Merchants Bullish About Pass Business Future

Modular offices around War Memorial Park marked the start of a business rebirth in Pass Christian. Since Katrina, merchants have struggled to overcome damage from the storm while planning for an uncertain future.

And business owners are optimistic about where the city is headed.

A modular Pirate's Cove is still slammed over the noon hour.

"I've got two of 'em with mayonnaise and ketchup," shouted an order clerk, while the lunch crowd gathered on the porch of the mobile restaurant building.

But the line outside the lunch spot isn't the only sign that business in the Pass is upbeat.

Realtors like Ken Austin are finding there's a renewed interest in doing business here. Business recovery may take time, but it's on target.

"We're coming back. It's taking a little while. We have to rebuild our downtown. But the interest is there. We continue to stay focused on making it back, bringing it back better than it was prior to the storm," Austin explained.

"We were here the week following the storm. We pulled into town in an RV," said Hancock Bank branch manager, Monica Wittmann.

Much has changed in the nearly six months since. There's a determination among the business community.

"It'll be back. People are real interested. Actually, we have new people in town real interested in opening new businesses. They see potential here for the future. And I think our future is real strong," said Wittmann.

The owner of a convenience store downtown is certainly bullish on business in the Pass. That's why he's converting a former child care center on North Street into a brand new restaurant.

"This is Cafe Katrina. It was formerly the Pass Christian child development center," said Mike Holmes, giving a tour of the soon-to-open eatery.

A building that took 11 feet of water during the storm will be serving lunch specials, steaks and seafood within a week.

"We got a good location. We got a nice building. We got a lot of room and we've got a good chef," Holmes said.

He also has a shared spirit which says Pass Christian is a great place to do business.

The bank manager says fixing damaged infrastructure remains the biggest challenge. Streets must be repaired and the remaining debris removed before more merchants can reopen.