GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As businesses get ready for the daily crowd in downtown Gulfport, there will now be an additional market for which to prepare: Seabees from the Naval Construction Battalion Center.
“I know they’re probably happy to get out, you know,” said Regan Dixon, manager of Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. “We’ve been enjoying it, and they haven’t been able to. So, it will be good for us and them, I think.”
For most of the summer, servicemembers at NCBC Gulfport have been restricted to only essential retail outside of the base. But starting Friday night, things like sit-down dinners, a visit to the coffee café, and a haircut at a civilian barber shop are allowed.
“They fight for freedom, and so it’s good that they get the freedom that they want now,” said Dakota Oller, manager of Bearded Owl Barber Shop. “It’s also great for us. It brings us income. It lets us see a lot of our clients. A lot of our clients we haven’t been able to see for six to eight months.”
Tanner Montella, manager of Coast Roast, echoes the connection factor.
“We’ve gotten to know so many of our Seabees,” he said. “So many have become our friends, even as just regulars. Just great people. So it’s going to be a great thing for them to come back around more and build that customer relationship again.”
The regulation change has been in the works for about six weeks.
“We still have to keep wearing our masks and keeping our distancing and washing our hands and things like that,” said base commander Capt. Jeff Powell. “But I think we can return to a little bit of a sense of normalcy and let our active-duty service members have a little bit more freedom.”
Yeoman Second Class Eva Cullum has big plans for a celebration that’s been a long-time coming.
“I scheduled dinner with my husband,” she said. “So tonight, we’ll have dinner outside, finally get to go sit down. And, I also scheduled a private yoga class. So, it’s really exciting and it feels like we’re getting back into the community, and, like, just kind of being back with the whole world again.”