Harrison County

Ice Cream Corner back after flood in Gulfport

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDJohn Kunellis talks about the repairs he had to make at the Ice Cream Corner after April flooding damaged his shop in Orange Grove.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDJohn Kunellis talks about the repairs he had to make at the Ice Cream Corner after April flooding damaged his shop in Orange Grove.

GULFPORT -- When John Kunellis walked into The Ice Cream Corner the morning of April 28, he thought he'd just gone out of business.

"I found about a foot-and-a-half of water in the place," he said of the shop in the Bayou Bernard Shopping Center on Dedeaux Road just east of U.S. 49.

The Coast, and especially Gulfport, had a deluge that morning, up to 10 inches in places. Several businesses and homes flooded in Orange Grove, including two neighboring businesses.

"Dedeaux Road was cut off completely by first responders," Kunellis said. "The Flat Branch of Bayou Bernard, which is 100 feet behind the store, was flowing across Dedeaux like a raging river.

"At that time, my opinion was we were done. The place was totaled. "

After the water went down Friday, he was a little more optimistic.

"I thought there was a 20 or 25 percent chance I could come back," he said. "The compressors, which had been underwater, are actually sealed units."

That meant he had to replace only the electrical components -- "capacitors, starters, relays" -- attached to the outside of the compressors. Four out of seven freezers were OK, but the compressors in three others were destroyed by a power surge the storm had caused.

The flood cost him about $25,000, including the loss of inventory, which he had built to the highest level of the year in anticipation of a big summer. He didn't have flood insurance. No one in that part of town does, he said, because it isn't in a flood zone.

Kunellis has been able to rebuild his ice cream inventory and buy all the cones and paper products he needs, although he lost his two biggest freezers.

"So I'm down from 48 flavors to 32," he said.

But he was able to reopen in 10 days -- in time for Mother's Day, traditionally one of his biggest days.

It seems a lot of his customers, though, figured he had been wiped out by the flood. Business was down sharply.

But, Kunellis, who wound up on the Coast via New Orleans after 30-odd years in the restaurant-bar business in Seattle, is determined to get them back.

The ice cream shop is a welcome respite from the restaurants and lounges he owned.

"I wanted to stay in the food business but I didn't want to do the whole restaurant-bar scene," he said. "I've had a bellyful of drunks. I got a bellyful of living in a smoky room."

He figured ice cream, and the children it attracts, was the ticket out of that life.

"I don't regret it," he said of the shop he's owned for 15 years. "I've enjoyed it. Being part of the community. Working with little kids. And going home at 4 or 5 o'clock.

"I can have some life."

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