BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The COVID-19 pandemic is emerging as the newest threat to small businesses across the country. Even in South Mississippi, some small family-owned companies have thrown in the towel. Despite that, some coast businesses are staring at the pandemic in the face while they open their doors for the first time.
Open for nearly a month before the pandemic tightened its grip on the coast, Greenhouse Biloxi is back.
“We were starting to build a pretty good community and then we had to close due to COVID,” said Jessie Zenor, co-owner of Greenhouse Biloxi. “It was really scary and we didn’t know if we were gonna be able to open back up. Coming back has been slow. Our customers have been wonderful. I think people haven’t been to come out of their houses, or go to restaurants, are working from home, and not eating out as much. We’ve really seen a difference.”
One Coast storefront that was open mere days before the shutdown swept the Gulf Coast is back to business anew. Marley’s Music in downtown Biloxi was open for three days before being forced to shutter. Now that owner Marley Roberts is back to work, he attributes his early success during the pandemic to one thing.
“It’s clean; a lot of people have commented that. Well right now we’ve been getting a lot of new stuff in so less so, but a lot of people, when they come in, they comment that this one of the cleaner record stores we’ve been to,” Roberts said.
Marley’s Music is a one-stop-shop for music lovers looking for records, cassettes, CDs and 8-track tapes. Now that doors are open again, Roberts is excited to see what the future holds.
“It’s been surprisingly steady. I have regulars that come in and some that come in multiple times a week to get the music that they want to hear. We try to provide that to people. We do special orders. People have been finding that out and know to come to us if there’s something specific that they’re looking for,” Roberts said.
Also new to Biloxi’s entertainment district is Last Minute Sweets. Their grand opening was just Thursday afternoon. Opening a new business during COVID-19 has been eye-opening.
“Most businesses right now are taking the time to reconstruct and do that. We are just a brand new thing that we can just throw it up and we’re good.” said Last Minute Sweets co-owner Nikole Hatfield.
“The only thing that we’ve struggled with is making sure that we follow the guidelines for COVID. That’s the biggest struggle but really isn’t a struggle. We just stay protected and keep others protected,” said Tiffany Reid, co-owner of Last Minute Sweets.
Even though they operate mainly out of their store selling bagels, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, they also provide take-out and online pick-up. The ladies hope to offer a delivery service once the business has been off the ground for a while.
Windi Stanton, CEO of Ladidaa Boutique opened her store a year ago. She and Sherell Stafford just celebrated the ribbon cutting of the new Ladidaa Home Store right next door to the boutique.
“Yeah it’s pretty scary trying to reopen and open a new business all at the same time in the middle of a crisis where nobody’s gonna be able to come in and go shopping,” Stanton said.
Stanton said that having a presence in historic downtown Biloxi was an important factor in opening her business.
“My husband and I had been looking for a business to open. We wanted to be on historic Howard Avenue and part of the revitalization that’s going on down here,” Stanton told WLOX. “We’re military transplants but we love this city and are retiring here. We’re just excited to be here. We’re thrilled.”
Customers, Stanton said, make it all worthwhile.
“We love seeing new faces come in and new people find us and us be able to share the beautiful inventory that we have,” she said.