Restoring a Cayucos Treasure

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 23, 2023

Manuel Cruz, III is repainting an historic mural on the wall of the Way Station in Cayucos. Photo by Neil Farrell

A beloved mural in Cayucos is being repainted and restored after a storm in 2022 blew off one of the wood panels.

Called, “Delivery at the Cottage Hotel,” the mural on plywood and hanging on the south wall of the Way Station on Ocean Avenue, was completed by an artist named John Meng in 1993 as one of a series of historically-themed murals completed by the Cayucos Mural Society. The group was founded in 1992 and while it completed several projects in the Downtown Cayucos area, it hasn’t been active for many years.

Meng’s mural stood up for a long time but Mother Nature eventually won out, as she always does. With the Mural Society gone, it was left to the property owner, Maryellen Eisner and husband Hank, to restore the artwork.

After several months of searching for an artist to take up the challenge, they found Manuel Cruz III, a professional muralist and restorer who agreed to take on the project.

But redoing this particular mural would be tricky, as the building stands dizzyingly close to Little Cayucos Creek with about a 15-20-foot drop-off down into a narrow, overgrown creek channel. Little Cayucos Creek runs underneath Ocean Avenue and empties onto the beach. Normally, it’s dry but this winter, it’s run fast and deep with all the rain runoff.

Mrs. Eisner’s son, a construction contractor, built a sturdy wooden scaffolding attached to the wall to give the artist room to safely work.

New panels were attached to the wall and prepped for paint. And Cruz went to work about 6-weeks ago. His progress has been amazing, considering all the bad weather and the fact that he’s working off an original oil painting that Meng did for the artwork, which the Eisners had at home as a prized possession. Cruz hopes to be done with the new mural in a few weeks.

Cruz recently took a timeout from his work to speak with this reporter about the project.

The mural measures 19-feet wide and 11-feet high and Cruz said he’s using special outdoor mural paints from Nova Color, a paint manufacturer and art supplier in Southern California, whose acrylic paints are specially formulated and guaranteed never to fade in the sun. Cruz said that’s the paint he always uses.

Cruz has worked locally before. About 5-years ago he painted the mural that covers an exterior wall at the Morro Bay Art Association Galley on Main Street.

Originally from Oklahoma, Cruz said he left the Sooner State for the Golden State of California some 35-years ago. He goes all over doing mural projects and other art installations. 

“I do everything in the art world,” Cruz said, listing portraits, landscapes, impressionism, and Trompe L’oeil, a French word meaning, “deceiving the eye through realistic detail,” as styles he’s done

Cruz said he loves to travel and his work has taken him “everywhere.”

“I love to re-do murals,” Cruz said. “ When they get old and faded, my specialty is bringing them back to life. But this one I’m doing from scratch.” 

He’s been painting and restoring murals since 1987, he added, in any style and of almost any size.

He took a copy of Meng’s original artwork, divided it into a grid pattern, which he uses to reproduce the artwork on the wall, enlarging each square’s piece of the image to a much larger scale. In the end it should look much as the original one did, though with Cruz’ special flare.

“Every mural has to be gridded,” Cruz explained. The key is to prep the wall properly and he [Eisner’s son] did a perfect job on this wall.”

Despite the crazy, wet and windy weather of the past few months, Cruz has been able to fit in workdays when the weather breaks. He draped sheets over the scaffolding to protect him from the cold, wind and sun. “I’m so glad they built this scaffolding,” he laughed. 

Though passersby can’t see the work being done behind the sheets, the scaffolding wraps around to the front of the Way Station and Cruz often stops to chat with the many people who have come by. When it’s done, Cruz said they would seal the artwork and put on an anti-graffiti coating to protect it from hooligans, though the drop off down to the creek might deter anybody up to mischief. He said he’s got a good life.

“I’ve been an artist my whole life,” Cruz said. “I come from a family of artists and musicians, and I’m so happy to get to do it as a career.”

To see examples of Cruz’ work, see his website at:

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