BILOXI (WLOX) -- Music played as the line of customers snaked around the newly restored Dillard's building Wednesday morning. Perfect weather and anxious shoppers welcomed the store's return.
"This is a huge, huge milestone in the recovery for the City of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway.
Shoppers watched the ribbon get snipped, then stampeded through the grand opening doors.
"Hi, welcome back. We have a free gift of Estee Lauder," said one of the greeters, as she handed out samples and coupons.
Dillard's long awaited return is a critical part of Edgewater's long term success.
"I think Edgewater is going to climb and grow and get bigger and bigger. I just think the community is," said Dillard's General Manager Julie Fox.
Mall merchants are as excited as the customers to see Dillard's reopen. The owner of "Treasures" hopes the grand opening buzz is a sign of better days ahead.
Mohan Naik says he saw the benefit from Dillard's soft opening over the weekend and he's bullish about the future.
"I think it's good. Because the coast is building. The coast is building what I see on 90 and everything. It should be better," he says.
One benefit Edgewater has over the competition is longevity. It's been a retail landmark for decades and has attracted a loyal customer base.
Beth Maldonado is a longtime Edgewater shopper from Pass Christian.
"This is where we come. I know there's an outlet and everything else, but Edgewater Mall has been here from the beginning and we want it to stay," she said.
"Edgewater Mall has really become upscale since they got the casinos here. And they've got new venues in here too. Really great," said Ocean Springs shopper Shawn Black.
The mall manager says the shopping center is just over 80 percent occupied. He welcomes Dillard's return and says the mall's long term success depends greatly on the right mix of retailers.
"It's important that you stay up and keep the new, fresh stores and things of that sort for your customers. And you know, that is a big challenge," said Manager Terry Powell.