Joe and Peggy Rogers with River and David J. Rogers of the family-owned art gallery in Morro Bay.
The first time I walked into the David J. Rogers Gallery was during a Shop-Sip-Stroll event last spring coordinated by the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. I spied my friends from Kelsey Winery pouring some of my favorite wines. While sipping, I was drawn to Rogers’ vivid watercolors. They feature recognizable Central Coast locations that made me feel, “Yes! I live in paradise!”
However, it was his print of a black lab howling at the moon that won my soul. I needed to preserve that meditative mood I felt seeing an image of my dog CJ singing my song in a David J. Rogers print.
As I continued my stroll in and out of Morro Bay’s downtown merchant center meeting the friendly new owners of The Ugly Mug Ceramics, Tiger Monkey Tattoo, Top Dog Coffee Bar, as well as artists showing at the Morro Bay Art Center, I realized something else — our downtown has a new energy.
Was it wishful thinking? When I asked David Rogers, I discovered his heartwarming “moving forward” story about how the family serendipitously opened their gallery and found their home-studio in Morro Bay.
First, I suggest you go to www.DavidJRogerArt.com. His brief bio states, “…I am a watercolor artist with over 25 years of fine art experience. I spent most of that time traveling the country and attending over 40 fine art shows annually. One day I decided to slow things down a bit and open a studio gallery to share my passion of landscape and seascape art with others. We found that perfect downtown location in the beautiful beach town of Morro Bay, California. I currently host monthly workshops for local artists but want to open that experience to visitors too. I can’t wait to share the beauty of the Central Coast with you!”
Roger’s professional following is significant, attracting students and collectors worldwide — Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Hungary, Spain, England, Canada, and Morro Bay. His audience numbers are 146,000 with a subscriber list of just under 85,000. Peggy Rogers, his business partner and wife, remarked, “We have sold literally millions of dollars in artwork over the course of David’s career.”
So, particularly for residents, I wanted to share the Rogers’ Morro Bay “moving forward” story. They hope to meet you when they host the next Chamber mixer at the gallery Wednesday, March 8 from 5:30 – 7 p.m.
The Rogers family lived in Fresno. Twenty-four years ago, they decided art would become their livelihood. David would paint and Peggy would handle operations. Together they would learn the industry.
“Our business has grown organically,” David said. “I’ve been on this path that keeps opening with more to do. At first it was how do I make a living at what I love? I studied how other people were doing it? I painted a few dogs that sold and realized how many breeds there are. Dog print sales built our initial business. We started on eBay and Amazon as a self- represented artist at www.dogprintsgallery.com.”
At one point they displayed at 40 shows a year including the three Morro Bay Art in the Park visits. David expanded his watercolor offerings to feature Central Coast landscapes and seascapes.
“My goal as an artist is that my work will provide a peaceful escape for the soul of the viewer,” David said.
In 2020, COVID-19 shut down travel, so they pivoted to focus on growing their online sales, subscriptions, and workshops. David teaches his unique method of painting based on his book and artist kit, “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor Painting.”
“Our demographic for students is female 45-90 years … feeling their life has not always been what they wanted … they learn they can create,” said David.
Their business expanded exponentially. They added onto their Fresno home-studio to make room for a shipping operation. It wasn’t enough.
“I had no intention of looking for a place for a gallery, but in Fresno we were busting at the seams,” David said. “I needed a place to support our shipping.”
Browsing commercial opportunities, the couple saw their current Morro Bay space online. They remembered being there and saw potential, but when they called, the owner had already leased it.
“We looked at each other and shrugged ‘It’s the coast.’ And then it was one happy accident after another,” said Peggy. “We dropped by. The owner was there ready to sign the contract. We told her we wanted to open our gallery. She said she preferred the space to be a gallery.
“Everything happens for a reason. Suddenly we were moving, but we didn’t have a place to live. What happened is testimony we were meant to be here. We had a 27-foot travel trailer but no place to park it. Santa Margarita was as close as we could get. We serendipitously walked into Rustic Diamond [in Morro Bay]. Cindy was working the counter. She said she knew someone who had a house but didn’t live in it and maybe she would let us park there temporarily.”
Elizabeth Fletcher had been retrofitting her home for wheelchair access. When they called, she happened to be in town and was literally across the street as they were setting up the gallery.
“She not only agreed we could park our trailer, but gave us access to a bathroom and eventually suggested we stay in the house until she was ready to move in,” Peggy said.
It wasn’t long before Elizabeth moved to town, and they were again essentially homeless with a trailer going back and forth to Fresno.
“Someone through St. Timothy’s Catholic Church,” continued David, “knew Grace Poletti was not using the apartment on her property.” They talked to her grandson, Joey Pettit. “The apartment – decorated with 1970s man-cave décor – needed work, but we got all the stuff out and finally had a home. Joey was a big help.”
Their relationship with the now deceased Grace became their beautiful bonus. Peggy loves to cook and would make extra for Grace, especially her favorites, tuna casserole, meatloaf, and tacos. Grace was always a people-person – a past Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce Living Treasure.
“Peggy loved being her guardian angel when Grace needed help,” David said,
Peggy and David are now homeowners in Morro Bay and based on the strong family relationship they developed with Joey and Grace, their son, Joe Rogers and his young family also has a Morro Bay home. It is close to the gallery where Joe works weekdays in their family business. He too is an artist focused on creating contemporary stylized artwork.
David addressed my curiosity about Morro Bay’s newfound downtown energy. “My belief is that downtown is ripe with potential. The typical reaction we get from our customers is pleasant surprise, and an appreciation of the small-town vibe, which is different than our waterfront or where they might be traveling from. In fact, here at the gallery we like to refer to the downtown area as ‘Mayberry at the Beach,’ where everyone knows everyone, and we all look out for one another.”
The David J. Rogers Gallery is open seven days a week at 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and located at the corner of Morro Bay Blvd. and Monterey.