Finding Pattie Ryan's Long Beach art gallery is easy. Getting shoppers through her front door has become more of a challenge.
Long Beach merchants like Ryan are in the middle of a year long fight for sales tax money with the new Pass Christian Wal Mart. "They go spend it in Pass Christian," she said, referring to the people who live in Long Beach. "It's just helping Pass Christian schools and the Pass Christian property tax. It isn't helping Long Beach."
So on Friday, merchants on Jeff Davis Avenue are hosting a shopping fest designed to get people shopping inside the city limits. Pokey Hans is one of the city's merchants. She said the goal of the festival is to make people in Long Beach "aware that you can buy something locally here at just a good a price as you can at Wal Mart."
The Pass Christian Wal Mart has taken a bite out of Long Beach's tax base. The last three years, city sales tax collections have been right at $1.6 million. But according to city records, sales tax collections this year will end up about $100,000 below what the city budgeted. So far, that hasn't been a large enough loss to worry the merchants.
Joan Robinson is the city's newest tenant. She said she's "concerned to a point. But there's really nothing I can do about it."
Robinson moved her boutique to Long Beach, fully aware that Wal Mart was one town to the west. "I do want my business to grow," she said. "So what I'll have to do is really try to get things that are so unique that there is no competition for what they have."
Pattie Ryan likes the way Robinson is thinking. Now, she has to convince Long Beach neighbors to do their part. "Try and keep your money in your hometown," she said.
As you might expect, the Wal Mart tax story is a lot more encouraging in Pass Christian. Aldermen budgeted $840,000 in sales tax revenue for the fiscal year that ends in September. Based on the first 10 months, sales tax collections will actually top the one million dollar mark. And that's never happened in Pass Christian before. Mayor Billy McDonald said the extra revenue should make it possible for Pass Christian to lower property taxes.