Business Owner At Odds With Ocean Springs Over Sign

An Ocean Springs business owner says a battle over a sign is about to drive him into bankruptcy.

When Herschel Jones relocated his business from one part of Highway 90 to another, he thought customers would be able to spot him by recognizing the sign he moved from his old location. However, the city won't allow the sign to go up.

And with no sign to point the way to The Eagles Nest Rock Shop, Jones says customers pass him by.

"In December, we did over $5,000 dollars at the other location. We're not even making enough money right now to pay the rent on the building, much less utilities, salaries or nothing else. And it's strictly because people can't find us."

City officials say they're not against Herschel Jones having a sign. The problem is that the other business on the property has already taken the maximum square footage of signage allowed by law. They say this really isn't a conflict between a city and a business owner, but rather a landlord and a tenant.

Mayor Connie Moran said, "If you're going to be leasing some retail space, or any other space in the city, make sure that you ask the landlord about the signage. And make sure that in your lease it says exactly how much square footage you would be allowed. "

"We've been given no options at all except they told me I'll have to make this man take his sign down so we can put up a sign," said Jones. "Or he'll have to someway modify his sign to put our name on it, which he can't afford to do and doesn't want to do. He's hurting just like we are. He's a Katrina survivor."

Jones says he can't afford a new sign either. He and his wife are trying to pay for repairs to their Katrina damaged house. Now Jones has another problem.

"They gave me a citation," he said. "I don't have money to pay a citation. I don't have money to pay for our business. I have to have a sign. They shouldn't be treating an old couple like this.  We're struggling. We're hurting and the city is just stomping us under the water again. We don't understand."

Mayor Connie Moran says sign variances up to 25 percent can be granted in hardship cases. Herschel Jones has requested a variance. A hearing is scheduled at the end of the month.