He started feeding South Mississippi in 2002 when he opened his first restaurant and now Thomas Genin is adding to the Coast hospitality industry two new restaurants in Gulfport and Biloxi and a hotel and steakhouse opening this summer in Pass Christian.
First to open in late April or early May will be Ajax Seafood Kitchen & Bar just west of Cowan Road on U.S. 90 in Gulfport. The restaurant will have chalkboard menus and fresh fish specials every night.
"The majority of our selections will be seafood," he said, and he assures customers they will never be served frozen imported seafood or processed, out-of-a-bag food. He buys fresh shrimp right off the shrimp boats and oysters directly from the boat or factory.
The interior of the restaurant is climate-controlled, while the decks will give open views of the water. Genin and his wife, Amy, travel extensively with their children and the restaurant will have the look and feel of the British Virgin Islands, one of their favorite places to visit. The name Ajax is a combination of the names of their daughter Avery, 5, and son Jax, 3.
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Genin said 10,000 old Chicago bricks were used in the design and outdoor seating area. Malibu Rum is building a stage that will host four or five concerts a year. And a sand pit was created to occupy the kids.
Working towards lunches
The restaurant will open first for dinner, then lunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be added. When management and staff are ready, he said lunch and dinner will be served 7 days a week.
He has 54 employees in Bay St. Louis and anticipates employing 60 at the Gulfport restaurant. He also has space and is opening a retail store and a prep facility, where three full-time prep cooks will prepare the fresh fish, steaks and produce for all his restaurants.
Genin said he was looking at three sites between Courthouse Road and Cowan Road in Gulfport. "I chose this one because I can expand to the north," he said. Has room for 300 parking spaces and thinks he'll need all of them by the time his three-phase building plan is complete.
Genin also is preparing to build a second Blind Tiger restaurant in East Biloxi.
His first restaurant before Hurricane Katrina was in Pass Christian, and he is retuning to the city and building Hotel Whiskey with his friend Travis March.
The 11-unit hotel, one of which is a 2-bedroom suite, will overlook Davis Avenue and be the first hotel opening in town in late July. In the lobby will be a fine dining steakhouse serving USDA prime beef, fresh fish and fine wines.
"Pass Christian is a New Orleans weekend retreat community, just like Bay St. Louis," he said. The bed and breakfast inns and many vacation homes were washed away by Katrina and he said, "It's extremely expensive to own a second home. The demand's there for 25 little buildings like I'm building," he said. "The hotel is already booked for Cruisin' The Coast, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras next year."