Tables shaded by giant Live oaks and umbrellaed tables, scented with a whiff of coffee and something baking, caused many a passer-by to check out Java Jean's Deli & Bakery in Gulfport.|
Jean Baas grew up on a small farm in Ohio and went to New York City to college, where she learned to love bagels and deli-style sandwiches. When she moved to the Mississippi Coast in the 1980s, she noticed that the deli atmosphere was rare and locals preferred French bread to bagels.
As the region grew with more business and new casino gambling, she decided it was time to take the plunge by opening a coffee and bagel shop on Courthouse Road. It grew, she learned the Mississippi taste and soon grabbed at another opportunity to open in Gulfport's newest, the beachfront 15th Place on the edge of downtown. Java Jean's shared the first floor with the Irish Coast Pub, and upstairs, offices opened.
Hurricane Katrina gutted the deli, known for fresh baked bagels of assorted flavors (though "plain" remained a Coast favorite), hot sandwiches, muffins, foccacia bread and even king cakes. Like other businesses close to devastated downtowns that normally bring them customers, the deli's future is undecided.
"If it's financially feasible, I'd like to come back," Baas said. "I hope to know in a few months."
- KAT BERGERON