Yvette Blackwell has worked in retail shops in downtown Ocean Springs for more than two decades.
About two years ago, she was sitting at J Laurie Shoes Boutique on Washington Avenue with owner Jan Rideout wondering why sales were so slow.
“The store had only been open six months to a year and we were noticing a lull,” she said. “We were wondering, how can we pull shoppers down to this end of town? This whole area felt like it was not being as vibrant as the upper part of Washington.
“I knew from working up there that there was just so much more traffic.”
The store is south of Government Street, which is part of the problem, because shoppers on upper Washington, strolling south, tend to turn left on Government Street and miss the businesses further down Washington.
“We were playing with ideas. You know this is south of Government. We were thinking New York, SoHo (which stands for south of Houston Street in Manhattan) and came up with SoGo.
“SoGo — south of Government,” she said with a laugh. “SoGo. It’s worth the walk. It’s a way to get (shoppers) to come down here.”
Rideout liked it, she said, and mentioned it to several other businesses, but it didn’t catch on right away.
“I’ve been talking about it,” Rideout said. “We talked to the Chamber of Commerce. Thought about a big sign — ‘SoGo District.’ ”
There are about a dozen lively businesses in that area of Washington.
This week, one of them referred to SoGo in the media. And then the mayor made a reference to it in a Facebook post promoting Oct. 20, when retail shops plan to stay open until 8 p.m.
“... come sip and shop in downtown Ocean Springs’ SoGo District!!” Mayor Connie Moran posted.
“I talk about it all the time,” Blackwell said. “I’m trying to get it to catch on. I just want it to catch.”
She has a degree in marketing and has been in retail for 32 years, living and working around the country.
“That’s my forte,” she said. “I love it. And being on Washington Avenue’s the best.”