By TAMMY LEYTHAM
PASCAGOULA — Business at the newly opened Whimsy Books & Toys is going “unexpectedly” well.
Tracy Jackson-Wilson opened the store with her mother-in-law Cathy Johnson in August. It sits in a Katrina cottage in Pascagoula’s Anchor Square, a shopping and dining complex on the west end of Delmas Avenue that serves as the city’s business incubator.
“I felt like there was a need,” said Jackson-Wilson. “I knew I needed a place for reasonably priced birthday gifts. And there was no competition here.”
She said between her two daughters, they were attending an average of two birthdays a weekend. When her youngest daughter started kindergarten, and her mother-in-law, a retired school teacher, retired from her second career at Ingalls, they thought “maybe we can do something.”
Responding to the needs in the community has helped the co-owners launch a successful business.
They carry a variety of brands, including popular Melissa and Doug items, books and costumes. They don’t have a lot of storage, so they rotate items on a regular basis and order weekly.
“Pretty much everything in the store is $20 or less,” Jackson-Wilson said. “I know what I like to spend. That’s where we try to keep it.”
Whimsy has a birthday registry, where children can pick out the items they want, and shoppers can help ensure the child doesn’t have triplicate gifts at the party.
She credits their early success to word-of-mouth advertising, especially when Whimsy gift bags show up at multiple birthday parties. “The last two or three parties I’ve been to, I’ve seen a lot of our bags,” she said.
Also, she and Johnson didn’t take out a loan to get started, and being in Anchor Square allows them a low overhead.
“I think I was amazed at how little it takes to start a business here,” she said.
Established three years ago, Anchor Square has more than a dozen Katrina cottages offering a mix of boutiques, restaurants, spa/salon services and even an art gallery and studio. The cottages are connected by a spacious deck, and a town green sits in the center.
City manager Joe Huffman said though the incubator project started before he started work for the city, he was certain it would be a success.
That has turned out to be the case as half a dozen businesses have grown and moved from Anchor Square to larger spaces downtown.
Jackson-Wilson said between support and resources offered by the city and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, “you really do learn a lot … where it’s not so intimidating,” she said.
The Chamber has put out the word about the business. And they provide workshops and learning opportunities for small businesses. “The first thing we did was join the Chamber,” she said.
Gearing up for Christmas, Jackson-Wilson said they’ll have a Christmas wish list registry similar to the birthday registry. They’ll also bring in a few more expensive gifts, like ride-on cars. They’ll “definitely” have “Elf on the Shelf” dolls and books, and a lot of Nutcracker gifts because the local dance studio puts on the ballet at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College each year.
They are also hoping to have the Grinch appear at the store to promote Dr. Seuss books. And they’ll participate in the city’s Downtown for the Holidays event on the first Friday of December.
They can be reached at 228-769-2700.
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