Bay St. Louis business owners prepared for economic boost from passenger trains

Bay St. Louis business owners prepared for economic boost from passenger trains

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - The Amtrak passenger rail service is making its way back to South Mississippi in 2022 and some business owners, along the planned route said they’re ready for the additional exposure.

Tonya Hamby opened her boutique Mon Amie in the Depot District in early February. Hamby said that surprisingly, business has been steady even though she’s one of the few businesses in the district.

“The Old Town area was filled up, so we had to look for more spaces for the store,” said Hamby. “When we drove through this little area and I thought, ‘It’s so cute I don’t understand why there’s nothing here.’ We had a gut feeling that this is where we wanted to be.”

Hamby started her boutique online in August 2020, then she decided to expand her business. Once she learned that the Amtrak was returning to South Mississippi, she was even more prepared for her new chapter.

“Then we learned that the train is coming through,” said Hamby. “We learned about the plans for the rest of the building and we just really excited to be a part of it.”

She believes that her store is the perfect spot for new customers.

“People that may not normally come through here, either from Mobile or New Orleans will be stopping,” said Hamby. “They’ll look out the train window and say, ‘Oh hey look there’s a little shopping area.’ They’ll jump out, go and look, and see restaurants. There’s one here, there’s more coming. This area, by the time the train runs back through, everything is just going to explode.”

Another business owner, Jane Kulpeska, owns two stores, Salty Soul Outfitters and Baytique but her stores are in the Old Town area. Even though her stores are further from the Depot District, she believes that there still will be an economic boost for business owners throughout Bay St. Louis.

“I think that will really revitalize that area,” said Kulpeska. “We have that beautiful park there that people can get off the train and sit in the park. People can do some shopping and go to dinner, so I think it’ll help that area, but I’m sure it will bring people to the Old Town area as well.”

Along with Bay St. Louis, the Amtrak trains will also stop in Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula.

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