Tuesday morning, Hancock Bank became the first business to reopen on the beach in Bay St. Louis since Hurricane Katrina.
"It's beautiful, it's absolutely beautiful. The interior restoration is really befitting of the grand exterior of the bank," Old Town business owner John Brennan said.
The 107-year-old building has deep roots in the community and has stood up to many hurricanes over the years. Bank leaders insisted on bringing the building back. And its rich history shines through, from the marble floors to the vintage lighting.
"We wanted to make the branch look like the era that it was built, with some modern changes. Obviously, we do have air conditioning and computers. I feel like when you walk into our branch, you kind of feel like you're stepping back in time some what," Branch Manager Joshua Coyne said.
The bank's original vault is a survivor.
"That vault, during the storm, took in no water. It was an air tight vault. It's pretty magnificent when you think about it. It had water over it and it still works as fine as it did the day they put it in," Coyne said.
The bank has been part of the community since 1899 and members of the business community are glad to see it open again.
"The anchor's back. It's one more step in our path of progress and we're thrilled to have them back," Old Town shop owner Deborah Kennedy said.
"The bank is an integral part of Bay St. Louis anyway. Almost every merchant in Old Town banks with Hancock. But for it to be the first business to open on Beach Boulevard, that's huge. That's something to celebrate," Brennan said.
Hancock Bank will hold a ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration for the community on August 23, beginning at 5pm. There will be food, a jazz band and customer giveaways.
by Al Showers