Since the 1960’s, the Thompson family has been synonymous with boat manufacturing, commercial seafood fishing and distribution, not to mention, one of the most iconic restaurants in north Brevard, Dixie Crossroads.
The family patriarch, Rodney Thompson, was a visionary and daring entrepreneur, a legacy carried on today through the business acumen of his wife, Mary Jean, along with daughters Laurilee Thomson and Sherri McCoy. Always engaged in a community that has seen its ups and downs over the last 50 years, they have been central to the civic and business leadership that is producing the cultural and economic renaissance Titusville is now enjoying.
“My father decided he could build a better and more durable racing boat out of fiberglass and that launched us into the boat building business,” Sherri McCoy said. He then decided to build a 76-foot fiberglass shrimp boat in 1969, but people didn’t trust a boat made from fiberglass. “In his typical fashion, some of his best successes came from seeming failures,” his daughters shared. Because he couldn’t sell his prototype boat, he decided to go into the shrimping business himself.
The only shrimp he was able to catch were rock shrimp which, because of their extremely hard shell, couldn’t be sold like typical soft-shelled shrimp. He was told by a researcher if he could figure out what to do with rock shrimp, he would be a millionaire. Thompson did find a way to process the shrimp, leading the family into what is today Wild Ocean Market, Cape Canaveral Shrimp Company and Dixie Crossroads Restaurant.
Like most entrepreneurs the family confronted their own share of setbacks, including a declining market for commercial fishing boats and a fire that decimated one of their boat manufacturing plants. “He took out a high interest loan and bought the last boat in production, while he still owned Thompson Trawlers,” Laurilee recalled. “We rigged it out and I took it out and for the next three years I ran our commercial fishing operation. This kept the family afloat as we pioneered longline fishing and opened our fresh fish markets.”
This woman-lead operation, in an industry dominated by men, is an entrepreneurial story that is the stuff of legends.