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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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Bay St. Louis resident Mary Johnson filled her cart with yams, turkey legs and other holiday season essentials at the Waveland Wal-Mart Saturday, grateful she no longer has to drive 45 minutes to Gulfport or Slidell, La., for groceries.

“I’m trying to get us a few things, get us a Thanksgiving dinner,” said Johnson, who is living in her partly damaged house and planning to make gumbo for an extended family including her six children and 13 grandchildren.

The Wal-Mart reopened Saturday as a shadow of its former self but was a welcome sight for residents who have had to drive 20 miles or more to shop for groceries and other essentials until now.

The old Wal-Mart Supercenter, which was wrecked by Hurricane Katrina, carried nearly 80,000 different items, including a full-service grocery store, an automotive service center, clothing, appliances and furniture.

The new “Wall-Mart Express” carries just 2,500 items, specifically selected to help hurricane survivors rebuild their lives.

What made the cut? Lots of things to make life easier and more comfortable in the confines of a travel trailer, like a double electric burner for $24.76, an electric kitchen cooker for $99.84, and a metal-arm futon for $99.84. There was bedding, pillows, mattresses, refrigerators, washer-dryers and a selection of video players and boom boxes.

The store carries plenty of bleach, soap and cleaning supplies, as well as hand trucks, paint and gas cans. The grocery section includes plenty of staples, milk products and frozen food as well as a smattering of fresh fruit and vegetables, which have been in extremely short supply since the Aug. 29 storm.

“I listen to my customers, and they tell me what they need, but in a situation like this, their needs become the same,” said store manager Ray Cox.

The new store was built out over just three weeks in the center section of the former store, with the rest walled off by thousands of sheets of plywood. Cox plans to add inventory items and eventually expand to the former 210,000 square-foot size, but he had no timetable. For now, the store has called back about 100 of its former 470 employees, with another 80 on indefinite leave until they are ready to return.

Mayor Tommy Longo said Wal-Mart was the ninth store to reopen in the hard-hit town, and said he was grateful because the sales tax revenues are crucial to municipal operations.

“This is a milestone for our community,” he said. “It lifts the spirits, and it’s an opportunity to help people who are building back their lives.”

A steady stream of customers came through the doors beginning at 7 a.m. and lined up at the registers with groceries and other supplies. Telephone links with credit card processors were erratic, so like most coastal businesses, cash was the preferred method of payment.

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As much as I detest Wal Mart, it is nice for the people there not to have to drive (or walk or bicycle or however the travelled) and that at least the management has listened to people's concerns and their needs and so therefore supplied those items that are very much needed. Hopefully everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving. My prayers are with them for speedy recovery, efficient rebuilding and best in all of their future endeavors. Assalamu Alaikum (means: peace be upon you)

Say what you want about Wal-Mart. Sure it is a benefit to Wal-mart, but they listened to the needs of the people in that area. God bless the people in that area and hopefully they will have something to give thanks for this Thansgiving.

I know a lot of people detest Walmart, but they have been the only source of bread, milk, and other perishables available without driving 15 miles to Diamondhead.

When my heat pump stopped working and the temperatures dropped to the low 30s, it was Walmart that had an electric blanket and a space heater for me to buy.

I take three prescription medications for heart disease and their pharmacy could fill each one.

So to those of you who put down Walmart, try living here on MREs. I am grateful they are here!

Here here! I'm not a fan of Wally World's corporate "take no prisoners" approach but life is getting back to normal if Wally's in business! I can only imagine how awesome it must be to be able to finally go shopping in your town after having to drive a long way to get simple necessities.

I especailly love the picture of the little guys in the carriage. Leave it to the little ones to keep things new and unique!

What many of you don't seem to understand about Wal-Mart is that they didn't get huge because they are ruthless, etc. They got that way because they understand the American consumer better than anyone else, and they get up earlier, work harder and stay later than almost anyone else in retail (this comes from the top). They are doing whatever it takes to get this community back working.

