There's a unique store in downtown Gulfport that supports more than 100 Mississippi artists. It's called "Mississippi made, Mississippi proud."
The store sells everything from homemade pickles and fishing lures, to wooden bird houses and pine straw baskets.
"Mississippi made, Mississippi proud" is not your ordinary gift shop.
"That was our focus. What can we do that would be special? That would be just for this area. And that's how we came up with this," said owner Deonna Carroll.
The variety of merchandise there reflects the creative talents of local artisans.
"Kind of like a Mississippi general store. I've tried to get a really wide variety of products that are all made here in Mississippi by our local folks," Carroll explained.
Folks like Lori Pope.
"I am making a pine needle basket," said Pope, as she carefully guided her needle. "I gather my own pine needles. Right here in South Mississippi, we have the best long leaf pine trees."
She weaves the needles into baskets, using a Native American technique.
"You can get very artistic with the baskets. They move and meld anyway you need them to go. I enjoy the peace and quiet. I do this when I'm stressed out," she said.
While the basket weaver worked her magic, nearby, the "pie lady" was also busy.
"One of my best sellers is my pecan pie. This was the first thing I ever did in Mississippi. This is my "comeback pie." You eat one of these, you have to come back for another one," said Arlene Snyder.
"I just like to bake. When I was young, my dad was a baker. And when I was young I'd try to play hooky from school so I could stay home and bake cakes. I liked to bake," she recalled.
"Our ten ounce candle, which my husband made," said Kerri Romeo, as she showed off a candle, "This is more of a manly fragrance, it's 'Stonehenge,'" she said.
Romeo and her husband make candles and homemade soaps. What began as a hobby blossomed into their own line of products.
"I think it's a great store. I think it's a great environment. I think it sends out a great message that we're here bringing money into the local economy. And we are here to inspire others as well," said Romeo.
Sue Hawkins' watercolor paintings inspire. Her coastal theme works include a series of landmarks.
"And they bring back memories. People will look at them and say, 'I used to play in that house. Or my folks lived right down the street.' It just makes me feel good to know that I've made people happy with something I've done," said Hawkins.
Locals and tourists are discovering products born of Magnolia State creativity.
"They want something that says, "This is Mississippi,'" said Carroll.
"Mississippi made, Mississippi proud" is located on 17th Street in downtown Gulfport, behind the McDonald's and beneath the water tower. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00AM until 4:00PM.
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