In our first installment, The Cawley Empire – From Casinos to Commercial Real Estate, we shared the story of Daniel Cawley’s great uncle, Thomas J. Cawley, who was known as the “Czar of Gambling” in LaSalle, Illinois from the 1930s-1950s. Despite the laws prohibiting gambling, the Kelly-Cawley Smoke House casino thrived, attracting thousands of people from all over the Chicagoland area. Despite crafty political maneuvering and contentious legal battles, Cawley’s gambling empire eventually came to an end, but none of the members of the casino spent a single night in jail. Incidentally, the day the casino was shut down was the same day that Daniel Cawley was born – St. Patrick’s Day in 1952. Daniel Cawley’s father, Ryan Cawley, would eventually serve as the bridge between the casino and commercial real estate empires.
Ryan helped his uncle Thomas run the casino after returning home from serving in the navy. Ryan, serving as the day-to-day Operations Manager, was known as the “bag man,” which meant he was the one designated to pay off the police – with a literal bag of cash – to ensure the casino did not get busted. After the casino was permanently closed, however, Ryan’s future was uncertain. He tried selling insurance, cars, and even Christmas trees after the bust, but he did not find success until a personality test revealed his true calling: real estate. The casino closing was not so much the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one.
Once Ryan decided on his career path, he quickly put his plans into motion. After obtaining his real estate license, Ryan joined forces with his cousin, Patrick Cawley, to form Cawley Realty. Soon after, Cawley Realty partnered with Frank Costello, a well-known, long-time real estate broker, and changed the company name to Cawley Costello Realty in 1964. Once Ryan’s sons, Daniel and Bill Cawley, graduated from college and were ready to join the family business, they switched the company name once again to Cawley Realty. Through Cawley Realty, Ryan found great success focusing on residential sales and development along with retail and industrial sales. Most notably, Ryan put together the 60 acres where the Peru Regional Mall now stands. With the arrival of Ryan’s sons into the business and the construction of I-80, Cawley Realty prospered for many years until Ryan was finally ready to retire in 2006.
Bill Cawley was the first of Ryan’s two sons to branch off from the family business. In 1984, Bill moved to Texas and started his own tenant representation firm, Cawley International. It was not until 2007 that Bill sold the company to his partners and top producers so that he could start an investment business as an operating partner for institutional owners. He also started a development business, Cawley Partners, that he still owns and operates today, having built many office buildings all along the North Dallas Tollway.
Shortly after Bill left to pursue his commercial real estate dreams, Daniel followed suit. In 1985, Daniel went to work for First United Realtors in Naperville, the third largest residential company in the county at the time. First United purchased and consolidated with another company owned by Rich Port, who originated the concept of having multiple real estate offices in the State of Illinois. Here, Daniel worked with some of the most innovative experts the industry had to offer. He continued his quest to seek influential people and relationships when he was recruited in 1992 by Phillips Martin Real Estate, a boutique commercial real estate firm in Oak Brook looking to grow their footprint. Phillips Martin attracted Daniel because all of the partners were associates of Bill Gahlberg, a major land assembler of farms along the I-55 Corridor from Bolingbrook to Romeoville in the 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Gahlberg created the I-55 Corridor as it is known today. Daniel eventually became the sales manager and a partner at Phillips Martin until he started his own boutique firm in 1998, aptly named Cawley Chicago Commercial Real Estate.
The Cawley Empire may have shifted from casinos to commercial real estate, but the passion and integrity of the Cawley family and their love of serving remains prevalent today.
Stay tuned for our third installment of the Cawley Empire to see how the Cawley family heritage guides the real estate professionals at Cawley Chicago today.