American Made in Mississippi: The Screaming Porch Gift Company

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Among the local shops in downtown Bay St. Louis, is a business called The Screaming Porch Gift Company. This small store with the unusual name is part gift shop and part business incubator. Many of the products featured are handmade here in Mississippi.

And that's why we chose this business for our weekly feature:  American Made in Mississippi.

"I think we're a gift shop, but I really feel we're more of an incubator for ideas and creativity," said shop owner, Kelsey Bigelow.

You won't find any tacky tourist souvenirs inside The Screaming Porch.

"I want people to come in and have their creativity sparked. I want them to feel more creative, and that happens in here. People come in and the ideas start flowing," the owner explained.

The shop is both inviting and eclectic.  Its signature product is the Mississippi Pickle Fork.

"It's fun. It's funny. It's very Mississippi. We brand all our products with a Mississippi theme. And we keep it all mostly handmade and handcrafted," said Bigelow.

"I grew up in a barbecue restaurant in South Carolina. And my granddaddy used to have a bent fork like this he would give to my grandmother's friends from church," she recalled, "And he would say, I have a special fork for you."

The pickle fork isn't the only re-purposed silverware.  How about designer plant markers?

"She makes plant markers with repurposed silver. So, you can see what a lovely gift that makes if you put that into a little rosemary plant," said Bigelow, as she gave visitors a tour of the shop.

Then there's bottle cap rings, or rings fashioned from wine bottle corks.  Or the popular king cake baby rings, on sale now that Mardi Gras is over.

"This is paper that was laminated and then hand sewn into the pattern of a little clutch purse, or a wallet, or a tote bag. And this idea was created by a lady in Ocean Springs," said the owner, as she pulled unique products from the shelves.

A family-owned company in McComb, Mississippi provides the soap and bath products.

"They handcraft their soaps using all natural shea butter and cocoa butter. No icky materials in anything we make. And we worked six months with them to create a line of products just for us," she said.

"We try to find artists in the area and the region that do something really well.And we have them create a special version or we work to create a special version just for us," says Bigelow.

The owner's daughters contribute their creativity. Lizzie and Lula decorate gift bags and sell handmade braids.

The business plan is simple.

"What we wanted to do was create gifts that are specific to areas. And that do involve an element of handcraft, so you can take a piece of the local culture home with you," said Bigelow.

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