With Bridge Down, Business Also Drops - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

With Bridge Down, Business Also Drops

A calm emptiness now fills the west side of Ocean Springs, replacing the usual noisy rush of cars.

"It's eerie. Different," said Michele Hale, an employee at Courtney Farms. "It's just kind of barren out there. You used to never be able to see the other side of the street because of the traffic flow."

Less traffic on Highway 90, means fewer customers for Courtney Farms. Business hasn't been the same since Katrina battered the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge. The store stopped selling fruits and vegetables and switched to mainly plants, garden and lawn products.

"With the decrease in traffic, the produce and some of the items we used to sell were perishable," said Hale. "There was a lot of waste. The decision was made to kind of move in a different direction."

"Dramatically. It's dramatically impacted us," said Sonic General Manager Michelle Nall.

The Sonic has also seen a dramatic drop in sales since the bridge has been out. The restaurant used to make $23,000 a week. Now, it makes almost half that amount.

"Our sales have decreased and our labor force has gone down," said Nall. "We can't keep the people because we can't afford them anymore with the sales, so it's affected everything."

The most visible sign of the bridge's impact is right at the base of the bridge. The Mini Mart convenience store has been boarded up and closed since the storm. City officials say the owner's business license has expired, and so far, he hasn't renewed it.

For now, the businesses near the foot of the bridge are just hanging on, hoping to see more customers return.

"I think it's with everybody here in Ocean Springs and Biloxi. Get the bridge up and running as soon as possible," said Hale.

"We really need a bridge," Michelle Nall said. "We need to get back to our normal business operations. We need to get back to our normal lives."

Even though sales have dropped for many stores and restaurants by the bridge, several new businesses have opened up in the area, including a medical office, a spa, and a palm tree vendor.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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