Gulfport's sales tax coffers are about to get a boost. Next week, a clothing shop, a restaurant and a liquor store all open near the Cowan Road, Pass Road intersection.
When the state widened Cowan Road, developers started buying up vacant land on either side of the road. What they're building is creating a new business district for Gulfport.
And Joe Tuggle is getting in on the ground floor of the apparent development explosion. Tuggle remembers walking around in a daze after Katrina, because the storm wiped out his River's Bend Marina.
"We needed something to do," the businessman said. "So we decided to open up a restaurant."
The chef he brought on board is a family member. Lucas Malone believes the new family enterprise won't be just any restaurant.
"What we're doing in the kitchen will offer something to the coast that hasn't been done, maybe in a while," the chef said.
Malone knows those are lofty expectations, even for a restaurant with a lofty perch next to Bayou Bernard. Tug's Wharf sits 14 feet above the ground, and 23 feet above the mean high tide.
"I told the engineer and everybody else I wanted a building that could withstand another Katrina," Tuggle said.
The new restaurant is part of a growing commercial district near Cowan Road and Pass Road. A collection of new retail shops have invigorated properties that were dormant before the hurricane.
Mike Odom runs Bin 605, a new liquor store in the Enterprise shopping complex.
"It's giving opportunity for some new stores to open up and to give some good products for the local consumers," Odom said.
The new additions on Cowan Road include the liquor store, a clothing shop, a furniture store, a pharmacy, and a bank. And there's talk that condos could someday appear on the waterfront next to Tug's Wharf. Tuggle looks forward to that.
"The commercial development that's going along Cowan, it will be nothing but a help to me," he said.
Tuggle's family will open Tug's Wharf next week.
According to MDOT's web site, more than 30,000 cars a day roll past the area between Cowan Road and Pass Road, and Cowan Road and Magnolia Street. The cluster of properties in that location are where so much of the Cowan Road development is currently taking place.
By Brad Kessie