By Logan Dubel
A trip to Ocean City, Maryland is never complete without a stop on the Boardwalk to eat the timeless and always delicious Thrasher’s French fries. Since 1929, Thrasher’s has served visitors along the famous downtown strip, all while becoming a local phenomenon. Although many businesses come and go in the competitive resort environment, it is no mistake that Thrasher’s remains an Ocean City staple after nearly a century.
Founded by Mr. J.T. Thrasher, a Georgia native, Thrasher’s was always a simple business, centered around one lone product – fries. Mr. Thrasher owned other businesses in the resort and would bring his family up north in the summer to work. He aimed to bring the tastiest and most savory fries to Ocean City.
Today, the town is recognized for recruiting international J-1 workers each summer, but Mr. Thrasher found his employees from a Christian-affiliated school in his home state of Georgia. For housing, many of the girls stayed on the second floor of the old Bank of Ocean City building on Dorchester Street and South Baltimore Avenue.
The small concession shack opened in the pier building from Memorial Day through Labor Day before shutting down for the offseason. Thrasher’s continued to gain popularity among tourists over the next several decades.
Continuity is a paramount component of the company’s brand, as demonstrated by the few ownership changes over its lengthy history. In light of health challenges, Thrasher sold his business to well-known Ocean City entrepreneur Franklin Hastings. Then, in 1974, Charles “Buddy” Jenkins took over and has led the French fry hub ever since. Jenkins is also known locally as the operator of Jolly Roger and several hotels.
Under the direction of all three men, the success of the business has never faltered. Along with the pier building, Thrasher’s now operates stands at 2nd and 8th Streets.
“We are blessed to have such a strong and massive following after all these years. I’ve seen generations come through Thrasher’s, and one thing all our customers know is that it’s always the same,” said Les Morris, General Manager and employee of 45 years. “People will line up all day long for fries, and they taste the same way now as they did 50 years ago. I’m not going to lie, I eat a few each day!”
French fries are not typically considered the fanciest of foods, but that has never stopped the Thrasher’s team from valuing quality and superiority when it comes to their world-famous specialty.
The secret recipe is simple. Quality and fresh potatoes, peanut oil, and vinegar are the ingredients that make up what some call the most delicious fries on earth. As one might imagine, serving thousands of customers with countless cups of fries requires tons of supplies, and Thrasher’s is always planning ahead.
“We stock up on all our ingredients besides the potatoes up to a year in advance. We always have to be ready,” Morris explained. “Believe it or not, we’re always finding new ways to get potatoes, and even started going out to Idaho ourselves to the farms a few years ago. We wanted to go that far and get the best quality ingredients.”
Potatoes arrive in Ocean City and Thrasher’s Berlin warehouse from far and wide in tractor-trailers and by train. To serve the Boardwalk crowds daily, massive quantities are necessary. Each week, Thrasher’s typically imports 42,000 pounds of potatoes.
With 92 years of success, Thrasher’s has no plans of deviating from their recipe anytime soon. Additionally, they will continue to value manual operations and hard work over mechanization.
“I don’t want the machine to lift up the fries for me. I’ll know when they’re cooked right and ready to serve,” Morris joked.
The French fry stand continued to draw patrons last summer, despite the pandemic. Even without a significant workforce this summer (yes, they’re hiring!), Thrasher’s remains open daily from mid-March until November 1.
For Morris, an eastern shore native, the most enjoyable part of the job has been meeting young workers and watching them grow.
“It’s remarkable to see kids come back years after working here with their families and having them recognize me and recall their time working in Ocean City,” Morris reflected. “With Facebook, I’ve also been able to keep up with all our J-1 workers and check in. It’s a very special thing.”
While it is sometimes difficult to find common ground with others lately, the claim that Thrasher’s fries are the greatest in Ocean City is a uniting idea. For years, the business has dominated the annual Best of Ocean City® contest and currently leads the way with 89% in 2022 voting.
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