The Places We Gather

Our visit to the Greenhouse on Porter, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Story By Kyle Tibbs Jones  |  Photos by Allie Hine


Allie was in charge of directions.

She told me that in two miles we needed to take Exit Zero. I said, “No, really, where do we exit?” She said again, “Exit Zero.” We laughed. Was this some kind of “Being John Malkovich” moment? Were we driving into Steve Earle’s second album? Were we about to enter some other dimension? Turns out, we were.

There is an Exit Zero on I-65 in Alabama. Last weekend, in hope of bringing back a few stories for The BS, I traveled with photographer Allie Hine to Ocean Springs on the coast of Mississippi. After driving across the Dolly Parton Bridge (more on that in a future story) near Mobile, we took Exit Zero and veered onto I-10 heading toward the great state of Mississippi. Forty-five miles later, we were in Ocean Springs, a beautiful little beach town packed with wildly interesting people. A mashup of Southern small town and hippie artist enclave, it is, quite frankly, very Exit Zero.

Over the last year, via Instagram, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Kait Sukiennik and Jessie Zenor, the two brilliant ladies behind The Greenhouse on Porter in Ocean Springs. Both in their early ’30’s, they’ve taken a semi-dilapidated old greenhouse and turned it into a thriving community center. Visit Greenhouse On Porter in the mornings for delicious hot-out-of-the-oven biscuits (one sweet and one savory, every single day) and pour-over coffee. When the sun goes down, you can head over for some local brews and more biscuits. At the Greenhouse on Porter, any time of the day and night, you’ll find all kinds of locals discussing the events of the day, listening to live music, poetry readings, attending art shows and the like.

Their spot feels like a true community gathering place.

Our time with Kait and Jessie and the community they’ve created over biscuits brought to mind my hometown and the places we all gather as Southerners. For me, any art show, when I was growing up, was held at The Arts Guild, a community art center in an old firehouse in downtown Dalton, Georgia. A large portion of my youth was spent at the Dalton Rec Center attending my brother’s little league games and neighbor’s swim meets. Today, at 82, my father’s schedule in Dalton is this: on Thursdays he goes to the Hospital Prayer Breakfast and then to lunch at Kelly’s (a meat and three) down on 41 South. On Fridays, he meets another group of retirees at The Cracker Barrel at 9. I can’t remember where he has breakfast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  But recently, he decided he needed to cut something, so after 40 years of service; he no longer meets the Gideons for breakfast on Saturdays.

I’m glad Allie and I traveled five and a half hours to “Exit Zero,” on to Mississippi to meet Kait and Jessie, experience Ocean Springs and the quirky cool Greenhouse on Porter.

A few takeaways: 1. Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is straight out of the movies. Romantic and interesting.  2. It’s always better to hang with locals when you travel. 3. Kait and Jessie’s biscuits melt in your mouth. 4. I’m very happy to be reminded of how important gathering places are. In 2016, I want to make more time for friendships outside of social media. I want to see my friends in real life.

So. Let’s meet on the regular, shall we?

Where do folks get together in your hometown or neighborhood? Show us over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Use our hashtag #BSGatheringPlace