His customers are concerned about driving the roads under construction in Biloxi to reach Desporte and Sons Seafood, so Sean Desporte is taking his crawfish, shrimp and other holiday favorites to them.
On Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas he’s set up shop where the people are — on Eisenhower Drive near the former Gulf Coast Produce and just up the street from Edgewater Mall.
“I know a lot of people are down there going to the mall to Christmas shop,” Desporte said.
Steve Gunn is dressed as Santa to draw attention to the temporary site. Desporte has a permit from the city to operate off-site and is selling boiled and live crawfish — which he said are really large and plentiful — along with boiled crabs and boiled shrimp cooked on site.
He’ll also put orders of seafood gumbo on the truck, ice chests packed for travel and other seafood so customers can pick them up at the Eisenhower location.
At his retail store at 1075 Division St. in Biloxi, Desporte is used to seeing lots of traffic, but these days drivers are avoiding the area.
“This is usually our busy time of the year,” he said.
This year business at the retail market is down 40 to 45 percent due to the infrastructure project that has roads dug up all the way from the Biloxi Bay past Interstate 110. Customers who have been coming for years stayed away at Thanksgiving, he said, telling him they didn’t want to drive the dirt streets.
“Porter Avenue is paved, but a lot of people don’t know that,” he said.
It’s a smooth ride and just three stop signs from the Biloxi Lighthouse on U.S. 90 to the lighthouse in his parking lot at Porter and Division. And he said crews cleaned the street Friday to make the drive even better.
“A lot of businesses down here on the street have been having a rough time,” he said. Some are closing and others report losing customers.
Most of his staff has been with him for 10 years or more and he doesn’t want to lose any of them or go out of business.
Desporte is the fifth generation in the business that claims to being the oldest seafood family still operating in the United States after 120 years. He was taught to treat his customers like family, as he said his father taught him, and Desporte said he hopes Biloxi will respond and help the business out — and enjoy some crawfish.