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Eminent domain forces Dockside to close

Family owned and operated restaurant Dockside will close its doors after its property was taken by eminent domain for the Highway 11 expansion and bridge project. It is unclear if the restaurant will be able to relocate.

Dockside is run by a brother and sister, Tony and Angelle Carbone, and they are doing their best to celebrate the restaurant’s 33 years of serving seafood in Picayune. There will be an outdoor tent, some specials and treats from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, their last day at the location. The Carbone family is inviting the community to come share memories of their time there.

The building and property were taken by eminent domain by the Mississippi Department of Transportation in 2019. The second phase of the Highway 11 expansion project includes replacing the bridge over the East Hobolochitto Creek on the east side of the existing bridge, which means the highway will be shifted east across the property where Dockside sits to build the new bridge.

In the state of Mississippi, there is no formula to compensate for business loss when a property is taken by eminent domain, so the property and building were purchased as strictly a real estate transaction. The amount of compensation for the property tremendously limits the family’s ability to relocate the restaurant, said Tony Carbone.

The family is awaiting a jury trial centered on the question of compensation, but the trial date was postponed twice due to the pandemic. A new trial date has not been set yet. Tony Carbone said some local civic leaders were surprised that there was no formula to compensate for the business loss.

“It broke our heart when we heard,” said Mary Crews, a regular customer at Dockside.

Vickie Toney and Miranda Adams make the 40-minute drive from Poplarville to Dockside at least once a week to feast on stuffed crab, or boiled crawfish, or whatever fresh seafood is in season.

“I am so critical on seafood, because I was born and raised on seafood and there’s nobody that can compare to them,” said Toney.

She’s originally from Louisiana and the friendly staff and fresh seafood make her feel at home. The thought of Dockside closing brings tears to her eyes.

“For me and people that are from Louisiana and live in Mississippi, it’s kind of like a little bit of home,” she said. “It’s like one of the last few pieces that connect us to home. It feels like we’re losing another piece of home.”

Rachel Burks dined at Dockside for the first time Thursday.

“It’s phenomenal food and now I’m really sad, because it’s the second to last time I get to eat in here,” said Burks.

Although the restaurant’s last day is Saturday, she planned to return for another meal Friday.

Dockside began on April 1, 1987. Angelle worked in seafood markets in high school, while Tony worked as a professional fisherman. Both of their grandmothers lived with them.

“We had great women that would cook and make a meal out of leftovers,” said Angelle Carbone.

Their dad also loved to experiment in the kitchen, said Tony Carbone. Their home was always full of fresh shrimp, crabs and fish.

“We always cooked more than what we need, so we could share it with family and friends,” said Tony. “Any celebration was oriented around seafood.”

Friends and family were always invited to share a meal around a kitchen table covered with newspaper and fried seafood. Starting a restaurant seemed like a natural transition for the siblings and their parents.

“We cook it with our soul and we share it with soul,” said Tony.

Family friend 90-year-old Wilfred Kuchler drives from Chalmette to Picayune each day to peel shrimp in the kitchen of Dockside and to spend time talking with the staff. Kuchler was close friends with the paternal Carbone.

“Me and Tommy were like brothers,” he said.

The pair met after Kuchler finished his service in the Marine Corps in the 50s.

“If they were fishing, they were fishing together,” said Angelle.

Her father passed away in 2017, but his memory is honored in the restaurant. The staff will remember him with new shirts Friday bearing one of his favorite sayings, “you don’t have to eat it…you just gotta taste it.”

Jonathan Williams has been coming to Dockside since it opened, long enough to become friends with the owners.

“They treat you like family when you come here,” he said. “I’m going to dearly miss this place.”

Williams said he always looked forward to crawfish season at Dockside.

“They were always the first ones to have crawfish. One year they got it the week before Christmas,” he said.

Williams was excited, because the restaurant shuts down between Christmas and New Years to give employees time off at the holidays, so crawfish normally wouldn’t be available there until January.

“It’s just sad to see a fellow business owner go through something like this,” he said.

Carlyn Nastasi has been working at the restaurant for seven years. The staff often have adventures together to relax, like biking through New Orleans or kayaking in McComb.

“You couldn’t get no better people to work for,” said Nastasi.

She often sees the same customers return every day.

Lise Stockstill and Dalinda Gill have been coming to Dockside weekly since it opened.

“We come for lunch and then we come for dinner,” said Gill.

One of the most memorable moments Stockstill’s had at the restaurant was a surprise birthday meal.

“They saw it was my birthday on Facebook and when I came in, they surprised me with fresh caught red snapper with mushrooms,” said Stockstill.

Although Saturday’s event is meant to be a celebration, to Gill watching the outdoor tent go up feels more like preparing for a funeral. For Stockstill, Dockside closing its doors is “too sad. I can’t even fathom it.”