The last seven springs, a group of Chicagoans has checked into Gulf Hills for a golf vacation. One member of the group said he's seen the Jackson County resort transform itself from a dirty, $19 a day dump, to a very comfortable place to stay. Bill Pickham sat in his room and said, "It's like going from nuts to apples. Nuts here before. Now it's apples and fruit."
Donna Brown manages the resort. She had their own description of Gulf Hills' rebirth. "I want them to think that the lady is back," she said.
And that's due in large part to Cortland Dusseau. He leased the resort property two years ago, and he made it his mission to bring it back to its past glory. Back to the days when Elvis was a guest, and when people called Gulf Hills "the Dude Ranch."
As Dusseau looked at the pool area, he said, "I see a place that people are going to enjoy to come and spend their afternoons and enjoy the ambiance of not being at a regular hotel."
Gulf Hills executives believe the resort can be a catalyst to get more people to rediscover Ocean Springs. That's exactly the role Margaret Miller and the Ocean Springs chamber want Gulf Hills to play.
"If they spend a little money eating," Miller said, "spend a little money shopping, visit the museum, Shearwater Pottery, our economy will thrive as a result of this."
Dusseau said that's the plan.
"When our sales people make calls, that's the thing they bring up," he said. "It's not just the hotel. It's the whole area. We're selling Ocean Springs as an area."
An area with manicured store fronts, plenty of restaurants, and a remodeled 52 room resort.
Right now, Gulf Hills only serves a continental breakfast. So guests have to leave the property to eat lunch and dinner. Next week, the resort will begin work on a full service dining room.