OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Jan Rideout is determined to make sure Downtown Ocean Springs remains one of the most popular shopping destinations in South Mississippi.
"I have a lot of local customers who have told me that they are starting to avoid shopping and eating in Ocean Springs, because of the flag going up," said Rideout who owns JLaurie shoe boutique.
The state flag has been a key issue amongst citizens since Mayor Shea Dobson decided to start flying the state flag over municipal buildings. Before the decision, it had not been flown at city hall for almost a decade.
Protests and outrage have followed that action. Rideout says the flag controversy has been affecting retail sales.
Mayor Dobson says that's not the case, sales tax and food and beverage tax were both up in the second half of last year.
Alderman Robert Blackman said food and beverage tax was up more than $44,000 and retail sales tax was up $13,350 compared to the last half of 2016.
"I think if you looked at just November and December, I think it was a little slower and these things take time," said Rideout.
Now, Rideout is hosting a meeting for merchants and citizens.
"It's just a way to get people to stop by and show their support if they want the flag removed, they can sign a petition. I'll have a petition for both merchants and for citizens," said Rideout.
Rideout has already met with several other business owners who are in full support of her idea to rally business owners who want the flag taken down.
"It's a long haul. We're not expecting instant results. We would like some victories, but it's a long haul and we will continue to pursue what we think is right," said Rideout.
That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 p-m. It's going to be at Lola Fleur on Bellande Avenue, and it is open to the public.