How sad is the need to defend the dependence on Wal-Mart? Sounds like a great novel where the tired out hero must make his deals with the devil to survive and then makes apologies for his choices. Is the Walton family listening at all? Do you have enough yet? Can you really help these areas by providing the employees with a living wage "AND" health insurance...."OR" seems like a sad compromise.

You folks need to lighten-up when it comes to judging Walmart. Do you HAVE a Walmart, and if so, is it really anabomination to be 'detested"? Walmart has proven to be a "port in the storm" for the Gulf Coast.
2weeks after the storm, Walmart in Gulfport was the ONLY place where one could obtain ANYTHING in the disaster area.

Yes, things ARE getting back to normal when Wal-Mart can again offer low-wage jobs with health insurance so expensive its employees cannot afford to buy it. Oh yes, and who can forget the crucial public service Wal-Mart is performing by giving consumers the chance to buy products made in Chinese sweatshops (hey, those kids over there do great work, don't they?). How anyone could question Wal-Mart's commitment to family values is beyond me!

Could someone please explain how Wal-Mart can be back in business when the insurance companies are still taking claims and not paying the people who have damages? I am not a fan of Wal-Mart, either, but perhaps they could step in and help the insurance companies do their jobs.

I am a soldier serving in Iraq, and it is important to read about hometown new stories...even if I am not from Bay St. Louis. Bash Walmart if you like, but why is it that they are there like they were at the Twin Towers when they came down, and why is it that they are there to support our soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan....I'll tell you why, because people in Walmart are still people, they are not the corporate bastards that people paint them to be. For once someone ought to throw away the anti-Walmart dialog and look at the core "Values" of the people within Walmart and understand that they are your neighbors and friends. When you look at greed, look at the unions that bash Walmart and overcharge the average citizen for electrical repairs or construction projects that cause for higher rent or home purchase. Walmart's Discounts to the lower and middle class citizens of this country and their growth is simply due to consumers will buy where there limited dollars will buy the most for their survival. Sam Walton's simply business was about volume and lower profits that overshadowed his competition that saught to take double digit profits as long as the consumer didn't know any better. Admit it Walmart got real big real quick because consumers got tired of being taken to the cleaners by vary greedy retailers, and now those other retailers are doing what.....copying everything Walmart does so that they can get market share of your consumer dollars.(Target, K-Mart, Shop-Ko, etc even to include Sears, Penny's and others that have raped the American buying public for decades!!!! "Imitation is the most sincere form of Flattery", now print that in your union news letters....probably not because the truth doesn't sell as well as the bad news stories.

When our electricity was out last New Years, Walmart was the only one who had propane canisters left, and they were open at 10 pm! They're great!

I want a WAL-MART,store in New York City. the is the only store for peope need to by a anything. and peope dont'no have to paid to much money. is a store for all state USA. Iam FRANCISCO A. BRENES for the BRONX, NY. 10468. gov. have to help a store like: WAL-MART.

Wal-Mart is an appalling, unethical company that should not be allowed to continue to operate in our communities. Please RUN, don't walk, and see Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (http://www.walmartmovie.com/) before you get excited about Wal-Mart coming back to the Gulf Coast.

-- D

It proves a point for Wal Mart.....they do care, which is more than a lot of others do.

Congratulations on plugging an institution that is helping to destroy the American economy. I'm sure the availability of supplies come as a huge convenience to the people in need in that area, but this early entrenchment of Wal******, will help to ensure that the local economy does not stay local. I think that it is very sad that the people of BSL have to look to this company as their saviour.

It's easy to focus on the Big guy because Wal-mart is everywhere. They continue to be the targets of unfair attacks. Wal-mart donates money to every cause. They gave millions to hurricane relief before the smoke even cleared. Wal-mart wasn't screaming about the looting of their store. In fact, the opposite was true. They understood that in MOST cases there was a real need for these people to take what they needed. In a FEW cases the need wasn't there, like for stereo equipment. But Wal-mart wasn't holding press conferences or asking the city to protect their inventory.

