Off the Hook: The Ships Chandler: Focus on the Fisherman

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By Cali Hvalac

As the oldest fishing tackle shop in Destin, The Ships Chandler goes hand in hand with Destin’s fishing history. Like most in our area, the Wright family relocated to Destin in 1970 on a military assignment to Eglin Airforce Base. Destin was a small fishing village during this time, and after graduating from high school in 1976, Peter Wright decided fishing was his future. He took the time to travel around, from the Keys to the Virgin Islands, Bahamas to the Caribbean, where his fishing knowledge grew. In 1979, he returned to Destin and instead of fishing to make a living, he and his father opened The Ships Chandler.
Originally established as a tackle shop only, The Ships Chandler geared towards the commercial fisherman specifically. The name, The Ships Chandler, made sense since a ship’s chandler in the old days was a person who provided supplies, provisions, cargo and crew to the boats.

At the time, there was only one other tackle shop in town that subsequently closed; thus The Ships Chandler is the oldest fishing tackle shop in Destin. It has occupied four different locations, and occupied the most recent one on the southside of Hwy. 98 in Destin in 1992. This was when they first built docks out back; however, Hurricane Opal in 1995 had different plans and wiped those clean away. They rebuilt a second set of docks that were larger and could house a variety of boats.

When asked what it was like back then, Peter Wright Jr. shared one story that came to mind. “{My grandparents, Bill and Mary Wright,} were the seventh house built on Holiday Isle, a two story house,” Wright said. “My grandmother could sit on the top deck of their two-story home and watch my grandfather go by boat from the back and through the Harbor, out of the pass, and into the Gulf. With hardly any houses built, she could watch him the entire way.” Almost unheard of these days!

They added their first fishing charter boat in 1990, and by 1999 had expanded their shop into the boat sales and maintenance arena as well. The Ships Chandler has had a goal in mind since day one: to help fishermen become better in their craft, instead of just selling them anything and everything. Peter Wright gained a wealth of knowledge during his travels after high school, and he had a vision of sharing that with our local fishing industry here.

For that reason, they carried a lot of custom and specialty tackle in the beginning, and now their little shop has expanded into anything boat and fishing related, from coolers to sunglasses, and more. In addition, they also supply performance fishing boats and outboard motors and the services to the support them: service and maintenance, customizations, fishing tackle, and boat slip rentals. They even have an inshore fishing guide service if you’d like personal instruction or just a fun day of fishing.

Their goal remains the same, and fishermen are welcome to come by with questions or just to introduce themselves anytime. They talk boats and fishing every day and love it. They’ll even evaluate your needs and make recommendations. I’d say that’s proof that this second- and third-generation, family-owned business is an integral part of our lucky little fishing village and has played a vital role in its being designated with that title.
Visit their website at https://theshipschandler.com or give Peter a call at (850) 837-2262.