A romantic old salt whose own logbook of adventures has taken him on exotic journeys from Key Largo to Key West, to short cruises out to wild, and wanton South Bass Island on summer weekends with his kids, it would seem that Jerry Thompson has had something of a lifelong love affair with both boats and the sea.
Still perhaps the strangest “waters” Thompson has ever navigated was back when he and wife Miriam struck out to start a quaint little nautical shop a little over eight years ago on the outskirts of Oregon.
Located some five miles of landlocked farmland from the waters of Maumee Bay, at 6050 Navarre Ave, the Thompsons’ adventure was ultimately sunk before it ever started, due to strict community business policies that required, among other things, all Oregon-area businesses to have brick facades.
Finally, as of just this past December, the “mom-and-pop” team seems to truly have most of their proverbial “holes” patched up, their little shop shipshape in accordance with the city of Oregon’s codes, and the “bow” of Thompson’s Land and Sea Shoppe pointed towards bluer horizons.
“For a long time now, it’s always seemed like it’s been something new,” said Thompson, who co-owned a nautical shop called the Waterfront just a cockle shell’s throw down Route 2 next to O’Brien’s Market. He and his partner were forced abandon ship thanks to an ambitious road widening project that would’ve run the well-traveled thoroughfare right through the Waterfront’s front door.
“Really, this business was first built clear-back in the winter of 2004, and when Marge Brown was the mayor of Oregon, we were told we had to brick our building, because I guess the city was looking for all of its businesses to have brick exteriors, so we could look like a richer society. And so, when we couldn’t afford the $80,000 to put up the brick, we weren’t allowed to open up for a while.”
The shop’s classically-funky, multi-directional beach sign greets curious passersby near the front door, and conjures up breezy postcards of summers past, with its arrows haphazardly pointing the way east about five miles to the mouth of Lake Erie; and further down Route 2 to Bono; and south to the distant shores of Florida; and other favorite destinations both near and far.
Then there’s the collection of seemingly life-sized buoys that sway gently in the breeze out by the handsome “Thompson’s Land and Sea Nautical Gift Shoppe” sign, which is done in cool blues and splashy greens. The buoys are constructed, painted, and detailed to look like replicas of the real McCoys which have bobbed stoically in and around Lake Erie like sentries for generations.
Perhaps best of all, there’s that magic moment when locals or tourists wander through the Thompson’s front door and step onto the creaky, gleaming wood floor that leads into all the funky art, novel home decor pieces, assorted nautical bric-a-brac and more that they realize they’ve stumbled upon one of Maumee Bay’s hidden treasures.
The eye will is drawn to a small fleet of handsome boat-shaped coffee tables crafted out of wood, polished glass, splashy paint jobs, and classic port and starboard-side lights that Thompson – an experienced woodworker – lovingly turns out at a rate of about two per week.
Speaking of painstaking craftsmanship, beneath a drooping umbrella of fish netting is a motherload of one-of-a-kind wooden nautical signs celebrating life along Lake Erie, the Maumee River and other waterfronts. The signs, which showcase another of Thompson’s talents – painting – extol the pleasures of lazy days on the water and tout Thompson’s hometown of Oregon as “A Boater’s Paradise on Lake Erie.” Thompson will also create personalized signs to decorate your cabin, cottage or cabin cruiser.
The shop also features an interesting collection of seashells, Amish-made poly-vinyl Adirondack chairs; nautical-themed wall sculptures hewn from twisted copper by local artist George Coker; fragrant soy candles poured by Miriam Thompson herself; and broods of hearty “Old Salt” figurines crafted of resin – all of which are overseen by store patron saint “Pepee the Pelican.”
Even if you haven’t gotten your “sea legs,” there’s plenty for landlubbers to love here, too.
For instance, car enthusiasts can rev up their decor with one of the antique metal hot-rod signs, or one of Thompson’s hand-painted wooden signs for the den or garage.
Or those who simply long to relive those carefree days of your youth can linger over the authentic Don’s Drive-In booth tucked into a corner of the shop, just below the gigantic black-and-white Steak-and-Shake photograph, that looks like it could’ve come straight out of an episode of “Happy Days.” Both of which were actually given to Thompson as gifts by the owners/managers of the two businesses, in exchange for some signage he custom-painted for the Toledo landmarks.
Browsers are always welcome at Thompson’s too and Thompson is happy to share a story or fish tale.
“It’s talking to people, and getting to know a little bit about them that’s the best part of this business,” Thompson said. “People come in here all the time just to talk for a while. If I don’t know them, I’ll ask them where they’re from, and usually I end up knowing someone that they know, or something about where it is they come from. I can talk to people for hours. I’m a people person. I just love it.”
For more information about the shop, call 419-349-3343 or visit www.thompsonslandandsea.com.
Jerry Thompson hand paints signs and other items available at Thompson’s Land and Sea Shoppe.