BAY ST. LOUIS — Unlike most of the cities located on the Mississippi Sound, the beach district of Bay St. Louis is located off U.S. 90 instead of right on the main traffic thoroughfare. On the one hand, that means many travelers on U.S. 90 don’t have a clue about the charming downtown shopping district of Bay St. Louis. On the other hand, shoppers who do find their way to the shopping district find a quieter, slower pace of life well suited to browsing, serious shopping for art and antiques, beach visits or enjoying a meal at one of the town’s many fine restaurants.
Memphis Magazine called Bay St. Louis “one of the best kept secrets of the Gulf,” a place where people come to kick back and live the good life.
“It is so easy to promote this area because there is so much to offer,” says Barbara Zitzmann, secretary of the Bay St. Louis Merchants Association.
“It is a very unique town in that it does have a very large population of artists. We have delightful shops and excellent food. It is a wonderful place to spend a day or even a week or two. Rather than just tolerating them, we enjoy people coming to the community and sharing what we have with them.”
Her husband, Richie Zitzmann, Stained Glass By Richie, is chairman of Second Saturdays in Bay St. Louis. From April through December art walks are held on the second Saturday of each month.
Galleries and other shops stay open until 8 p.m., and thousands are attracted to enjoy art displays and demonstrations, antiques shopping, and specials at the local restaurants.
“It’s wonderful,” Barbara Zitzmann said. “We have people who come from several states to stroll the sidewalks. Galleries have artist openings that night, we have a band on the street, and a lot of the shops and galleries serve light refreshments. Parking is free, and everything is compact and within walking distance.”
Named one of the best small art towns in the U.S., the downtown Bay St. Louis shopping district is complimented by sand beaches that can be enjoyed after strolling the shops. Although a large number of visitors are attracted by Second Saturdays, the street aren’t crowded, and the area is friendly to families with children because of less traffic than found on U.S. 90.
Zitzmann said Bay St. Louis has built into a great art community because of the natural scenic beauty that attracted and inspired artists. The word spread through the art community and gradually more artists checked out the small city that bills itself as “A Place Apart.”
“When you come, you want to stay,” Zitzmann said. “And, also, some of the artists now offer classes, which is also something that a lot of people really enjoy. Even though these students may never be famous artists, they enjoy learning about the arts and some of them even pursue it as a profession. We have classes for pottery, stained glass and painting that aren’t just for the professionals but for the amateurs or beginning-to-intermediate artists who would like to learn a little more.”
There are more than 50 shops and restaurants to choose from in Bay St. Louis in three separate areas. The largest concentration of businesses are located on South Beach Boulevard and on Main Street. Shops include Gifts By The Bay, Bay Crafts, Chessy’s, Ya-Ya’s Inc., the Beach Antique Mall & Flea Market, Talavera Imports, Serenity Gallery, Sory & More, The Bungalow, The Farmer’s Daughter and Quarter Moon. Restaurants of note include Dock of the Bay, Trapani’s Eatery, Dan B’s Restaurant and Bar, Amelia’s on the Bay Restaurant and the Fire Dog Saloon. Then there’s the Day Dreams Beach Bar, billed as “the only Coast beachbar-volleyball, horseshoes, no shirt-no shoes-no problem” establishment.
Farther west on Main Street past the Courthouse are a number of antique stores and arts and crafts shops. Stores include The Sun Porch, Evergreen Antiques, Antique Arcade, M. Schon Antiques, Paper Moon, The Purple Snapper, The Lumberyard Art Center, Bluewater Beads and Clay Creations.
Take Union Street off of South Beach Boulevard to get to the Depot District for a concentration of unique shops including “Miss Alice” Moseley-Folk Art Studio (“The House is Blue But the Old Lady Ain’t”), Gallery Nohra, Flying Cups & Saucers Coffee Bar, Carpet Creations, Bay Frame and Gallery, and two popular restaurants, Bay City Grill and Big E’s.
If you aren’t familiar with the town, look for the “Old Town” Bay St. Louis brochure available at many downtown locations for a map of the area that includes listings of local businesses. Most shops are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com or (228) 872-3457.