The Machine Shop: Change Along the Bay

For a few years after World War II there were undeveloped parcels along the Embarcadero. The parcels west of the roadway were leased by the county until 1964 when Morro Bay incorporated and took over the management of the Tidelands.

In the early postwar years locals had high hopes for the new harbor, but it was not clear how it would develop. Many believed that tourism and fishing would eventually dominate, but these industries could only grow one business at a time. The parcel of land that this panel is on illustrates the path of development.

In the 1950’s before tourism and the fishing fleet really took off, lease prices were not yet very high. So an entrepreneur like Meredith Morley could purchase a lease of bare land from Bill Roy in 1955 to start a business that had nothing to do with being on the waterfront.

Morley wanted to make locking C-clamps in a little manufacturing business. He moved the OK Rubber building (tire retreading) in pieces from San Luis Obispo to a concrete pad, and opened shop. According to his son, William, the business was difficult and didn’t last long.

More in keeping with the waterfront, Glenn Johnson bought the improvements on the parcel from Morley in 1962, and started the Machine Shop. A better fit for the growing fishing industry, the business still did not thrive. Johnson finally sold to Michael DeGarimore, who leased the site for Central Coast Seafood in 1982 (according to Harbor Dept. records).

For a few years, DeGarimore used the site for fish processing and wholesale, but also had a small restaurant and outside seating for diners. Beginning in 1986, he sub-let to Abalone Unlimited, a mariculture operation trying to farm abalone on the water side of the parcel (by this time the natural abalone fishery had collapsed). The business did not succeed.

Finally, in 1992, Sophie Hill and Joanne Shiflett took over and opened the Otter Rock Restaurant and a gift shop. The Otter Rock operated until the fall of 2018, as a restaurant, completing the evolution of the parcel into part of the visitor-serving businesses that dominate the southern part of the Embarcadero today.