JR--I've been doing some similar searching lately. I have to echo the sentiments about Freshwater instruments. I have a 10 year-old 'zouk (bought used last year) from Freshwater that has TERRIFIC sound. It is solidly built and the luthier is extraordinarily nice and helpful (called me from Scotland on his own dime for an instrument I didn't even buy from HIM!) If you do a search on these message boards, I think you'll see a lot of happy recommendations for Freshwater.
Also, I think I've seen a few OM's described with scale lengths as low as 20"... at the moment I don't remember which... but if you are going with a custom built instrument, it's worth asking the luthier... it seems that many are willing to work with the customer on scale length, neck width, woods, and other features.
Otter OM #1
Brian Dean OM #32
Old Wave Mandola #372
Phoenix Neoclassical #256
If you're gonna walk on thin ice, you might as well dance!