Restaurateur Linsey O’Keefe recognizes that with change comes opportunity.
But that doesn’t mean shuttering Nezaty’s, the Gulfport café’ she bought from her mother-in-law in 2018, was easy. The eatery had become a breakfast and lunch staple during its nearly 20 years in operation, serving customer favorites like stuffed croissants, homemade soups and pressed paninis.
“Knowing that the original location has been on Courthouse Road for several years made this a tough decision,” O’Keefe says, “but it came along with the realization that if we wanted to grow, this would be the decision we would have to make.”
Although Nezaty’s is closed, fans of the quaint coffee and sandwich shop need not despair. This month, it is set to reopen under a new name — Layla’s Coffeehouse & Eatery — in a new location at 2079 E. Pass Road. According to O’Keefe, the new site is larger and offers an expanded menu and hours.
“For the most part, our menu will remain the same; we will still carry all of our great staples with just a few modifications,” she says. “We will also add some new items for breakfast and lunch/dinner. We will also serve beer on draft and in bottle.”
O’Keefe wanted the new location to be “personal to me,” so she chose to name the restaurant Layla’s after her daughter. As for the laid-back atmosphere patrons enjoyed at Nezaty’s, O’Keefe intends to retain that vibe despite the changes.
“While Layla’s will have a new look and feel, I still want it to be a place where people can come and relax,” she says. “It will offer more of a cool/modern vibe, but still have that coffeehouse feel that people can come and grab a cup of coffee at and catch up with an old friend.”
Besides being bigger, the new location has the advantage of more traffic passing by — which O’Keefe hopes will expand her customer base. Recent circumstances hit both staff and patrons hard, she says, but now she’s looking forward to ramping business back up and resuming her daily interactions with customers.
“Being that this establishment has been around for so long, it has the best following of customers,” O’Keefe says. “This new location will just offer a new twist to what Nezaty’s was.”