How to characterize this guy: P.T. Barnum meets Jack Dempsey meets Ray Kroc? My own “Monumental” frame of reference is limited, but O’Malley’s Irish Steak Pub owner Jeff Hulsmann stands with Si Sibell, Jim Maguire and Joe Bohler in local lore.
The native of Queens, N.Y. left his position with Time-Life in the early ’80s and headed out on the road. “I just got restless … loaded my dog and a few belongings into my ’69 Camaro and spent a year seeing the country. I picked oranges in Florida, went to the Indy 500, spent time in New Orleans, a great experience for a young kid, for sure. I was in Colorado when the Camaro gave out. Fate, I guess.”
Wangling a bartending job in the Springs, Jeff soon got involved in the fix-and-flip side of the bar/restaurant business. “There weren’t any reality TV shows about it back then, but quite a few opportunities,” Jeff explains. In this mode, Jeff caught wind of a bar in Palmer Lake that could be had for a low price, and a local legend was born.
“The house here on the old Denver highway [now Highway 105] was built in 1910, and served as a roadhouse from 1940 ‘til its last days as the Palmer Lake Lounge in the ’80s,” says Jeff. “It was a serious fixer-upper, and by the time I was done bringing it back to life I had too much time, money and sweat invested to just turn it around like I had the others. Plus, I liked the area.”
After a “soft opening” on Jan. 25, 1987, O’Malley’s stands as a Palmer Lake institution, open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily “We may be the longest-running establishment under a single owner in the Colorado Springs area, and I’m proud of our place in the community here.”
Jeff credits his (by all accounts) better half Peggy Jardon, a Colorado native who’s been house-breaking him for some 30 years now, with keeping O’Malley’s in order. “We’ve also had terrific and loyal employees for the most part through the years, and I try to take care of them and make sure they know they’re appreciated.”
In recent decades Jeff has been known as much for his civic activism as for owning “the place where you can cook your own burger or steak.” He had an instrumental role in keeping the annual Palmer Lake fireworks display and spearheaded the “Awake the Lake” project that successfully re-filled the dried-up Palmer Lake in the early 2010s.
“It’s been a great run. I still love what I do and where I do it,” he said.
So next time you stop into “The O,” challenge Jeff to a battle of wits, talk sports or discuss the pedestrian bridge over the lakeside train tracks (another Hulsmann-led initiative).
Charlie Searle has lived in Monument since 1994. Contact Charlie at AlongTheDivide@pikespeaknewspapers.com.