Say what you want. Each Wal-mart store is unique. Good managers take an interest in their community and support it. This Wal-mart is a gem.

Glad there is a store to help these folks out. It should make you wonder how many stores between Walmarts have been wiped out prior to the hurricane b/c of the Walmart style of business. Maybe if they didn't drive everyone in between out of business it wouldn't be 20 miles between service providers.

I guess people forget that there is nothing altruistic about Walmart rebuilding as fast as they did. Profit and PR. They give nothing away.

Walmart could have just walked away from the Bay/Waveland area until things settled down. Instead they opened the tent. I'm sure with as much money as they bring in daily from all the other stores across the US they certainly did not need what cash a tent would add to the bank. Most of the small, local stores in no way could do anything of this size to supply the badly needed items. Just for a short while can we please stop using this as a means to bash Walmart?

we in the south become acustome of some things...wal mart is one of those things thank you wal mart

Walmart: A result of a free market economy, where people with buisiness sense, can compete for tax payer dollars.....isn't that what our economy is all about? Walmart employes 10% of employed workers in the U.S. at this time as per news reports and if it were not Walmart it woud be another buisiness smart retailer. We should applaud our free market economy which promotes such competitive buisiness tactics, brings items at an affordable price to such a far reaching public, employees such massive numbers of people, and contributes to our economy in so many ways. Free market economy or socialism, we each can choose.

I definitely agree that Wal-Mart does horrible things to local businesses, and yes, they seem to be involved in some questionable business practices, HOWEVER, as many people have said, Wal-Mart is "there" for the communities in need. I personally have a "love/hate" relationship with Wal-Mart. I love the convenience and the low prices, but on the other hand, I hate that workers overseas are being exploited. In this situation though, I have to give Wal-Mart great big props!

it sure is fashionable in a lot of places to hate wal mart. its too bad these critics do not see the benefits wal mart can bring to a community. they provide things people need and want at very competitive prices and do it at a consistently high degree of dependability. we live in a competitive society and a competitive world. there are no God given rights to business success. wal mart has competed and won their business by out smarting, out working, and plain out hustling the competition. who benefits? the average american family - hundreds of thousands of them flock to wal mart every day. nobody forces them to go. to the wal mart bashers i say you don't have to shop there. you are free to pay more somewhere else.

How lofty everyone sounds as they condemn Wal-Mart and the low prices that enable the lower and middle class to have more amenities in life. Wal-Mart is a well liked neighbor here in Covington,La., for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they LISTENED to us when we told them what we needed to rebuild our very lives after Katrina.The lower margin of profit took a lot of the sting out of refurbishing our home.Not Sears, nor J C Penny, but Wal-Mart and K-Mart came thru for us.And by the way, we bought no clothing , but by choice we made sure ALL products we purchased were made here in the U.S.Just check the label, and keep the money here in the States.

Everyone hates a Winner--Took my wife and Grandkids to local Walmart today-Was appalled to see an Austic young man-smiling,pushing carts-an erderly lady greeting us--school drop-outs at the registers-social misfits stocking the shelves-These people should be home collecting govt. checks and food-stamps--Guess the manager hid the chains and whips--I was so much happier when I drove all over the area and paid much more in Mom and Pop stores-Now I realize why unions are so important--they have outlived their purpose but still want a bigger piece of the pie someone else has baked--If you have limited skills or abilities you need to pay your 'union dues' so some fat-cat can profit from someone elses hard work--Coal,Steel,Autos are all cheaper today due to unions? Oh well,I've always been opimistic--Anyway, the grandkids had a great time,We saved some money and all the 'associates' were great people-Somehow,I don't think they or I need to be told by some 'Union" what we're worth--
P.S. Mike-You and all the guys/girls in Iraq and Afganistan are are our heroes--They grandkids and I pray you get home safe.Who knows, maybe we can hang out in sportin'-goods together at Wal-Mart-I'd really like that-

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