Ernest Ulrich can always count on a full house for lunch in his small downtown Gulfport cafe. With Bancorp South opening just blocks away, Ulrich expects more hungry customers to walk through the door.
"We're very optimistic. Business as a whole has been tremendous, and as the buildings come back on line, I see it just continually growing," Ulrich says.
Like it did to much of downtown, the storm gutted the bank's Coast headquarters. Ten months later, a big crowd came to see the new look and hear Bancorp's CEO describe what he calls a symbol of rebirth.
"There is a special sense of place and a special sense of belonging in the state of Mississippi and this Gulf Coast epitomizes the best of that to take what has been the worst disaster in the history of the nation and turn it into the opportunity for the things of today and more importantly of tomorrow," says CEO Aubrey Patterson.
Mayor Brent Warr had the honors of breaking a bottle of champagne against one of the bank's concrete pillars. Inside, Alise Beck was the first customer.
"I think it's great. It's a lot closer than the others."
Mingling inside the lobby other customers say the bank is as much a part of the Coast as they are.
Daynell Schruff of Pass Christian says, "I worked for 35 years in Gulfport, Mississippi. I've lived all of my live in Pass Christian, Mississippi and it's hard to pull away from this area."