Sharkheads Souvenir Shop Demolished In Biloxi

BILOXI (WLOX) -- It was never what you might consider a thing of beauty.

"It was a gas station and a restaurant, then we tore down a restaurant and they all connected together," owner J.J. Pierotich said. "And that was an office building, the part that's there."

Its pink color and signature shark mouth entrance made Sharkheads a tourist magnate.

"So many people visited me after the storm, I didn't realize what a following of local people. Anyone who had a relative come in, ended up going in our store."

Pierotich watched Thursday as the remnants of the business his parents established in 1973 come down.

"It took me a while to where I could come down here and not cry after the hurricane. But this is recovery, this is what getting past Katrina is."

The only part he's saving is the metal frame that supported the shark that swallowed so many souvenir seekers. And when future visitors pass through the jaws of his new shark, they'll step into the belly of a very different beast.

"There will be escalators in the throat of the shark bringing you up to the store. Then I'll have an elevator for handicapped people to get up. On the other side of the building, we're going to have a large lighthouse. We're going to have a restaurant on the top floor, which I've never really been involved in that, but I'm going to lease that out. It will be like a beach bar and grill sort of thing."

Building back on the beach will be expensive, but Pierotich says he's proud to be coming back.

"The only temptation I had was just to leave the coast and move to the mountains after having water up to my waist, and it took me a while to get over that. I mean, I grew up here and I love it here. I love Biloxi and I am Biloxi, so I'm really excited about being part of the new growth of this city."

Pierotich says the new building will cost between $7 million and $10 million and could be completed by early 2010. It will be 25 feet off the ground to comply with FEMA and insurance standards, and will have a parking garage underneath the store.