Spillway opening takes its toll on unique small business

Spillway opening takes its toll on unique small business

LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) – The Bonnet Carré Spillway may have been closed months ago, but the devastating impacts of trillions of gallons of freshwater being dumped into the Mississippi Sound are still being felt. For a Long Beach business owner, it meant closing his unique shop.

Where Kewl Kites once was in downtown Long Beach is now a clothing store.
Where Kewl Kites once was in downtown Long Beach is now a clothing store. (Source: WLOX)

Keith Dupree can think of nothing better to do than fly kites, and when he wanted to pick up a new one Dupree would always head to Kewl Kites owned by Chris Barker.

“He’s kind of Mr. Wizard kind of guy and always has cool toys for everybody,” Dupree said.

Where Kewl Kites once was in downtown Long Beach is now a clothing store. Barker shut down what was the only kite store within a three-hour drive, and he blames it on the spillway opening.

“It put my business out of business,” Barker said.

According to Barker, most of his customers were tourists. Some made it a tradition to pick up kites when they were on the Coast, but when the water in the Sound closed, those tourists didn’t come to the beach and didn’t come into his store.

“Our business dropped 70% during our prime months, and it got to where we couldn’t do it,” Barker said.

Now Barker would like to see some relief from a problem he pins on the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government. He said he reached out to the governor and congressmen, but he isn’t optimistic those calls will lead to results.

“When they have responded it’s basically been sorry about your luck,” Barker said.

In September, Congress announced a federal fisheries disaster declaration designed to help fishermen affected by the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening. While Barker is in agreement the fishermen deserve and need relief, he’d also like small businesses like his to receive relief.

“If they can’t give it to everybody, then they shouldn’t give it to anybody,” Barker said.

It won’t be easy for Barker to reopen his business, but those who love flying kites on the beach hope they haven’t seen the last of Kewl Kites.

“We sure need another kite store,” Dupree said. “Maybe next year summer when the beach comes back and the tourists come back, Chris can get something going.”

No money from the federal fisheries disaster declaration has been handed out, but those funds are meant to give relief only to those with a business directly related to the fishing industry.

Even without operating a business anymore, Barker still leads a kite club that meets the second Saturday of every month on the beach in Long Beach.

[“source=wlox”]