Contractors are checking off the final boxes to complete the Biloxi Bait & Fuel building, just east of the Hard Rock Casino. The original shop was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but thanks to funding from F.E.M.A., the new complex will be reeling in business by this summer. Pat Kuluz ran the Bait & Fuel store from 1980 until Katrina hit. After the harbor re-opened in late 2010, Kuluz opened a small temporary bait shop to serve boaters’ needs until the original one could be rebuilt. Three years later, it looks like the doors will finally be opening this summer.
Vincent Creel, the Public Affairs Manager for Biloxi, says, “We faced a number of challenges with this new bait shop. Number one was it had to be 19 feet in the air; number two, it had to withstand winds of 140 miles per hour; and number three, it had to be handicap accessible.” The closest place to get fuel or bait is two miles away, inconveniencing many boaters, like Bowie Hamilton. He says his day on the water can be shortened by having to make extra trips for supplies. Hamilton says, “There's a temporary one right over here that has a minimum number of things you can get, but actually, you usually end up having to get in the car and go to Walmart or something like that.”
Kuluz, who is still running the temporary shop, says he knows what the shop used to be like and hopes to be able to offer more supplies. Kuluz says, “I'm kinda’ limited in the 10 by 12 building that I'm in temporarily. So once I get back on the water, in a larger building, we'll have a full supply.” At the temporary Biloxi Bait Shop, owners say they hope they win the bid to move into their bigger home soon. Creel also says, “We think it’s going to drive a lot more traffic here to the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, because they're going to know that we have this first class facility and it has everything they need if they're going to spend a day out on the water.” Creel says architects for the project took their inspiration from old Biloxi buildings so that the new store would fit with the historic feel of the city. The fueling station will make the harbor a convenient one stop shop to help meet all the area's boating needs