G&H Origins Part 2: Recipe for Success

Click here to read G&H Origins Part 1

Throughout Gallagher and Henry’s early years, the company remained a barebones operation consisting of founders Bob Gallagher and Dan Henry, two card tables, and a portable typewriter. The partners developed one plot of land at a time on Chicago’s Southwest Side, though Gallagher, an entrepreneurial soul with an innate sense of real estate trends, saw an opportunity for the upstart firm to accelerate its growth and better serve the sprouting Chicago area marketplace.

“Our father’s philosophy was to always reinvest in the business, which included investing in land, people, and operations,” Tim Gallagher says of his father, who divested of his ownership stake in a wholesale produce company in 1957 to devote his full attention to the fledgling residential construction firm he launched three years prior with his brother-in-law.

Gallagher sparked the company’s movement into multi-unit residential buildings down Chicago’s 79th and 87th Streets before setting his sights on undeveloped land on the fringes of 1960s metropolitan Chicago. In 1966, the partners purchased a small farm in Palos Heights and turned it into the first Ishnala subdivision.

“That was the moment they stepped out of the box to develop a huge tract of land,” Bob Gallagher’s son, John Gallagher, says. “It was a bold move.”

And it was only the beginning, as Gallagher and Henry later acquired property in the far southwestern suburbs in modern-day Orland Park, Tinley Park, and Lemont as well as land near the present-day I-355 in western suburbs like Darien, Downers Grove, Westmont, and Woodridge.

“Dad had foresight and vision and sensed where things were going,” Tim Gallagher notes, adding that Gallagher and Henry moved its headquarters from Chicago to an all-brick office building in Countryside so Bob Gallagher could be within 30 minutes of any Gallagher and Henry development. “He always wanted to keep eyes on every project.”

The large-scale land purchases altered the complexion of Gallagher and Henry, shifting the once-bootstrapped operation into one of the Chicago area’s largest and most dynamic homebuilding firms.

“I consider that time in the 1970s a real turning point for Gallagher and Henry,” says Vic Plastiak, who began his career as a Gallagher and Henry sales associate in 1971. “The high volume of sales really began to take off in that period.”

With communities such as Ishnala Woods and Creekside, Gallagher and Henry played a prominent role in the booming residential growth of Orland Park, where the population surged from 2,600 in 1960 to nearly 36,000 in 1990.

“[Orland Park has] everything you’d look for in a community to build single-family homes – good shopping, good schools, the roads are being improved, and there’s lots of room to grow. It’s new, clean, just a good place to live,” Bob Gallagher told the Chicago Tribune in May 1986, a year in which Gallagher and Henry would build more than 600 homes in the southwest suburban village.

That same year, 1986, Gallagher and Henry started nearly 1,000 new homes in Tinley Park. There, Gallagher and Henry developed communities such as Tinley Meadows, Spring Creek, Fairmont Village, and Radcliffe Place, often drawing inspiration for its community names from maps of England.

In subsequent years, Gallagher and Henry would open communities such as Covington Knolls in Lemont, a 518-unit development that remains the single largest subdivision in the historic village’s history, as well as Brittany Glen in unincorporated Orland Park, where Gallagher and Henry stepped into the upscale market with stately single-family homes boasting upwards of 4,000 square feet.

“If you’re looking for a home that’s a little more distinctive, a little more spacious, and a lot more luxurious than most, your search ends at Brittany Glen,” read a 1989 Gallagher and Henry ad for the community where homes started at $331,500.

In 1990, one Brittany Glen homeowner told the Chicago Tribune why he and his wife had selected the upscale community: “We looked at a lot of other new home developments in the south suburbs, but we were drawn to Brittany Glen because of the reputation of the builder [and] our confidence was well placed.”

John Gallagher confirms that his father – who led the business himself after co-founder Dan Henry’s 1978 retirement – never deviated from a proven recipe of craftsmanship, quality, and attention to detail.

