Long before there was a Thomas Seafood, there was a Thomas Tackle Shop and it was one of the first tackle shops on Topsail Island. It’s where I always got my fish heads for crabbing when I was a kid, and it’s where I get my seafood now. You see, I trust the owner and have known him my whole life. Good people, the Thomas’s-always fair, always hard working. And always with a smile and friendly hello.
The Thomas family has been around from the beginning of Topsail. Arriving in 1948, George Rufus Thomas, his wife, Elvie and their son George, Jr. moved to Sears Landing. The building there at the time, the original Thomas Tackle Shop, was then an Oyster Roast house built by Leroy and J.B. Batts. George and his family were there for a couple of years then moved back to their home in Kinston, where they ran a laundry and farmed. But in 1955, they thought they’d give Topsail another chance and moved back, this time with their new son Doug in tow. They renamed the old Oyster Roast, Thomas Tackle Shop, and while living in the back apartment, set up business for success.
They sold all kinds of local fish and shellfish, including shrimp, which at that time was used mainly for bait. From the docks in the back, boats brought in fresh catches of anything seasonal, running- from bluefish and flounder to mackerel, snapper, grouper, spots and dolphin. I’m not talking about Flipper when I say dolphin. Flipper is the mammal, the one with the blow hole in the top of his head. The kind of dolphin I’m talking about is what is now called Mahi Mahi. It is a mighty good tasting fish and the Thomas family had plenty of it when it was in season.
Just to the side of Thomas Tackle Shop George kept a menagerie of animals, a zoo, the closest one around for these parts. There were snakes, alligators, monkeys, and at one time, an elephant. It was great entertainment for family vacationers and locals alike.
In 1960 Mr. Thomas built the Blue Marlin Restaurant. It stood right next to the swing bridge overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and was known as one of the best restaurants on the island. Well, technically, it was just across the bridge, but all the same-the cooks did a really good job cooking up the fresh catch from Thomas Tackle Shop.
George Jr. Is fondly remembered by the locals as helping out his family, but we lost him early. Doug, the youngest of the Thomas boys, took over and helped his parents with their businesses. He piloted fishing boats and oystered and brought in catch for the shop. In other words, he did what most fishermen do, he worked his hiney off. To this day he owns and operates Thomas Seafood.
Though the location of Thomas Seafood is a few hundred yards up the road from the original Thomas Tackle Shop building, you still get the same kind of service-good service, appreciative and friendly. Kudos to Doug, he not only sells local seafood, but you can purchase fresh local vegetables at his place too.
Customers have been going to Thomas’s for decades- mothers, fathers, parents and grandparents too. It’s kind of a tradition to go to Thomas Seafood. I think Doug has cultivated a loyalty from those long time customers.
There’s history at Doug’s and often when I go in to buy seafood, there will be a group of folks standing around or sitting just chewing the fat, the local fat. Sometimes they let me join in, I feel privileged to do so. Regardless, the atmosphere is welcoming, friendly and purely down home.
Thank you Doug, and all the others who work at Thomas Seafood.