New England prop shop shuts doors for good

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Machine Works At Essex, a propeller shop and marine parts supplier in New London, Conn., closed its doors Nov. 21, citing a poor economy, and increased domestic and overseas competition.

Owner John S. Johnson told 19 employees at the plant — down from 42 employees six months earlier — that consecutive annual losses made continuing the business impossible. He blames, in part, what he calls excess capacity and lack of growth, particularly in the marine industry. A decade ago there were only four prop shops in the Northeast — now there are 12, says Johnson.

Founded in Essex, Conn., in 1929, Machine Works offered propeller and shaft reconditioning, custom machining and marine supplies for workboats, fishing vessels and pleasure boats. Johnson bought the company in 1993. Former customers included the U.S. Coast Guard, Viking Yachts, Thames Shipyard & Repair, Amtrak and Fortune Plastics in Old Saybrook.