Column: Remembering a customer service pioneer


Commentary by Jon Quick

In 1970, O’Malia added a store at 126th Street and Gray Road. Founder Joe O’Malia knew that many of his customers were moving north. At the time, Carmel really stopped at 126th Street. Across the street, the corn still grew tall. It turned out Joe’s vision was spot on.


Although the name on the building is gone, let’s hope the spirit of O’Malia lives on for generations to come.

Joe O’Malia was one of the pioneers in proving that great customer service is the benchmark for a successful business. Son Danny O’Malia will proudly show you the vintage full-page ads from the store in its heyday. Creating image-type advertising way ahead of its time, Joe always devoted part of an ad to praising an employee or saluting a community softball team or maybe a Scout troop. My favorite ad shows a big photo of Joe’s arm. He is wearing a white shirt with the sleeve rolled up, symbolizing the O’Malia brand of customer service from the top down. By the way, ask Danny to tell you the “olive story” sometime.

For three years short of a half century, O’Malia stood proud in Carmel. For dozens of Carmel high schoolers, it was where they got their first job. Then their own kids worked there. It was truly a neighborhood grocery the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.

We’ve said it before. If you lack great customer service, you might as well close your doors. In a way, in the end, it even happened to O’Malia.

Soon after the stores were sold in 2000, the new owners started chipping away at Joe’s franchise. O’Malia was never really O’Malia anymore. But we can give thanks for the memories and still learn the lesson from Joe’s recipe for business success.

Here’s a thought. Maybe it’s time we considered naming rights for our world-famous roundabouts. O’Malia Circle. It does have a certain a ring to it. I can also think of the perfect location.

Jon Quick is President of the Carmel-based marketing and public relations firm, Q Public Relations & Marketing. You can reach him at He is a former 25+ year manager at both CBS and Emmis Communications.

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