PASCAGOULA -- Three years ago, Pascagoula embarked on a venture that has turned into a success story -- make that several success stories.
In August 2011, the city opened the Cottages at Anchor Square, a retail development/small business incubator on Delmas Avenue in downtown Pascagoula.
And to celebrate its anniversary, a block party will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 9.
Eight businesses originally located at the complex, where they were offered lower rent and an environment meant to support and encourage fledgling enterprises.
Sixteen Mississippi cottages make up Anchor Square and include a restaurant -- D'Vine Soulfood, Is That Velvet Cupcakes?, Gourmet Gurl, Party Girls invitation and gift store, Arabesque boutique, Pin-Ups spa and boutique, Posh Paws puppy boutique and two hair salons.
Some owners had never run a business before, but the incubator gives them a chance to do so with less risk. And many have thrived. Several of those original businesses have moved to larger locations downtown.
In the last six months, five retailers have moved to new locations in downtown Pascagoula -- Rosalie's, Zeal, Alan Hinkel Photography/Bridget Blue and Paradise Gar
dens. In addition, A Grand Entrance set up inside Palace Café, and Batture Outfitters combined with Zeal Boutique.
Paradise Gardens, now at 3257 Pascagoula St., opened at Anchor Square in September 2011 and moved to the new downtown location in April.
Owner Roderick Ruffin said Anchor Square helped them get to this point.
Ruffin said they have seen at least a 50 percent increase in business in the past few months.
The new location offers more space, and they have been able to expand their offerings to include chocolate-covered strawberries, cakes, cupcakes, and are looking to expand even more over time.
Other businesses, like Party Girls, moved from the one-bedroom cottage to a two-bedroom when they need the additional space. That's also a sign of success, said Rebecca Davis, director of Main Street Pascagoula.
And new retailers have taken their place at Anchor Square and opened shop.
There are several new shops, including Miss Priss boutique featuring children's apparel and accessories, Ali's Attic offering women's and children's clothing and accessories, Queen B's Creations, Selena's Boutique women's apparel and Art Soul Rock & Roll, an art, craft and jewelry store.
Whimsey Books and Toys is coming in August.
Davis credits the people who have gone after their dream by starting a small business, and then sacrificing to make it work and grow.
"They are taking a chance to move on in the small business world," Davis said. "It's great to see all the expansions and movement going on out there.
"It's absolutely amazing they have done this well."
Not only have some businesses found success, but the complex is an award-winner, picking up kudos such as being named best new development project by Mississippi Main Street Association.