GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After Hurricane Katrina rocked the Coast in 2005, most residents' focus was not on whether or not their favorite retail store would reopen again soon. Simon Property Group made it its mission to help the Coast by getting Gulfport Premium Outlets up and running again as soon as possible.
"Our company made a real commitment to come back after Katrina. You know, we were one of the first retailers to open up after the storm. It wasn't just a commitment to come back, but a commitment to come back better," said Rhonda Roberts.
According to Roberts, who is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for the outlet center, just this past year, the mall has added three of the most popular labels out there to its directory.
"We're very excited about our new stores, Michael Kors, Oakley, J.Crew. We have some great brands here and we are excited to bring them in," said Roberts.
According to the Mississippi Department of Revenue, sales tax in Gulfport was the highest in 2006, the year following the storm. Sales tax revenue was most likely up, because consumers had to big ticket items. Numbers decreased slightly each year after until 2013. Sales tax revenue was $19.2 million. That's the most it has been since 2010.
"We've been traveling down from Hattiesburg to shop here at the outlet mall getting great deals ever since it came back," said shopper Dereck Murphy.
Shoppers like Murphy say they remember the outlet mall in Gulfport being one of the first major retailers to reopen after the storm, and all of the new stores keep him coming back.
"It shows the growth of the area. They just had to put in higher grade stores for a higher grade clientele, in my opinion," said Murphy.
Donna Lepine and Audrey Richardson live in Metairie, LA. They don't mind making the hour drive to Gulfport, because they like the stores.
"We think there are a good variety of stores, and we like to look for end of season sales and things as well. It's a good stop for us on our way back," said Lepine.
It's customers like these, all from out of town, who help make one Coast city's recovery from the storm a little bit easier, one purchase at a time.