By Christopher Boan
Ron and Donna Thornton retired from a five-decade run of operating 18-wheel trucks and can’t-miss culinary institutions, only to find themselves mindlessly bored.
The solution to that conundrum came when the Thorntons saw a piece of property near their Mesa home hit the market.
The couple, who moved to the Valley 45 years ago, decided to dip their toes into the food industry once more, opening Cap’n Ron’s Fish and Chips at 6144 E. Main Street, Suite 106, in October.
The endeavor was Ron’s brainchild, which explains the restaurant’s name. The restaurant has been an instant success in the East Valley, with a 4.5-star rating on Yelp to its name.
Ron says the pair’s latest culinary sensation, which comes on the heels of other institutions that they once owned and operated, like Corner Café and Grandma’s Kitchen in Mesa, speaks to the area’s love of seafood done right.
“There wasn’t a fish and chips place around this particular area, so we figured it might be a good one to open up,” Ron says. “It’s been a boomer ever since.”
The 78-year-old Michigan expat says he and Donna have been humbled by the community’s response to their newest restaurant.
He calls the fish and chips joint the realization of a lifelong dream and an opportunity for the couple to stay in the public limelight, on the heels of their other successful ventures.
“We love just being in the public and we’re happy to be here,” he says. “We retired and couldn’t stand retirement. We’re both in our 70s, and we couldn’t stand retirement.”
A main draw for both members of the Thornton family was the ability to employee their kids and grandchildren at their newest restaurant.
Donna says having a completely family-run restaurant, while difficult at times, makes their efforts all the more worthwhile.
“Most restaurants that you operate with kids, they’re not always successful because the kids, they fight and don’t get along,” Donna says. “So, I’m pretty much the main organizer to make sure that doesn’t happen here.
They work, they get paid, they do their job and I make sure that the work gets done and they don’t get treated any different from anybody else.”
Donna believes the success of Cap’n Ron’s stems from their ability to source fresh fish on an almost daily basis.
That freshness allows Ron and Donna to offer a product that’s head and shoulders above the competition, in her opinion, which helps explain their dedicated following from members of the community.
“We buy fresh fish, it’s brought in four days a week, it’s battered on site, it’s never frozen, we cut it and it’s all made to order,” Donna says. “We dip our own batter; we make our own coleslaw and our sauces.
“It’s all good stuff. Better than these frozen patties at other places.”
Ron circles back to the family aspect of the couple’s newest restaurant, highlighting how important it is to keep the business within the Thornton clan indefinitely.
The former truck driver deadpans the reason their kids and grandchildren keep coming back, day after day, to handle the minutiae of day-to-day operation.
“It’s nice to know that we hired them,” he says. “They scream and they throw a fit but they keep coming back.”
Cap’n Ron’s Fish and Chips, 6144 E. Main Street, Suite 106, Mesa, 480.832.4134.