stevenson said.

The streets are virtually empty except for construction workers and equipment. So even the people who follow the detour signs don't realize businesses are even open.

"I have had several days this month that I have had not one body here," Brown said.

Downtown merchants say if they can't get anyone come inside to buy, they'll bring all their merchandise outside and sell.

"We are trying to bring business in and people to know that we are really open, and we have not shut down downtown Ocean Springs," Brown said.

The few who can't bring their items out, decorated their windows and put up huge sales signs offering deep discounts.

"We have 50 percent off," Stevenson said.

One store owner is showcasing all her Saints stuff to score a sale. She said with the downturn in the economy and now this construction, every dollar counts.

"Hopefully, I will make everyone want to come back down here and go shopping," store owner Elizabeth Perkins said.

Merchants say they'll try to hang on until the streetscape work is done, but that won't be until next month.  The downtown clothesline sale will continue until Sunday.

Once the current project is complete, the city plans to improve the intersection of Washington Avenue and Government Street.

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