Popular Bay St. Louis cafe will stay open

Update 8:30 a.m. 10/31/2008: At a Thursday night going out of business party, the owners of the Mockingbird Cafe announced that the bank has reconstructed their loan allowing them to stay in business. The cafe will reopen Monday morning selling coffee only. The owners say they will gradually work back into serving lunch and dinner.

By Al Showers - bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Tough economic times, and the increasing cost of doing business in a post-Katrina world are being blamed for yet another small business closing in Old Town Bay St. Louis. The Mockingbird Cafe will serve its last cup of coffee Friday night.

"We're losing the heart of the community. It's a gathering place. It's an extension of people's homes and lives. It's the heart of the community and everyone's saddened," Bay resident Cathy Waugh said.

A hot cup of coffee on the Mockingbird's front porch is part of Cathy Waugh's daily routine.

"I'm heartbroken. I'm trying to decide what I'm going to do with my morning, the morning that they are closed. It became part of our lexicon, it became part of the new paradigm of living here, and I feel a tremendous loss," Waugh said.

She's not alone.

"I think I speak on behalf of the community when I say we all feel like we've just lost our best friend," said Tish Williams, Executive Director of the Hancock Chamber.

"It means a lot to us too, and we love being here for everyone," cafe owner Alice Chambers said.

Chambers and her husband Martin opened the Mockingbird Cafe' two years ago. They say a sluggish economy, coupled with the $28,000 yearly cost to insure their building made it impossible for them to keep the doors open.

"Our insurance costs are out of control. The economy, people aren't stepping out as much. We're just exhausted from fighting," Chambers said.

So far this year Bay St. Louis has lost at least ten small businesses. Chamber leaders say insurance rates, a rocky national economy, and a reduced customer base following Katrina are all just too much for most small business owners to handle.

"We always knew that the third year was going to be the toughest year for our businesses, and that's why it is more critical than ever before that we spend local," Williams said.

The Mockingbird Cafe will close Friday, October 31st, but Chambers did hint to WLOX News that Bay St. Louis may not have seen the last of the business.