Long Beach Hoping K-Mart Will Come Back

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - What's good for Pass Christian may not be good for Long Beach. Long Beach leaders are saying that once the rebuilt Wal Mart opens next fall, sales tax dollars will head west. And that may make it even harder for the city to complete its rebuilding efforts.

There is one project that could calm nerves in Long Beach. K-Mart has submitted plans to rebuild its Highway 90 store. But so far, company executives have not picked up their building permits.

The blueprints for K-Mart's return to Highway 90 in Long Beach can be found in the city's planning office. "This would be nice," the mayor said as he looked at the designs. "I mean we need something like this back in our city." The urgency of turning the plans into action picked up steam when Wal Mart began rebuilding in neighboring Pass Christian. "Pass Christian has its challenges just like we do. And I mean, they need the help," said Skellie.

Long Beach realized it needed help after Katrina destroyed the K-Mart and the Sav-A-Center grocery that once sat on Highway 90. Without those stores, city sales tax revenues plumetted. So the mayor's team began to trim budgets, hoping that would help the city ride out a post Katrina wave of uncertainty. "We're just going to have to go through this and see what it takes to stay afloat," the mayor said.

Gus Harris isn't concerned about Wal Mart's competition. "We've got bumps in the road. But we'll get through them," the Long Beach merchant said.

Katrina destroyed his waterfront restaurant. So, he relocated the catfish hut to a building north of the railroad tracks. So far, it's survived the move. "My business is decent, it's good, it pays the bills and that's all I can ask for at this point," said Harris. He's confident his menu will keep hungry customers in Long Beach.

The mayor is confident that just like before the storm, Long Beach will do whatever is necessary to keep sales tax revenues flowing. Skellie realizes the Pass Wal Mart "pulls from a lot of our sales. But again that's just business, that's the way it is, and we're going to try to make up the difference. Hopefully, K-Mart will offset some of that."

Mayor Skellie has heard whispers that K-Mart representatives targeted December first as the day they'll pick up their building permits. But he hasn't heard that officially. And he hasn't been told a construction schedule for the K-Mart project.