As the business grew by leaps and bounds, Thompson’s local production line couldn’t keep up with demand, so he did everything by renting space, hiring bona fide employees and even using a sewing machine motor and a vacuum cleaner belt for jerry-tuning the first-ever automated rock shrimp splitting device (via Associated press). “My dad was the one who created the very first rock shrimp splitting machine, and no one has created anything like it since,” Laurilee Thompson recalled during a 2021 interview with Orlando’s. WUCF TV.
After a few twists and turns, Thompson and his wife, Mary Jean, opened their own restaurant, Dixie Crossroadsin 1983. What started as a 30-seat seafood joint is today an iconic, still family-owned landmark, with seating for more than 400 customers (via Visit Florida). Rodney Thompson died in 2016 at the age of 86, but his legacy lives on. In the 2021 WUCF-TV interview, Dixie Crossroads General Manager Greg Holladay introduced the updated version of Thompson’s original shrimp splitter, telling a reporter, “We opened it up here. We bring it to our shrimp ladies who are sitting at a table, they clean it, spray it on little grill plates, then spray butter on it, send it to a grill oven, then it is sent to the customer. We just want everyone to be able to have fresh Florida seafood, so we go through all of that labor-intensive stuff so customers can have great fresh produce to eat. »