Tuberculosis brought Al O’Meara, Sr. to Colorado, and Henry Ford’s automobiles gave him a successful business. The son of Irish immigrant farmers and one of 10 children, Al disliked farming, but he was great with a wrench. So he left the farm and went to work for Ford in 1906, making $1 a day.
A fan of Henry Ford, Al viewed him as a Michelangelo-type of genius who encompassed a broad range of skills, including engineering, finance, management and people motivation. Seven years later, Al left Michigan for Colorado, where he lived in an outdoor tent and beat tuberculosis. Al’s grandson Brian observed that Al never fully recovered. While his character was strong as an ox, his body was not.
Ford set up a distribution network of locally owned businesses and offered a dealership opportunity to Al. in 1913. In those early days, dealers were required to live within 10 miles of the dealership and Ford required franchisees to put their name on the building and decreed that one family could only own one Ford dealership. Al built his at 14th & Broadway, near the trolley stop. He’d ride the trolley up and down Broadway, talking to people about cars and offering free driving lessons.
When the city condemned the Broadway property for a new library in 1953, the dealership moved to Colfax and Lipan. In the late ‘60s, at Ford’s behest, the dealership moved to Northglenn.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Al knew Ford would convert to building airplanes. According to grandson Brian, Al bet it all, calling every dealer and buying every car and part he could, including a lathe to manufacture his own parts, if necessary – all at retail and on credit. While one bank turned him down for a loan, another agreed.
During World War II, there were no cars to sell. According to grandson Brian, Al essentially became a used car dealer who sold parts and service. Most of the time, you could find him in his overalls, working on cars.
Al lost one wife to peritonitis. He married again and had seven children, which started a now-four generation-strong auto dynasty. In keeping with his strong family ethic, he supported the Little Sisters of the Poor orphanage and quietly paid for other Irish immigrants’ passage to the U.S.
At the dealership, Al’s philosophy lived on in the three O’Meara generations who followed him: “Love Fords. Love what we do. Our employees and customers are paramount. Can’t have one without the other.”