Ocean Springs — If you are looking for cheap mass-produced imports, you don’t need to stop at the Mississippi Made Marketplace, a gift store at 1025A Government Street in downtown Ocean Springs. However, if you like promoting the local and state economy, or even if you are just looking for unique handmade, local gift items, then Mississippi Made is just the ticket.
Mississippi Made Marketplace is on a popular portion of Government Street that has undergone a significant retail and restaurant renaissance in recent years. It doesn’t hurt to be clustered with other popular businesses, plus restaurants that bring in big crowds for lunch and dinner.
The retail outlet that sells only products made in Mississippi has been open for about four years. It originally started in Gulfport before being moved to Ocean Springs. The present owner, Blakeney Barras Pierpont, 24, purchased the store in August.
“A friend was selling it because she was moving out of town,” Pierpont said. “I thought it was an excellent opportunity because I always wanted to own my own store. There is something for everybody in here. I have gourmet foods, handmade soaps, pottery, artwork, candles and also custom gift baskets for individuals and corporations. It is a normal gift shop, but what is unique about it is everything in here is made in Mississippi.”
Mississippi Made has baskets in price ranges designed to suit a variety of budgets. And the gift items or baskets can be shipped directly either to the customer or the recipient of the gift. A Web page for the business was recently launched, www.msmade.com. Currently customers can browse online, and then e-mail or call in their order. Pierpont plans to have online ordering available within a month.
Since taking over, Pierpont has been increasing the variety of the merchandise, especially in the upscale categories. Gift baskets that contain a variety of goodies are one of the most popular offerings, and what Pierpont intends to be the signature offering of her business.
“Mississippi Made Marketplace gift baskets are an excellent way for you to express appreciation to your client for their business and to gain future referrals,” Pierpont said. “Gift baskets are great for lawyers, doctors, Realtors, sales professionals or anyone who has clients or customers.”
Judging by the number of “Hi, how are y’all doing,” interruptions while Pierpont did an interview for this article, business is brisk.
“It has really picked up this month,” Pierpont said. “August and September weren’t as good because of the heat and the hurricane. Now it seems to be doing better. Ocean Springs is an excellent place to be for a business.”
Reaction from customers has been good with many people commenting they find the store really unique. In addition to tourists from out-of-state who want something from Mississippi to take home with them to remind them of their vacation, people going on vacations out-of-state often purchase a gift basket to take with them to give to relatives or friends.
Even Pierpont has been surprised at the depth and quality of merchandise made in Mississippi.
“You don’t really know what the State of Mississippi produces until you see what I have in my shop,” said Pierpont. “And there are also items I don’t carry yet. I’m constantly trying to bring in new items. I like promoting the local artisans.”
The store has a large selection of pottery by Yvonne Brown, Beans Ferry Pottery and Spirit Song Studio, including bowls, platters, mugs, plates and candleholders. Regional artwork includes watercolor prints by Kathe Calhoun, the Island Prints series by Becky Hopkins, Local Cities in Watercolor by Linda Theobald and Randy Fountain’s hand-carved wooden bowls.
There are hand-painted linen tea towels and pillows, Christmas ornaments, Mardi Gras items and d’Morri Handmade Soaps. Artwork by Kathy Kahl includes hand-painted tiles, plates, wine glasses, ornaments and glass bottles for olive oil or soap.
Mississippi cookbooks are popular, as are the large selection of fragrance products. And when purchasing a gift and unsure of what to get, you can hardly go wrong with food. Gourmet food items include mayhaw, muscadine and other types of jellies, Canal Street Coffees, Robicheaux’s Handmade Chocolates, Flathau’s Gourmet Cookies & Snaps, cheese straws from Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory, Wheelers Pecans. Oxford Falls products include Dix Salsa’s, Bloody Mary & Margarita Mix and various sauces. The store also sells Does Eat Place Barbeque Sauce and Seasoning and Steve’s Magnificent Barbeque Sauces, Marinades & Seasonings.
Collegiate items from football teams from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and others are also big sellers for gifts and tailgating parties. Sorority items are coming soon.
Pierpont is living her dream of owning her own business while also working on competing her MBA program at William Carey College. Her future plans include opening a second store.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.