A Wright of passage for The Ships Chandler

Tina Harbuck
Bill Wright, left and founder of The Ships Chandler, shows off a blue marlin that he caught at the old Marlboro Marina in Destin. On the right is his son Peter Wright. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

It’s been almost four decades since Bill Wright hung out his shingle for The Ships Chandler in Destin. Bill passed away on Monday, but his legacy lives on.

Wright started the business in May of 1980 in what used to be Palm Plaza in Destin. Since then the business has moved a few times. But in 1993, the Wrights found the right spot at 646 Harbor Blvd. along Destin harbor. They built a 22-slip marina to go with the tackle, supply and boat business.

His son Peter joined him in 1981 and today, Peter’s son, Pete Jr. works along side him in the business.

“Three generations is a pretty neat thing,” said Peter as he sat with his son in the store earlier this week reminiscing.

“He was just Dad; he was full of it,” Peter said as he broke out in laughter. “He loved to tell stories … he would embellish some stories quite a bit. He was just fun.”

But Peter said his father always wanted to make sure his kids had enough.

Tommy Norred, who helped him build a few shelves in his first store, remembers him fondly.

“He was a family guy and his business was an asset to Destin when he started it,” Norred said. “A three-generation business is just hard to find nowadays."

Capt. William Frank Davis rented a space out to him in the early days at Davis Plaza.

“He was a good business man and he raised some good kids,” Davis said. “Me and him were good friends."

And Bill loved Destin and seeing his friends.

“We all loved living in Destin. Dad did, I do and Pete does … three generations that absolutely loved it and still do,” Peter said. “But there comes a time when you want to pass the baton."

Wright, who was retired from the U.S. Air Force, started the tackle business because he had a couple of commercial boats and wanted to be able to buy tackle for his boats as well as set up others in the boat business.

Peter said back then they mostly carried Kirby hooks, leads, swivels and monofilament line. After he came on board, they expanded the business, and by 1983, Bill had passed the baton.

“He turned the boats over to Danny Woodward and the business to me,” Peter said.

Although he stepped away, “Dad really enjoyed the business,” Peter said. “It wasn’t like he went to work … he loved it.

Pete Jr. said the thing he remembers most about his granddad was how he was in the military and wound up in Destin. He had moved to Destin and eventually to Holiday Isle because he couldn’t afford to live in Fort Walton Beach.

“By him moving to Destin … that’s what got all of us involved in the fishing industry for the rest of our lives,” Pete said. “Plus he was a disciplinarian, being from a military background."

“And he had a belt,” Peter said with a big belly laugh.

Nevertheless, Pete recalled that his granddad always gave his kids an opportunity.

“He didn’t give you anything … but he did give the opportunity,” Pete said. “And he would let you fall. But that's okay as long as you can get up."

As for things Bill enjoyed over the years, fishing and fish fries at the docks in the early days topped his list. He would love to stash away some of William Frank Davis' famous hushpuppies. Also on that list was Alabama football.

A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Peter said his dad never missed a game.

When asked what he’ll miss most about his father?

“Just being able to talk to him. You just miss ‘em …that’s the biggest thing.”

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Fishing Report