Downtown Gulfport is bustling with restaurants and bars, but there is not a lot of retail businesses. That is about to change. The city is trying to turn what was once a busy train depot into a shopping destination.
Kevin Mitchell understands the value of preserving pieces of the past. He salvages wood and materials from demolished buildings and turns them into furniture and home decor. Mitchell decided to turn his hobby into a business called The Vintage Vault.
"In looking for a place of business, I really wanted this interior brick work. I wanted an old building that has 100-years-old, something with a very unique look," said Mitchell.
Mitchell found that unique place at the old train depot in downtown Gulfport.
"Oh, I absolutely love it! The interior brick walls. You can hear the train go by three or four times a day. It's a really neat building," said Mitchell.
The historic train station stopped operating in the early fifties.
Since then, it has served as a temporary site for a restaurant and a museum.
The city spent about half a million dollars bringing the entire building back to life.
"We gutted it. We repaired all the Katrina damage. We repaired the damage that happens when buildings deteriorate over time and restored it to its historical state. It's beautiful! We're really excited for what we have to show for it," said Lisa Bradley, Gulfport Business and Economic Development Coordinator.
The Tanya Tancredi Salon is the first business to open in the depot.
"It's so beautiful being down here. We just love the tall windows and all the natural light that comes in and you just have this historic feeling being down here. I love it," said Sherry Pucheu, one of the stylists at the salon.
Sean Smith Photography will move into the depot in May.
Back on the Rack, an upscale resale store will set up shop this Summer.
The restored depot could get downtown Gulfport back on track to being a retail hub.
"We're doing so well downtown with our night life and dining, and it's making a walkable place to be. But people want to know, what else they can do. What they can do now is shop," said Bradley.
"I really want to see a lot of shopping like it used to be back I guess in the fifties or sixties. My parents say a lot of people used to come here to shop, go to the movies and stuff. I'd like to see that happening. I'd like to be a part of it," said Mitchell.
"We'd love to see some dress shops. Some shoe stores, more destination shopping for the locals to give people more reason to walk around downtown and see all the businesses down here," said Pucheu. "There's a renaissance down here. It's coming back alive and it's a good feeling to be down here and be a part of that revival."
The City of Gulfport will celebrate the grand reopening of the train depot on Thursday, March 7, from 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
The building is located on 27th Avenue in Gulfport.
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