Hancock County still in need of grocery store - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hancock County still in need of grocery store

By Al Showers – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The old storm damaged Pump and Save gas station located in the front of the Market Town Shopping Center in Bay St. Louis is being demolished.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said, "I see it as a very positive step in the process of revitalizing that shopping center."

Once the debris is gone, another problem will become more visible. The vacant Winn Dixie store is a reminder that the area lacks a major grocery store.

"We don't have any other anchor retail store in Bay St. Louis right now, and we know from our own perspective that Bay St. Louis is probably the best retail opportunity that exists on the Mississippi Gulf Coast right now," said Mayor Fillingame.

The old Save-A-Center in Waveland still sits empty. The owners of the Claiborne Hills SuperMarket in Picayune purchased the building more than a year ago and had plans to renovate it.

Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo said, "Met with him two weeks ago. With the downturn in the economy, he's had to go out and go back to the banks and redo his financing. Plus, the remodeling on his Picayune store ran a lot longer than they anticipated. All of that is starting to come together right now, and in the near future, he anticipates being able to get started on this store.

Other Leaders in the Bay aren't banking on that. They've created a consortium in hopes of attracting a grocery store giant to town.

"What are the job tax credits out there available to them, sales tax exemptions on equipment, financing programs," Community Development Director Buz Olsen asked. "What we're going to do, we're going to network all of these people when we walk out of the room. They say I want to do Business in Bay St. Louis."

Waveland's new economic development team has similar goals. The Mayors say they constantly hear from prospects that the post Katrina population just can't support a major grocery store.

The leaders say that may have been an issue two or three years ago, but today that's just not the case. And they invite investors to revisit the area.

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