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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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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Jim Shippey returns from his "mobile factory and distribution center" with a new sample.

The mobile factory is really just his SUV, and the sample is a T-shirt, warning visitors to stay away from "Mississippi yard dogs" — in other words, alligators.

Shippey sells the shirts from under a big tent. He was camped out on the lawn Thursday night next door to Artists of 220 Main, in Old Town, where the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce was throwing a "Business After Hours" bash. Earlier in the day, he'd been set up in the parking lot of a shopping center on Highway 90, where John Brecher photographed him.

Shippey, 64, has lived in Waveland for 51 years. He spent 22 of them in the schools as a teacher and an administrator (he made it all the way up to assistant superintendent), but in recent years he's specialized in "Grandma bait" — cute, custom-made children's clothing with his original animal designs.

He sold the shirts out of his Jim's Little Zoo shop near the medical center until Katrina wiped him out. "I don't know what the owners (of the building) are planning," he says, adding that he has wholesale customers elsewhere, so his business prospects are pretty good.

In the meantime, he designed himself some Katrina- and Mississippi-themed T-shirts, drove to Mobile, Ala., where he could find a working phone, called his printer in Florida and got them made. Then he threw up his tent.

He's got a beautiful magnolia-screened Mississippi shirt for sale, but most folks are pawing through the "I Survived Katrina" offerings. One bears a map of the area, and another has Dr. Seuss' Grinch hoisting a beer mug and declaring, "I Survived Hurricane Katrina — Slammed I am!" That one's not too popular with the church buses, he says.

Shippey also does custom holiday designs for Waffle House, and he's waiting for Christmas, when the big orders come. For now, though, he's doing OK, especially when a big crew of government workers or out-of-town volunteers heads home. They all want Katrina souvenirs.

"Right now, you don't shoot a winning horse," he says.

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22 COMMENTS

do what ya gotta do keep on keeping on

I think Katrina t-shirts are in poor taste and another example of someone making money off of misery.

I would love one of his Grinch shirts! How do you get in touch with him? I am a Mississippian and would love to one.

When it comes to housing along the beachfront in Waveland, FEMA is "throwing the baby out with the bath." These homes never flooded, and no elevation could have saved them. Even the houses of the smart little piggies who used brick fell before the wall of pressurized water now estimated to have been between 35 and 40 ft. As far as new elevations on the beachfront are concerned, FEMA is just simply being irrelevant. What a shock!

Mr. Shippey should consider setting up a consulting business for other small business affected by Katrina! He is a very smart and creative person. He was able to use his brain and what resources he had available to him to rebuild his business. Good Luck Mr. Shippey!

Great idea where can I purchase one.

Very creative. S with all the money he is making by humorous teeshirts is he donating any money to the actual victims or is he just going to poke fun at a serious situation?

Very creative. S with all the money he is making by humorous teeshirts is he donating any money to the actual victims or is he just going to poke fun at a serious situation?

Poor taste????? How else can you look at a devastating situation other than to smile with a grimace and try to find the humor in the situation. Without humor, we'd all die. Or go insane. He's not exploiting the tragedy, especially with people buying his items. And if it helps someone out....its an outlet for stress. Don't be so harsh on them.

Mr. Shippey is a victim of Hurricane Katrina. He and his wife have lost their home and their business.

Sound like this gentleman is doing the best he can under present circumstances. I noticed he has lived in the same area for years and would imaging he is one of Wavelands many unsung hero's, Good on ya!

JKL

If you noticed Nicole, he owns a business and lived/worked in the area. Get off your high horse liberal. And yeah, I know, it was George's fault the hurricans hit the South so hard.

Who gives a crap?!?!?

I applaud "shipp", let me see, he's a victim and he's not asking the government for jack and he's found a way to pay his car note and help support his family, we have some survivors here in Michigan and they are doing what they have to do too - KUDOS

David I only agree with the you on the Fact that S is a victim himself and he can make money if he needs to... but David, attacking someone because you think they a 'Liberal" please stop!!We all need to work together and not forget these people who lost everythink.

Hi jim from mike bush ...were you in the boys scouts back in the 60's when Betsy and cameale came through if so glad to see you again. I still remember our rowing trip up the jordan river. Tell Tommy hello I feel he has a tought job ahead of him. Most people don't remember those storms and there was no help and no FEMA back then. good luck on your T shirt sales.

I WANT ONE!!! Where can I get one of those shirts? Please e-mail me, one of the Grinch ones. Though I do not live there, my grandma Kitty did many years ago, as well as many of her family and friends; and so for her I want one! e-mail me at [email protected]

Good for you for using your creative abilities and doing what you can to make ends meet (hope you are) and not sitting back and griping about not having the Government take care of all your needs...you are an inspiration for sure! YOU GO MAN!!!

Prayers to you for best in all of your future endeavors!

I'm from Lakeshore,MS and cannot imagine purchasing or wearing one of these shirts. Someone from my work designed a "Survivor" T-shirt and took orders. I just can't justify wearing one that could be seen by someone who had close friends or relatives that died in the storm or its aftermath. I know we are proud of our survival spirit, but this just doesn't seem right.

As a survivor myself, I applaud those who are using their creative initiative in order to support them and their families. And as far as the person that asked if he was giving back, well if he buys his food from our stores, pays his taxes in our county, and gives joy to those who come in contact with him and his shirts then I would say YES, he is giving LOTS back to the community of which he has belonged for so many years.

If you would like to hear from some of the victims from the Greater New Orleans area, please let me know. My mom's house got flooded, and is residing with me in Covington, LA. The house next door to me just SOLD to a couple from St. Bernard Parish, who LOST everything. St. Tammany Parish, where I live, is SO crowded. I feel for my new Walgreen's Manager, Mr. Schwartz from Waveland, Ms. who lost everything. I do know that the Southern Baptist Relief Disaster Teams have been down here working and churches of all denominations are helping in every way they can. Please e-mail me at [email protected] Gulf Coast Bank here is opening a new bank here and everyone working there, resided in St. Bernard Parish, and LOST everything.
Thank you and May God Bless!
God Bless America!!!
Rita

Way to go Jim. America & free enterprise & freedom of speech is what this country is suppose to be about. Good for you for being motivated at age 64 to make survival $$ instead of expecting a hand out. Hope you make a bunch.

Shelia

I've read several of these different 'blogs' about Hurricane Katrina & it shocks me how many people are judging others for trying to make a living! When it all comes down to it, it's about you & your family first. I also hope Jim makes a ton of money on his TShirts that so many people will find amusing. Those of you criticizing him should judge yourself, not others. And if you don't like his TShirts, don't buy one.

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