Coast shop owners hope for flood of customers following rain flood

Friday morning, Sherri Rogers stood outside her favorite bakery. It's not uncommon to see her at Melissa's Bakery at 15335 Dedeaux Road in Gulfport.

But it was far from a routine trip.

Two bakery employees, manager Faren Knowles and Lauren Parker were standing behind a folding table outside the shop. Much of their inventory -- cookies, cupcakes and other sweets -- was in dozens of see-through Tupperware containers.

Thursday's powerful thunderstorm dropped nearly 12 inches of rain in less then five hours. Water quickly collected and flooded low-lying places throughout Harrison County. Melissa's Bakery, Flowers Forever and Gifts and the other shops in the Dedeaux Road strip mall didn't have a chance. If the area around the strip mall is considered a soup bowl, the shops would be lined up along the bottom of the bowl. About 20 inches of water made its way into the stores Thursday.

Knowles arrived at the shop first thing in the morning.

"I was the first one to get here and discover the flooding," she said.

After the waters subsided, Knowles, Parker and their family members, friends and volunteers worked on clearing out the shop. They ripped out the carpeting and some of the drywall.

"Pretty much anything 20 inches or below is pretty much ruined," Knowles said.

Still, the flooding didn't prevent Knowles from serving her customers.

"We sold out of cupcakes that day," she said.

Cleanup work continued early Friday morning. Instead of shutting down for the day to concentrate on cleaning, Knowles turned on the OPEN sign when she got to work.

Along with Parker, she placed dozens of cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods onto the folding table. Several customers lined up to satisfy their sweets cravings.

Knowles said she wants the community to know Melissa's Bakery has no plans of shutting down.

"Cake orders will go off without a hitch whether it's delivery or pickup," she said.

After Parker swiped Sherri Roger's credit card, Rogers gave her thoughts on the bakery.

"I come here all the time. But I wanted to show my support after what happened yesterday."

Next door to Melissa's Bakery is Flowers Forever and Gifts.

Owner Michael Brunson has overseen the flower shop for 11 years.

"As long as I've been here, I've never seen it flood like this," he said.

Thursday morning, he saw the water rising when he returned from a delivery. There was little he could do.

He waited it out, taking pictures as the water rose.

As soon as the water began to subside a bit, he got to work. Friday, he was sweeping water into a back alley and using a shop vacuum to suck up more.

He, too, wants residents to know his shop is open. He came up with a promotion to get customers in his store: he's giving a single rose to every walk-in while supplies last.

Both Knowles and Brunson are uncertain if their insurance will pay for the flood damage. Both said they didn't even want to think about how much a full recovery will cost.

For now, their main concern is to get their shops presentable again. But they are hopeful news of their flood recovery will fill the hearts of their customers, and the community itself will flood their showrooms.

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