Delays still plaguing Gulfport bait shop


GULFPORT — The re-opening of The Harbor Shop is at a standstill.

The popular shop and hangout, located in the Jones Park area of the Gulfport, has been through a series of battles the last five years.

But the biggest dilemma facing owner Justin Roland are a combination of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the rebuilding of the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.

‘‘Starting over is not something we’re unfamiliar with,’’ Roland said. ‘‘We dealt with (Hurricanes) Katrina and Gustav and we came back. It could be worse because I could be closed down all together and I would be looking for a job. But we’re here and we’re moving forward.

‘‘I’m not going to sugar coat it. It does stink what we’ve had to deal with.’’

Although the shop, which is currently located northwest of the boat launch, is closed, Roland does plan to reopen in couple of weeks.

But the road to reopening has been a difficult one.

‘‘We definitely plan to reopen,’’ he said. ‘‘But a lot of things are working against us and that has discouraged me from reopening. The construction in the harbor has hurt.

“ A lot of our day-to-day customers that used Moses and Urie piers are not fishing. Both piers are closed. Plus, there is no access to the piers by vehicle so they would no make the long walk if the piers were open.

‘‘My dead bait sales (shrimp, mullet and squid) were already down 40 percent because of the construction.’’

According to Roland, The Harbor Shop closed its doors in late June when the Mississippi Sound was closed by the Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi due to the oil spill.

Since the closing, the Department of Marine Resources has reopened the Sound, but the financial down fall for The Harbor Shop were already being felt.

The downfall included losing employees and not making enough money to carry the shop through the winter months.

‘‘Since the store had made no money,’’ Roland said. ‘‘I closed the store when the DMR closed the state waters.

“The building is still there, but the business is not. It was like reinvesting my own money or borrow money from the Long Beach store even though the demand is not there.

“No that school has started back, there are no to little mid week sales. It’s all about Saturday and Sunday. When the oil leak happened and the DMR closed state waters, my employees we encouraged to find other jobs to supplement their incomes.

“One guy quit, one went from full time to part time and two went back to college. That’s discouraging me right now.’’

As far as lost wages, Roland said The Harbor Shop has a deficit of $160,000 in gross sales since the oil spill and the Long Beach store, known as The Tackle Box, is close to the same figure.

Roland has refiled his BP claim and is awaiting a response. Like many other business in the South Mississippi and Louisiana, Roland did receive a pair of $5,000 checks from BP.

“The oil leak occurred at the peak of the summer,’’ Roland said. ‘‘That’s the money it takes for us to be open in the winter. Our season is fading quickly because November through February are break even months in this business.

“Because of the oil spill, we do not have the money to make day-to-day operations.

“We have refilled our BP claims and we’re hopeful.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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