In 1947 L.E. Napier opened Merchiston Hall on Biloxi's Howard Avenue. He named it after his Scottish ancestral home. When a young Leo Crapo asked for a night job, Napier was receptive. |
Crapo, who was stationed at the Air Force base, had worked at a furniture store in his hometown of New Bedford, Mass., and was fascinated by what made it durable and comfortable, and the many design possibilities.
"Mr. Napier saw so much potential in Leo that he made him a manager when he got out of the service," said Dottie Crapo. "In 1952 we got married and furniture became a family business."
Under Crapo ownership, Merchiston Hall underwent several renovations and gained a reputation for furniture that would last for generations.
When Leo Crapo died in 1975, Mrs. Crapo, in her words "tried to fit in his big shoes" and run the business with pride. The three children, Debbie, Pam and Greg, cut their work teeth on the family business.
"We offer service as well as quality," Dottie Crapo said. "We can hold our heads up high and say, 'That came from our store.'
All the furniture, carpet and drapery at the store at 918 Howard Avenue, both the new and sold stock, was destroyed by the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina.
"We think a tornado came through there because only my store and the tire shop next door were devastated," said Crapo. "We don't know what the future is yet. I'm not a quitter but I don't know if Katrina is telling me that it's time to retire. We're waiting to see what insurance does."
In the meantime, Merchiston Hall has set up temporary shop at the corner of Popp's Ferry and Pass Road, and daughter Debbie Batia continues to serve new and repeat customers.
- KAT BERGERON