Aquarium opening generates hope for downtown Gulfport businesses

Mileah Lyon, right, co-owner of Perks Coffee Shop Cafe, says she hopes the Mississippi Aquarium...
Mileah Lyon, right, co-owner of Perks Coffee Shop Cafe, says she hopes the Mississippi Aquarium opening will help recover from the effects of COVID-19 and provide a solid base for its own economic growth.(wlox)
Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 5:11 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Now that the Mississippi Aquarium is polishing up for its grand opening on Aug. 29, businesses like Perks Coffee Shop Cafe are making some noise of their own.

“We’re fairly new to the area as owners of the coffee shop,” said co-owner Mileah Lyon. “And from the beginning, we planned on the aquarium opening being a big part of our future.”

The aquarium opening, which was once something to pin financial hopes on down the road, now may be the immediate resuscitation needed to revive businesses suffering from COVID-19.

“We’re excited,” Lyon said. “We think that are all learning how to cope with COVID, and we believe the aquarium’s going to follow the guidelines and be responsible, and it’s going to help us get back on our feet slowly as we need to.”

It’s also regenerated some exciting marketing tools for the cafe.

“We do like to be creative with our drinks, and so we’ve come up with a few surprises that are aquarium-themed,” Lyon said. “My son has created one that we labeled Shark Attack. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s flavorful. We’ll be doing more now that we have an opening date.”

For Chase Moses of Moses’ Menswear, the impact will be more indirect but welcomed all the same.

“We have not been really big into the tourist business, but, with the businesses that will grow and be attracted to downtown because of the aquarium and the people that work downtown, that could be good for me and have a bigger customer base for me,” he said. “Any time you put something that size in downtown that will attract people, it’s going to help the other businesses.”

The Mississippi Aquarium is set to open August 29, 2020. Mississippi Aquarium CEO and President Kurt Allen joins us to talk about the final preparations.

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