Expanding business in shaky economy

By Krystal Allan - bio | email


"I'm taking on a big risk doing this."

Bob Taylor, owner of High Cotton Grill in Gulfport, is gambling on a new catering/banquet hall in the Hardy Court Shopping Plaza.  It's an extension of his restaurant, High Cotton Grill.

Taylor will have to book no less than 20 jobs a month just to break even.  Like most coast restaurants, Taylor says business is down and in his case by double digits. However, he says when he sees an opportunity to grow, he sometimes has to jump in.

"The economic climate is not conducive to expansion at this point, but there is still a need to fill certain niches.  There's a lot of business out there for catering," says Taylor.

Taylor says he plans to take more business risks yet again next year.  He plans to open The Old Gulf Coast Oyster House next April at the corner of 13th street and Highway 49, across from Whitney Bank.

"There's folks that sell oysters and do a great job of it, but there's none that really specialize in oysters," says Taylor.

He says daytime foot traffic is a major draw downtown, but there are also major drawbacks.

"The problem is once 5 o'clock hits, downtown turns into a ghost town," says Taylor.

But, Taylor says if other businesses would come to the area, downtown Gulfport could become a destination spot after dark.

"Long term it's a great decision.  The problem is right now is who's going to get in there first and take the chance," says Taylor.

Though hopeful the risks will eventually prove rewarding, Taylor is keeping things in perspective, at times, taking a more light-hearted approach.

"You know we may be doing an interview next year about how stupid people opened up businesses during a trying economy and failed."