Sharkheads' steel a sign of Biloxi beach progress

BILOXI, MS (AP) - A convoy of trucks loaded with giant steel beams is the latest evidence of progress along the beach in Biloxi.

That commercial area has been among the slowest to rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But that's beginning to change.

You can credit the slow recovery of the national economy; plus tax incentives from local government. Those incentives are designed to attract investors to areas like the beachfront. And they seem to be working.

Truck loads of steel brought tears of joy to Ron Pierotich.

"When I first drove up and saw all the trucks with the metal, I'm still teared up. Cannot believe it.  I told my son J.J., this is kind of overwhelming for us," he said.

After five-plus years of planning and frustrations, the steel beams are a sure signal the family's beloved Sharkheads souvenir shop is a big step closer to rebuilding on the beach.

"Things are beginning to happen. And thank goodness for what the city and county have done to give these new tax incentives, where you'll get some years of free property tax, which will induce people to come invest on the beach," said Pierotich.

The new Sharkheads will be elevated some 19 feet.  And yes, the signature giant shark will be back; a 40 foot high focal point and photo opportunity.

"We'll have complete shaded parking beneath. And there will be an elevator at that end where the shark will be replaced, an elevator within the shark," Pierotich explained.

The rebuilding of Sharkheads isn't the only sign of progress on the beach in Biloxi. Just a bit farther to the west, the restaurant industry is coming back.

Hog Heaven is a barbecue and blues joint that opened just last week. It's at the northwest corner of Highway 90 and Veterans Avenue and includes the adjoining Family Fun Center.

Nearby, on the beach side of 90, a Pass Christian favorite is coming to Biloxi. Shaggy's, with its laid back attitude and gorgeous views of the water, is counting down the days.

Khara Whitman is general manager of the beach front restaurant.

"It's going to be amazing. We're opening a casual dining restaurant here on the beach, Biloxi beach. Glad to bring it back, creating jobs. Our estimated date to open is going to be at the end of June," she said.

The Pierotich Family has been in souvenir business in Biloxi for some 40 years. The new elevated Sharkheads should be open in time for next summer's tourist season.

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