SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- As part of the unveiling of a plaque on Wednesday to commemorate O’Reilly Automotive’s founding at what is now The Creamery Arts Center building, the family announced its gift of $1.365 million for the Springfield Collaborative Arts Endowment campaign.
The gift serves as a cornerstone of the final phase of the Springfield Arts Collaborative campaign, which announced a goal to raise an additional $2 million over the next 18 months to support long-term financial stability for community arts.
The O’Reilly gift is made possible by Charlie and Mary Beth O’Reilly, Rosalie O’Reilly Wooten, Larry O’Reilly, David O’Reilly, and Dr. Nancy O’Reilly.
The Collaborative Endowment Campaign is an innovative effort to collectively build long-term endowment funds that can help sustain Springfield’s community arts organizations. This collaborative campaign will benefit the Springfield Symphony, the Springfield Ballet, Springfield Little Theatre, Springfield Regional Opera Lyric Theatre, and the Springfield Regional Arts Council, along with existing funds for Arts in Education, the Landers Theatre and the Creamery Arts Center.
The O’Reilly family has long ties to The Creamery Arts Center because the building housed the company’s original store and distribution center for 17 years beginning in 1957.
“The O’Reilly family and O’Reilly Auto Parts are happy to permanently memorialize the role this building played in the beginning of our company,” said Rosalie O’Reilly Wooten, the daughter of Charles “Chub” O’Reilly, who co-founded the company with his father, Charles F. “Pops” O’Reilly. “We're pleased that it has been preserved and now serves such a positive function for our Arts community.”
“We are so fortunate to have a family like the O’Reillys, who built their success right here in Springfield and, in turn, have given so much back to the community through both their service and their financial support for a wide range of projects and institutions,” said Dr. Carl Price, chairman of the Collaborative Arts Endowment Campaign.
The Springfield Arts Collaborative was formed to address sustainable arts funding, a consistent red flag found in the area’s biennial Community Focus Report. Non-profit arts groups across the nation use endowments as a dependable annual resource that provides stability and balance. The campaign seeks to raise current endowments so that the participating arts organizations can increase the percentage of their annual budgets from an endowment. Currently that percentage is 2 percent. The goal is 25 percent, the ideal national average.
In addition to the O’Reilly contribution, the campaign has received a generous pioneer gift from the Freelander Family Trust in the amount of $500,000 as well as $100,000 from the campaign’s Leadership committee. Randy Russell, who was recently named Springfield’s Humanitarian of the Year, donated his $3,000 cash award to the Arts in Education Fund as part of the campaign.
Creamery Arts Center’s history and background
The original part of the building on the west end was built in the late 1800s and used as a tobacco warehouse. Cigar makers who emigrated from Germany made Springfield a cigar-making center in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
W.P. Keltner and George Baxter established the Springfield Creamery Company, a large and successful business serving Springfield, southern Missouri and northwest Arkansas from 1920-1940.
The building became O’Reilly Automotive’s first store and distribution center in 1957 under the company’s chief executives – President Charles F. O’Reilly, known as “Pop” O’Reilly, and Vice President and General Manager C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly.
The building’s location was part of a commercial-industrial corridor that included Tri States Service laundry, the Greyhound Bus Station, Thompson Pontiac-Cadillac and the Sears warehouse. It is the only building that was retained for the 12-acre Jordan Valley Park created through the citizen-led Vision 2020 plan for Springfield and Greene County that began in 1994.
The Creamery Arts Center opened in 2002 as a headquarters for community arts groups. More than 30 organizations now use the building and about 30,000 people use the Creamery annually. The 35,000-square-foot building includes offices for the Springfield Regional Arts Council, Springfield Ballet, Springfield Regional Opera Lyric Theatre, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Community Center, Men’s Chorus of the Ozarks, Missouri Film Alliance of Springfield, First Friday Art Walk and Care to Learn as well as a shared costume shop and set design/ fabrication studio managed by Springfield Little Theatre, an exhibition hall, board room, arts library, arts classrooms and a film editing bay.
O’Reilly family and O’Reilly Automotive
The O’Reilly family is synonymous with generous community stewardship in Springfield, including the O’Reilly Family Event Center at Drury University, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, the C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly Cancer Center on Mercy’s main campus, and founding members of the Stewardship Ozarks Initiative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
The family forefathers fled the potato famine in Ireland and located in St. Louis. Charles F. O’Reilly became familiar with Springfield as a traveling salesman for a St. Louis auto supply company and saw the region’s potential for growth. He and his son, Charles “Chub” O’Reilly worked for a different auto supply company in Springfield until a reorganization plan meant “Chub” would have to move to Kansas City.
Instead, they decided to start their own company. They hired 13 employees and opened at what is now the Creamery Arts Center building.
O’Reilly Automotive has nearly 4,000 stores and 23 distribution centers make it one of the top two auto parts distributors in the United States with $5.8 billion in sales in that last fiscal year. The company went public in 1993 and trades as ORLY on the NASDAQ Exchange.