Everybody pretty much knows everybody,” says Gulfport civic leader and innkeeper Lori Rosso, “which is a good and a bad thing.”
It’s mostly good. Of all of the towns we’ve explored for our Neighborhood Issues, I can’t remember any other in which the word “community” has come up so often, as in this comment from Sandy Hanna, the affable salesperson at Domain Home Accessories: “There’s a sense of community you don’t find many places.”
There can be a downside. Barbara Banno, owner of the beloved Stella’s Deli and a former city councilperson, says, “I have seen the community make a business. I have seen them shut it down.” Like, for instance, when word got out that a fancy restaurant was enforcing a dressy dress code because the place was expressly not meant for the locals; when the locals heard that, they didn’t bother showing up. And no one else did either.
But if you’re cool with the live-and-let-live, all-are-welcome vibe and you’re seeking a diverse assortment of restaurants, shops, artists, drinkers and thinkers, this is definitely the right place. It’s not all waterfront; in addition to the more heavily visited areas along Beach and Shore boulevards, Gulfport encompasses country club and condo enclaves; blue-collar residential neighborhoods; a law school campus; and a small-industrial sector. And co-existence wasn’t always the rule. As Stephen Oliver’s new installation outside the Gulfport Casino recalls, blacks weren’t welcome west of 49th St. as recently as the ’60s.
But today, the mood in Gulfport is welcoming and the future is bright — as bright as those twinkly white lights hanging from the trees on Beach Boulevard (that is, if the squirrels stop eating the wires).
Follow the links to any of the stories at right and you'll find plenty of inspiration to visit — or to return, as we have, again and again.