Small Business Owners Avoid Economic Downturn

The latest national figures show the U-S economy is still struggling, performing at its weakest level in eight years. The nationwide numbers say the economy grew just two-tenths of a percent in the first quarter. But small business owners on the coast are likely to tell a more positive story.

Although profits may not be as high as when casinos first came to town, coast merchants are doing much better than some other parts of the country. The owner of Edgewater Cleaners has no complaints about business. David Blaine understands the nature of his business makes it somewhat recession proof.

"We deal with people who have to have their clothes clean," Blaine said. "So, obviously for me, that's good job security."

Blaine opened a new, larger store on Pass Road three years ago. He's enjoyed an increase in business every year since.

"I think on the coast here we were spoiled, because we went through an economic boom and things were so great, even though it has slowed down some, we're still better off than the rest of the state and certainly other parts of the nation, so I feel very fortunate here on the coast," Blaine said.

Ed Scott's economic downturn came last year. That's when Realtors and appraisers turned to digital cameras, no longer needing his photo service. Still, this year has been much better than expected even though he can't explain it.

"I'm pleased with this year," Scott said. "It's coming back, and I can't explain it. And, it's fine with me though."

Small business owners we talked with credit the casinos and the military for helping insulate the local economy. The national numbers may be reason for some to worry, but business owners on the coast tell a different story.

"People are always going to want something to eat."

And Mary Ratliff says growing numbers of locals and tourists have discovered her menu at The Bayview Gourmet. Weekdays, the place is packed by the noon hour. Weekends, it's even busier.

"I can walk through this restaurant and we have seating for 100, I don't know a face in here, so we're seeing a lot on the weekends of the tourists in the area," Ratliff said.

She credits casinos and the Ocean Springs Chamber for helping steer visitors downtown.