Ricky and Missy Dombrowski had front-row seats on the opening day of Cruisin’ The Coast — the balcony of their apartment overlooking 14th Street in downtown Gulfport.
The Dombrowskis bought the old Anderson Menswear building and spent about a year renovating it before they moved into a second-floor apartment in March.
Liz Todd joined them in September as a retail tenant on the first floor, where she sells women’s clothing, accessories, gifts and makeup at her Merle Norman Cosmetics & Bellezza Boutique.
Cruisers spent hundreds of dollars Sunday in her shop, she said.
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The Dombrowskis sat at the front door of the old building, watched the cruisers stroll around and enjoyed looking at the classic cars on display. They are the latest residents to embrace downtown living, a concept the city started promoting while Dombrowski was in office. His last term ended in June.
The Dombrowskis bought the old building as an investment. He said he saw the building’s potential after the post-Katrina renovation of downtown and construction of The Mississippi Aquarium only blocks to the east.
The couple plans to live on the second floor of the building for now, but will eventually lease out the apartment, too.
“I knew people who were already living downtown,” Dombrowski said. “We were looking at their place. It was pretty cool. I thought it would be a good investment.”
He said the Anderson building, constructed in the 1920s, was essentially a shell when he bought it. Dombrowski, who has built 11 houses and remodeled a 12th as a restaurant, served as contractor on the project.
He exposed brick walls in the building and encountered all sorts of hidden surprises during the work. Unique features of the apartment also include heart pine floors and an exposed sprinkler system.
“Just exposing the brick took a month,” Dombrowski said. “When we started exposing the brick, it would fall off.”
The apartment has an open living area and kitchen, with two bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom has a walk-in closet.
A pool table sits in the living space leading to a balcony overlooking 14th Street, which the Dombrowskis added.
He wanted the exterior to look historic. Dombrowski replaced commercial metal window casings with wood and added a large wooden door with beveled glass windows.