Harrison County

Coast Roast owner finds surprise behind walls of Gulfport building

GULFPORT -- An owner of Bankhouse Coffee and Coast Roast Coffee & Tea shops found a surprise when he tore into the walls of an old building off U.S. 49 downtown where he intends to open a fourth location.

Demolition uncovered a rectangular metal diner hidden behind walls on the building's east side. The original grill and drains were intact. There had once been windows for ordering take-out.

Shawn Montella, who opened the original Bankhouse Coffee in Long Beach with wife Lynne, was scratching his head at this point. Then he and his contractor, Jamey Jones of Full Armour Homes in Long Beach, discovered six layers of roofing. They uncovered the foundation and realized it was unusable.

Natural persistance

"Let's just start from scratch or give up," Montella said. But giving up is really not in his DNA.

Montella and his wife fell in love with a neoclassical revival building erected in 1920 in downtown Long Beach. They restored the building, originally owned by Hancock Bank, in 2000. She opened a hair salon upstairs and suggested a coffee shop for downstairs, which they named Bankhouse Coffee. They had to do major repairs after Hurricane Katrina spun through in 2005.

Montella, who had been in the automotive business, learned about coffee as he went. He eventually opened Coast Roast, roasting coffee for retail and wholesale. The Montellas and a partner also opened Coast Roast Coffee & Tea shops in New Orleans and Ponchatoula.

The Coast Roast location in Gulfport is open to the sky right now.

Montella plans to use construction setbacks to his advantage. He hopes Coast Roast will be ready to open in time for Cruisin' The Coast in October.

Under wraps

He does not want to give away too much, but did say the building just north of the railroad tracks will feature lots of windows and light, and appear taller than one story. Because the foundation has to be replaced, he'll add seating space.

Montella has been working right alongside the construction crew.

"I'll be excited about it when it's done," he said. "Right now, I'm not liking anything about this. We're going to plow through and make lemonade out of this -- or coffee."