Welcome to Old Town Bay St. Louis!
Mississippi Gulf Coast
Our authentic character, historic buildings, and friendly folks are just a few of the reasons why Budget Travel Magazine named us one of the "Coolest Small Towns in America" in 2013. And Coastal Living Magazine named Bay St. Louis one of the top ten small beach towns in the country in 2010! Explore Old Town using the menu above - or check out quick links to individual merchants below. Come play for a day, you may want to stay!
The French Potager
213 Main Street
All day Second Saturday - Free gift with purchase over $50. Also Imagination Station (free art project for kids) will be set up, this month's project, "Fairy Doors" garden art.
Martha Whitney Butler has a growing fan club, although they’re split into three different camps.
Admirers of her instantly recognizable artistic style call her a Design Diva. Others, observing her mover/shaker Get-Things-Done-and-It’d-Better-Be-Fun approach to community life, encourage her to run for mayor. Customers who frequent her Main Street shop, the French Potager (213 Main Street) assert she’s an encyclopedia of knowledge on antiques and collectibles.
However, all members of Butler’s fan club agree on one point: now that she owns her own building in Old Town, more good things are going to happen. Lots of them. Butler has magical green thumbs when it comes to growing ideas into reality. And now that she’s purchased the commercial cottage that’s been her headquarters for the past two years, her community roots run deeper than ever.
Butler’s extraordinary vision and enterprising attitude form two walls of her success triangle. At the base, is a work ethic on steroids – the sort that is commonly lamented as being pushed into extinction by younger generations. The combination seems unstoppable. And who would want to?
The French Potager is a case in point. When Butler first visited Bay St. Louis five years ago, the Old Town commercial district was languishing. The national economic crunch and the oil spill had stalled the long struggle toward recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Yet, Butler, arriving with nothing but “pocket change and a dream,” was immediately smitten by the town.
“I saw a lot of opportunity for someone in their twenties to be able to achieve the American Dream,” she says. “You have to make sacrifices when you start your own business. It’s beyond the comfort level for a lot of people.”
Willing to make those sacrifices, Butler opened her own collectibles shop. Regular customers (and there are many) at the French Potager have learned to expect the unexpected. Every item in the store tells an interesting story, from the antique jewelry to the chic sculptures Butler creates from vintage finds. For instance, an antique fan might wind up as a table lamp or a book page could be transformed into a keepsake notecard.
Even the displays and windows at The French Potager cross the line from retail to conversation-provoking art. Butler sees the window as an opportunity to create art installations – an art form rarely practiced on the Mississippi Coast. She has actually developed an international fan base for her windows; design professionals across the world compliment her work when she posts pictures on Facebook.
Two years ago, Butler began offering floral designs in the French Potager. Her style is heavily influenced by the Japanese art of Ikebana, but she shakes things up by using uncommon flowers that she calls “Dr. Seuss” varieties. Savvy brides from across the coast and New Orleans are now clamoring for her show-stopping Zen/Seuss arrangements.
“It’s all about the bride,” says Butler. “I want to exceed her expectations.
Butler serves as a board member for The Arts, Hancock County and is also the founder of the Raw Oyster Marching Club – a group of colorfully dressed women of all ages who perform dance routines in parades and other area events. But busy as she stays, right now a personal dream is taking shape. Her boyfriend, chef Wes Debenport, recently proposed.
“This story definitely has a happy ending,” Butler says, smiling. “But hey, will you put it out there that we’re currently looking for a rental house in the $700 range?”
Consider it done. This writer is in the Diva camp.
Coolest in the South!
In Budget Travel Magazine's annual contest, Bay St. Louis was chosen as one of the top three Coolest Small Towns in the country for 2013 - and we ranked above other Southern contenders by a long shot. That makes us the Coolest Small Town in the South by our way of thinking and gives us major bragging rights! So start bragging! Here's the link to the whole article. Share it with friends and business associates. To read the article in Budget Travel On-line, click here!