LA Spotlight: Owner of O&M Leather talks passion, innovation, and home sharing

We’re excited to introduce the Los Angeles Spotlight series — a weekly highlight of stories from the local home sharing community. Angelenos have democratized travel by turning their largest expense — their homes — into an asset to earn extra income, allowing travelers to live like locals and generate economic activity across the city.

At first glance, O&M Leather in Eagle Rock doesn’t appear to be a retail store—with carefully curated products displayed against clean white walls, you might confuse it for a museum exhibit on leatherworks.

But the picture-frame window in the back of the space quickly reveals the truth: Not only is the store occupied, it houses an entire workshop in the back. And in that workshop O&M Leather’s owner, Oscar Morales, is busy building every single item housed on the shelves.

Oscar smiles brightly from behind the window, welcoming customers into the shop. “This is O&M Leather,” he says by way of introduction, looking out at the store with pride in his eyes. “I do all the leather work by hand back here, and my wife, Michelle, creates all the jewelry that we sell—so, that’s where the O&M comes from: Oscar and Michelle. Simple.”

Together, Oscar and Michelle have spent the past two and a half years selling their one-of-a-kind wares, and building O&M Leather into a retail staple in the Eagle Rock community.

Sitting on a stool in the workshop, Oscar talks through his inspiration for opening O&M while stitching the seams on a brown purse. Even as he speaks, he remains deeply concentrated on the bag in front of him. “I wanted to make something authentic, something pure. Something that I made, fully, from start to finish,” he says, his eyes never leaving the leather.

“Hosts are opening themselves up to you when they share their home.”

Oscar sees a connection between the work he does at O&M and the way that hosts prepare to open their homes to guests.

“It’s someone presenting their home to you; the home they built and filled with things that make them happy. They’re opening themselves up to you when they share their home. And when I work on something here, I do the same thing—I create something that reflects me and what makes me happy, and I share it. “It’s deeply personal,” Oscar says. “That what makes it enjoyable.”

“I’ve always liked the idea of ‘the village,’ a community where people are connected to one another through the things they buy, because what they’re buying isn’t mass produced and anonymous—people know their butcher and the farm where he gets his meat, they know their blacksmith and exactly how he works with silver. They know their leather maker,” he says with a smile. “In that kind of community, people are more connected. I want to build that kind of connection with the community here in Eagle Rock.”

Over the years, growth in Eagle Rock’s community has helped O&M grow as well. “I see a lot more young families coming in than I did when we first opened up,” Oscar says. “And I’ve seen a lot more Airbnb-ers, actually, which is cool.”

As a small-business owner, Oscar has witnessed the economic impact of home sharing.

“We’ve had recurring customers from Airbnb—people who come back to visit Eagle Rock again and again, stay in Airbnbs, and always make sure to visit us here. Airbnb has had a huge impact, both on my business here and on the entire community of Eagle Rock.”

“Airbnb is innovative, and changing the way people visit places and engage in the community.”

Oscar knows that the City Council of Los Angeles is expected to consider short-term rental regulations that would significantly restrict the ability of LA residents to share their homes soon. “If I had the chance to speak directly with my lawmakers,” he says, “I’d ask them not to get in the way of innovation.

“I believe that the concept and application of Airbnb is innovative. It’s changing the way people visit places and engage in the community. And I think what we’re doing here is innovative. The fact that we’re creating a beautiful, modern product—but in that old-world, community-building feel.

“I would say that since councilmembers are representative of us, that the majority of people like the innovation, and want the innovation. They should listen to their constituents and make sure that innovation doesn’t get cut off. It’s been great for us, and we want it to continue.”