Bay Ferry Service Helping Old Town Businesses

Riders on the western shore of Harrison County eagerly awaited a free ride on the Marissa Mae Nicole Thursday.

"We lost our boat in the storm," says Sondra Raybone of Long Beach. "So this will be our first outing on the water since the storm."

The unique nature of a ferry ride appeals to young and old alike.

"I think he's looking forward to it," says Andre Fillingame of Long Beach, about his son's first ferry ride. "He's interested in being able to have a truck on a boat."

But for others, it's all about the destination.

"Before, you know, there was no reason to be on that end of town because you couldn't get to the bridge and you couldn't get across this way," says Andrew Scafidi of Diamondhead. "At least now you have a reason for being on that end of town."

For Dianna Karliner of Long Beach, the reason is shopping.

"Do a little shopping at a bunch of the little stores," says Karliner. "We're just having a day out with the girls."

And that's music to the ears of many Bay St. Louis merchants who've been practically cut off from such casual shoppers since the Highway 90 bridge was taken out by Katrina.

"Any increase in business we can get back here, we're most appreciative," says Mary McLaurin owner of CJ's Grocery and Deli. "And the more people that can find out about us all over town, is going to be good for everybody."

McLaurin is among a handful of Old Town business owners who've been anxiously awaiting the return of customers.

"I hope even after the bridge comes in it stays," says McLaurin. "I think it will be great, not only for the citizens of both sides, Harrison and Hancock County, but for tourists."

The ferry operates from 6:30am to 6:30pm daily.