Long Beach Merchants Say The New Vision Is Working

An old bank on Jeff Davis Avenue attracted Shawn and Lynne Montella. "The building, it talks to you," Shawn Montella said. "It's a beautiful place."

What the downtown Long Beach building said to the Montellas was -- buy me. Montella said his wife "decided we had to have the building. Saw the potential and said there was something here that she needed to have."

Last October, the Montellas turned the old bank into a full service salon. Now they're putting the finishing touches downstairs on a new coffee house. "Why set up in downtown Long Beach?" Lynne Montella said, "Because it's time. Long Beach hasn't had anything of spectacular through here."

The Montellas are part of a growing group of investors bringing their ideas and their businesses to downtown Long Beach. Right next door to the salon is a new Lil' Rays restaurant. Down the street, a new bank is about to be built. And at the Long Beach harbor, two restaurants have brought vacant buildings back to life.

Steve Pucheu runs the newest restaurant, Steve's Marina. "I think we'll do a good job here. Serve a good meal, good product, good price," he said. "I hope people just keep coming back."

Pucheu is just like the Montellas. He's from Long Beach. And he's investing thousands of dollars in his building, and his hometown's economy. He likes Long Beach because "it's not in all the congestion of the hustle and bustle of downtown Biloxi or all the casinos all. It's just peaceful. It's nice. I hope it stays this way."

Pucheu will have his dining room tables in place and his staff of 25 hired by early May. That's when he'll officially join the Montellas as downtown Long Beach merchants.

On Thursday April 26th, Long Beach's Vision 20/20 group will hold a town hall meeting. Members will discuss the progress they've made in and around the downtown area. The meeting starts next Thursday at six at the Espy Avenue civic center.