Pascagoula businesses want to expand, but can't afford high rent

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula is basking in the success of its small business incubator, while trying to figure out how to help owners ready to take the next step.

Shoppers at Pascagoula's Anchor Square say they love the variety of styles.

"Because you have different varieties of stores that cater to all sizes so it's very convenient," said Savannah Bourgeois of Ocean Springs. "They have amazing jewelry. I just can't get enough."

Ashley Verrett is one 15 businesses owners who have set up shop. Most are first time entrepreneurs like herself. She said sales are good. But with more floor space, they could be even better.

"We've definitely outgrown this space," said Verrett. "I still fell like everybody comes to Anchor Square for a variety, so I like that about down here."

The ideal for many owners is to stay in the downtown area, but in a larger space. A recent economic impact study shows that's a difficult move.

Jen Dearman is the Community and Economic Development Director.

"We found out that, financially speaking, a lot of them are strong and probably could grow out and move out of Anchor Square," Dearman said. "However, the business or property that they could move into downtown and elsewhere is just limited on affordability. A lot of places are still double or triple the monthly rents that they have at Anchor Square. So even it they're doing really well, it's hard for a business owner to put that kind of drastic on top of their overhead costs."

Verrett agrees.

"It's so expensive everywhere you go. We've looked downtown, but you have parking being a problem. Plus, the prices to be able to move and then keeping your overhead down."

Pascagoula officials are reaching out to property owners and trying to facilitate relocations for owners who want to grow out of Anchor Square.

"We hope to take that and talk to different property owners," Dearman said. "Maybe a couple of years ago, we didn't have a demand to fill these places and market value is at that level. We really need to reevaluate that. Maybe consider lessening some rents or putting in some tiered rents with these properties to get them full."

City officials said getting downtown full of thriving shops and restaurants is the goal. Pascagoula officials say they plan to do a second economic impact study next year for Anchor Square to compare the growth.

Anchor Square's retail space is currently full and city officials said there is a waiting list of businesses interested in opening there.

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