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1982: ‘My philosophy is service’ Joe O’Malia — a different kind of grocer

Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 08, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — While it’s been 5 years since the last Joe O’Malia Food Markets closed, the O’Malia name might leave you reminiscing about the way grocery shopping used to be.

Forty years ago, WRTV reporter Greg Todd caught up with Joe O’Malia as his food market business continued to grow while other grocers struggled.

O’Malia believed in pampering his customers. From offering free coffee to a supervised playroom for the kiddos, O’Malia told Todd, “My philosophy is service.”

That included staffing levels that outnumbered that of O’Malia’s competitors. By 1982, O’Malia Food Markets employed more than 700 Hoosiers. The market even had clerks who would deliver groceries to a customer’s car.

The grocery game was in O’Malia’s blood from an early age. After graduating high school, O’Malia worked as a produce clerk for Piggly Wiggly.

“I didn’t care how much I made, I just wanted to get a check every week,” O’Malia said. This after seeing his father, who was a laborer, struggle to find steady work.

O'Malia opened his first store in 1966 at 106th Street and College Avenue. By 1982, Joe O'Malia Food Markets had five locations in Hamilton County and two locations in Marion County.

And while at times O'Malia tried to slow down, he couldn’t quite quit the grocery business.

“I don’t have a hobby,” O’Malia said. “I guess my hobby is the grocery store. My work. I guess I’m a workaholic.”

George Joseph O’Malia died in 1996. Marsh purchased eight O’Malia stores in 2001. The last Joe O’Malia Food Market closed in 2017.