Harrison County

You’ll never guess why Gulfport Harbor bait shop closed

The city of Gulfport is looking for a new tenant for the bait shop at the harbor. Councilman Ricky Dombrowski wants the bait shop moved back to the north end of the harbor, where he says boaters would have better access. The shop sits beside Moses Pier at the harbor’s south end.
The city of Gulfport is looking for a new tenant for the bait shop at the harbor. Councilman Ricky Dombrowski wants the bait shop moved back to the north end of the harbor, where he says boaters would have better access. The shop sits beside Moses Pier at the harbor’s south end. amccoy@sunherald.com

Justin Roland says he closed the bait shop in the city’s harbor because he doesn’t want any potential conflicts when his father, Ron Roland, runs this spring for the waterfront City Council seat held by Ricky Dombrowki.

Libby Milner Roland, Justin’s mother, held the Ward 2 seat before ward lines were redrawn and the boundaries changed to encompass the waterfront from city line to city line. Dombrowski, then Ward 5 councilman, ran for and won the Ward 2 seat after Roland retired in 2013. She died of cancer in 2014.

“With Libby doing it for 10 years, it’s always been of interest to me,” Ron Roland said. “I’m a community-minded person and I’m retired, so it would be good for me to do it full time.”

Roland said he went over agendas for Tuesday council meetings with his wife on Monday nights. Plus, he said, he has always been interested in city government. His bachelor’s degree from the University of New Orleans is in general studies, with an emphasis on urban management.

Ron Roland opened The Harbor Shop in 1999 after he retired from the mortgage banking business. On the advice of the state Ethics Commission, Libby Roland abstained from votes involving the harbor because of the family business. At The Harbor Shop, Roland sold bait, fuel, tackle, marine supplies, beer, soft drinks and snacks.

As part of post-Katrina harbor reconstruction, the city moved the bait shop into a Mississippi Cottage, which can be moved out of the harbor for storms.

Justin Roland was chosen as the lowest and best bidder for the bait shop, moving into the cottage and rebranding the business as The Tackle Box. A separate business under different ownership sells fuel from a cottage with a dock over the water.

Justin Roland is now sole proprietor of The Tackle Box. His lease on the cottage expired in April 2015 and he has been renting the space month to month. He closed the business at the end of November after his father decided to run for the council seat, but still has a Tackle Box location in the Long Beach Harbor.

“Running for City Council, I wanted to be able to participate in all the happenings in Ward 2,” said Ron Roland, who added that his son will serve as his campaign manager. “I didn’t want to have to recuse myself from any votes on the harbor. Justin and I agreed we would get ahead of the game and move the shop to Long Beach, which is only five minutes away.”

Gulfport will be advertising for a new tenant for its bait shop. The Tackle Box lease ran $1,200 a month.

The bait shop sits beside Moses Pier at the harbor’s south end.

Dombrowski said the city is thinking about moving the bait shop to a barge. Whether on land or water, he believes the bait shop needs to be moved back to the north end of the harbor near the boat launches.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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