Sneak peek of the new Rouses in Gulfport: Poke bowls, dry-aged steaks and a cafe

It’s about the same size as the original store just down the street, but the new Rouses Market in Gulfport will offer much more.

People are expected to be waiting in line when the doors open at 7 a.m. Wednesday. The first 200 shoppers will get a certificate for 10% off their total grocery bill — and the first look around.

More than $7.5 million was spent to acquire and totally remodel the former Winn-Dixie at 1444 Pass Road in Gulfport, just east of Cowan Road.

Only three exterior walls of the building remain. Everything else is new, from the energy-efficient lights to the polished concrete floors.

“This store has a lot more space dedicated to fresh,” said Clint Adams, vice president of operations for Rouses Markets for 30 years.

The changes start right inside the front door of the 44,000-square-foot store. To the left is the new Mongolian Grill, where customers can order take-out or eat at the new cafe with its wall of windows.

Sushi is made made right across the counter or they can try the new Hawaiian poke (pronounced POH-keh) bar, a new concept in fresh eating. Basically it’s sushi roll in a bowl, and customers choose rice, shrimp or other protein, toppings and sauces.

The floral department and colorful produce aisle also are near the entrance.

Taste testing of barbecue sauce, coffee, cookies and other products will take place throughout the store Wednesday and the Ocean Springs and Diamondhead stores will share in the grand opening celebration sales prices.

Grab and go

A big section of this new store is dedicated to grab-and-go foods. For those who don’t know what to make for dinner, or those who prefer not to cook, the new Rouses has cases full of hot and cold foods ready to take home.

Shoppers will find more extensive prepared items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, said Tim Acosta, director of marketing and advertising. The chef’s hot bar specials feature favorites like red beans and rice with sausage on Monday, jambalaya on Thursday and wings on the weekends.

Customers can build their own sandwiches, pick up tamales or egg rolls, fill a container from the expanded salad bar and take home ribs ready to eat.

They’ve added a dry-aged meat locker. Fresh shrimp and crabs from the Gulf of Mexico are available cooked or raw and Acosta said, “We also bring the best to the Gulf Coast,” in the form of lobsters, clams and other seafood.

Trendy shopping

Manager Robert Strahan said the latest trends in grocery stores and eating were built into the new store. Fresh produce is sourced locally whenever possible, such as the squash and eggplant from the local Eubanks farm.

Barrels are full of candy and bulk coffee beans that can be fresh ground. They also have grinders for fresh nut butters, an olive bar and a new cookie bar.

For those on special diets, the store has a line of keto diet-friendly and gluten-free foods, Acosta said. The Italian roots of Rouses founder Anthony Rouse Sr. are celebrated with the store’s Deliziso brand of products, sourced on buying trips to Italy.

Gulfport roots

“Gulfport’s just a great community,” Acosta said, and when the opportunity came up to buy and remodel the new store, they took it. Their staff, which grew from 70 to 100 at the new store, likes to live and work in Gulfport and take care of the Gulfport customers, he said.

Acosta said Rouses continues to offer local craft beers and other products. “We always support our local brands along the Gulf Coast,” he said. “If you don’t support the community the community isn’t going to support you.”

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.