The old Kmart in Gautier is getting new life and more than 200 jobs

The long-empty Kmart in Gautier is about to become headquarters for a company that is expected to bring more than 200 new jobs to the Coast.

Roy Rogers Communications Inc. a national AT&T dealership, will operate a call center out of the location, said company president Robert Hicks.

Kmart pulled out of the building in the Clear Pointe Plaza after it landed on the 2002 closing list, according to National Retail Investor.

Now local companies are being hired to install new air conditioners, sand blast the awning and repair the facade of the building in the shopping center that also is home to Jerry Lee’s food store, Burnham Drugs and Dollar General. The neighboring Floor Trader is moving to Ocean Springs.

The owner of the shopping center is replacing all the lights and making other upgrades to the parking lot, he said.

“It’s going to take us six months probably to get it up and running,” Hicks said.

But the company won’t wait that long to start operations in Gautier.

“We have a store opening there as well as the call center,” he said. The company already has a certificate of occupancy for the retail store and some local staff hired, he said. The call center in the smaller store will have about 20 to 30 employee, he said.

When they move into the big building, Hicks said they expect to hire between 200 and 250 employees and pay an average of $500 to $700 a week.

“We always look for people who are motivated,” he said, who are flexible, adaptable and on time. The company does drug testing and criminal background checks, he said.

Both he and chief operating officer Jay Politi are prior military and have worked together on other projects over the past 16 years. Hicks named the company in honor of his father, who died in May 2017.

The Gautier call center is a business to business venture, he said. The company has more than 800 agents across the country and by the end of 2019 expects to have 2,000 across the country. These agents meet with business owners, who he said will contact the call center and speak to a representative to complete the paperwork.

Hicks said his brother Brian Hicks, head of The Salvation Army in Pascagoula, and his nephew Jonathan found the building in Gautier. It fits their needs, he said, and unlike some other locations in the country there is no snow that could cause employees to miss work.

“We already have one call center in this town,” said Mayor Phil Torjusen. Thousand Trails, a nationwide network of RV resorts and campgrounds, has a call center nearby. He worked for the company for several years and said there are many people in the area who are well trained to work in this type of business.

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Mary Perez: 228-896-2354, MaryPerezSH

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.