The O’Brien Automotive Family entered the automobile business in 1931, when Thomas J. O’Brien began his career as a salesman for the Jones and Maley Desoto-Plymouth dealership. His decision to do so was the result of an event that would rival the comic antics of Laurel and Hardy….
Mr. O’Brien was the oldest son of a stern, tough Irish immigrant policeman. He worked as a messenger boy at Postal Telegraph, as a linesman for the telephone company, and eventually as a produce manager at a grocery store. He married Clara Johnson in September of 1929, and they invested their life savings in a fruit and vegetable market on the corner of Prospect and Olive Streets. This was during the Great Depression years.
One hot summer day, Mr. O’Brien took their old pick-up truck and what little cash they had to buy a load of watermelons at the wholesale produce market. As he was driving down Virginia Avenue and Fountain Square, he noticed an unusual number of people waving at him and he naturally waved back. Mr. O’Brien, who was a very good catcher in semi-professional baseball and had turned down a chance to play professional baseball because his wife was pregnant, proudly thought that many of these people recognized him because of his baseball talents.
However, he soon discovered the true reason for these waves when he looked in his rear view mirror – the tailgate of the truck had dropped down and his entire load of watermelons had fallen out on the street behind him – one at a time – for blocks and blocks!
His Irish temper took over. He drove the truck back to the store and gave the keys to the truck and the store to “Pop” O’Brien. He told him to sell everything and keep the money. Then he caught a streetcar to Jones and Maley and started to sell cars that same day. Less than two years later, on January 12, 1933, he started his own Desoto-Plymouth dealership – “Sullivan and O’Brien” – at 501 Virginia Avenue.
Since that time, the O’Brien family business has continued to grow in the automobile business in Indianapolis. October 1, 1962 saw the Northside Chrysler Plymouth dealership open under the leadership of Mr. O’Brien’s son, J. Thomas O’Brien. O’Brien Leasing & Rental was added on June 2, 1964, and in 1972, the dealership on Virginia Avenue moved to the current location in Greenwood. On February 1, 1990, O’Brien Toyota on Shadeland Avenue was added to the lineup. In 1992 we added Jeep products, which are sold and serviced at both the Northside and the Greenwood Chrysler Jeep locations. On October 24, 2002, we relocated our Northside dealership from 5102 N. Keystone Avenue to its current location on 96th Street.
The O’Brien Automotive Family is now in the fourth generation of automobile sales and service. In over seventy years, we’ve come a long way since our watermelons…since 1933.