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Ellzey’s marks the end of an era

Beloved Biloxi Hardware Store Shutters After More Than a Century

If Ellzey’s Hardware had a motto, says sales associate Dena Ellzey, it would be “Service with a smile.”

“Everyone who walks through that door is important to us, whether you have on rags or whether you have on a business suit,” says Ellzey, who has worked at the store since retiring from Biloxi Public Schools in 2005. “Everybody that walks through the door, we make them feel valued.”

Personal attention has been Ellzey’s hallmark since her husband’s grandfather, Curtis Ellzey Sr., founded the store in 1914. At one time, his five sons operated five locations across the Coast.

“It was like a mercantile or general store,” Ellzey says. “They had a post office there; they sold TVs; they sold appliances; they sold bb guns. It was general merchandise then.”

The last remaining location, a downtown Biloxi landmark at the corner of Lameuse Street and Howard Avenue, was set to close its doors as of Aug. 31. Owner and manager Sandra Cannette says reactions from the community have ranged from sadness to disbelief.

“For many people, the store has been a part of their whole lives,” she says. “Several customers have asked, ‘What are we supposed to do?’”

Cannette also has received many congratulations as she wraps up her 43 years at Ellzey’s and concentrates on her family. The 65-year-old is looking forward to spending time with her new grandchild.

“Additionally, I have survived cancer and the death of one of my children; I know how precious life is and how quickly it can change,” she says. “It is time for me to focus on my personal life.”

Cannette has been with Ellzey’s long enough to remember when a bakery within the store delivered bread each day to the local grocery stores. She also recalls that Ellzey’s had the first television sold in Biloxi, which was placed in the front window where people would gather outside to watch.

Her first time helping out in the business was after Hurricane Camille. “I was 12 at the time, and I remember realizing that working in the store was what I wanted to do for my profession,” Cannette says. “I loved the sense of helpfulness — serving others and aiding them gave me joy. There’s nothing like helping someone with their current project, puzzle or predicament.”

Inside point store


Inside bakery


Even as downtown evolved around it, Ellzey’s remained a beloved remnant of a bygone era. It’s the sort of place that issues handwritten receipts and people come for conversation as much as the bits and bobs on the shelves. The store has served the seafood industry, casinos, construction companies, hospitals, municipalities and small businesses, as well as many beloved regular customers, through good times and catastrophes.

In Hurricane Katrina, Dena Ellzey says, wind blew out the building’s windows, but the store continued operating via a generator and a light hung over the cash register.

“We had to put out signs on cardboard: ‘Ellzey’s is open,’ and we had a lot of people come through our doors,” Ellzey says. “They needed help, and we left our homes and the things we needed to do at home to come here and help our customers. We are very proud of that.”

Aside from the credibility it has earned in the community, Ellzey’s tends to have the odd parts that larger stores don’t carry – not to mention an uncommon friendliness and oldfashioned charm.

“Our history in the area and our devotion to helping customers has always been a highlight of our store,” Cannette says. “Additionally, our unique assortment of items that are tailored to the area keep people coming back.”

The property where Ellzey’s is housed belongs to The Peoples Bank, and Cannette would love to see a hardware store remain there. As she prepares to say goodbye, she says she will be forever grateful for the loyalty and friendship her patrons have shown her store throughout the years.

“They have enriched my life and made me feel like I had a purpose,” she says. “Thank you to everyone who has come through Ellzey’s! You are as much a part of the store and its history as my family and I are.”


Sandy and her grandson, Brandon


Sandy and her grandson, Brandon


Deena Ellzey and her husband, Curt


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