Co-op grocery could be coming to Bay St. Louis

By Al Showers - bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis residents are still waiting for a major grocery store to return to the city post-Katrina. Attempts to attract a large chain store to the city, have been unsuccessful. However, WLOX News has learned there is a move underway now to bring a citizen-owned co-op supermarket to the Bay.

Right now CJ's, a mom and pop grocery store in the Bay's Depot District, is the only place to pick up groceries.

"I am the local grocery and meat market here and provide as many things as I can, but we need a supermarket in Bay St. Louis," said store owner Mary McLaurin.

McLaurin hopes to expand her business into the new co-op supermarket.

"I'd love to see an organic produce market come in, and fresh seafood, a baker. We need a bakery here desperately," McLaurin said.

"What we looked at is what can we do to get a grocery store here in Bay St. Louis? A co-op was an idea that was floated and the more we got into it, the more viable it was. It's owned by the citizenry of Bay St. Louis. Typically, you buy a share and you own a part of the program. There'll be some that could only afford a small amount of shares. There will be some that can afford many shares, thousands of shares," developer Chet LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc is heading up the push to bring the the co-op to town. He said each share would cost just one dollar.

"What we need is we need feedback into what we want in the store, how big the store should be and that kind of thing. That will dictate what kind of products we can sell."

LeBlanc said the best possible location for the co-op supermarket is the old Winn Dixie building. But other possible locations include the old Bay-Tech building in downtown, the storm damaged Goodwill facility, and the old Los Tres Amigos building on Highway 90.

A seven member committee, comprised of people experienced in running a grocery store, has formed.

"These kind of guys know how to get it done. We're not just pie in the sky, hoping somebody will get together, trying to decide how we can do a store. We've got, really, a team that just needs a field to play on."

McLaurin agrees.

"I just think we need to go for it as quickly as possible, not let anymore grass grow under our feet."

Meanwhile, the Claiborne Hill Supermarket slated to open in the old Save-A-Center building in Waveland later this year is still on track. The owners told WLOX News that designs for the renovation work are just about complete.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.