“He was never about cutting corners to be the cheapest guy in the neighborhood, and he believed homebuyers would see the long-term value in that,” John Gallagher says.

Gallagher’s insistence on honoring the faith buyers had placed in his family-owned firm prompted some daring business decisions to ensure the company could deliver on its promises. In Darien, for instance, Gallagher and Henry set up a waste-water treatment plant to overcome the lack of local sewer infrastructure.

“It was unheard of that a developer would be going to those lengths, but the company attitude was to do whatever necessary to deliver homes,” Tim Gallagher says. “If something got in the way, we figured a way over it, around it, whatever it took.”

In the western suburbs, that persistence spurred extensive residential growth. From the mid-1970s into the early 2000s, Gallagher and Henry constructed some 8,000 homes in communities such as Downers Grove, Darien, and Woodridge.

And though Gallagher and Henry would dabble in some commercial development, including shopping centers and banks, the homebuilding firm ultimately dropped those efforts to focus solely on residential.

“After all, residential is what we know best and where our heart is,” John Gallagher concludes.

Behind the Build: Sandie Kanakes

From sales staff and tradesmen to behind-the-scenes troubleshooters, dozens of personnel bring a Gallagher and Henry home to life. In “Behind the Build,” the Gallagher and Henry blog celebrates spirited members of our team.

In this installment of “Behind the Build,” we introduce Sandie Kanakes, the current sales manager at the Farmingdale Village community in Woodridge. Known for her upbeat, gregarious personality, Sandie began working in the construction sales field in 1978 before joining Gallagher and Henry in 1999.

What do you most enjoy about working for Gallagher and Henry?
Each day is a little different because we are so hands-on with our customers. We’re a family-owned business that is set up to treat people like family, and that leads to some very personal and genuine relationships with our homebuyers.

And what do those relationships mean to you?
The homebuyers are our lifeblood. We “live” with them for months at a time while their home is under construction. I am answering questions about the process, offering different perspectives or things to consider, and helping them navigate an experience that can be daunting. When they are selecting the items for their home – options, materials, colors, and the like – I am right there with them, too, which remains my favorite part.

I’ve had customers get married or have babies during the construction process. You really feel like a close relative at times like that. I remember when one of my customers found out she was having triplets while her home was being built. We were together so often putting the pieces of that home together that I was right alongside her on that pregnancy journey. I will never forget how she and her husband stopped by with those precious babies on their way home from the hospital. The scary part is that since I’ve been with Gallagher and Henry for more than 20 years, I’ve seen a good number of those babies learn to drive, graduate from high school, and grow beards.

What is the most interesting or bold request you have ever fielded from a buyer?
I don’t think any request is necessarily all that interesting or unusual. When our buyers ask for something, it’s because it’s something important to them. When that happens, I only want to do my part to fulfill that request, so they have what they want in their new home.

How would you characterize the experience of working 20-plus years in this multi-generational family business?
The years have pretty much flown by and the business has continued to progress and move forward. We have endured the economy’s ups and downs and seen trends come and go, yet always kept our focus on the buyers. Things get done a little differently at Gallagher and Henry because the company leaders, from co-founder Bob Gallagher down to the current leadership, are visiting the communities and sales offices routinely. It’s personal for them and it shows in the quality they demand of themselves and others.

What do you think differentiates Gallagher and Henry from other homebuilders?
There’s not a lot of waste at Gallagher and Henry and we all do a little more than our titles suggest. I’ve swept floors, washed windows, and put the trash cans out at night because I have pride in our work and our homes like so many others in the company, a number of whom have been here much longer than me. That pride in what we do, that commitment to quality, is one of the key reasons Gallagher and Henry has so many repeat buyers and generations of buyers.

When you’re not at the sales office, what might we find you doing?
I try to garden, but I am really bad at it. I am a terrible cook, too, but I am planning to take a cooking course. I do enjoy reading biographies – just finished Last Man Standing about JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – and enjoy arts and culture. Sports bore me, but take me to the Civic Opera House, the Art Institute, or the Field Museum any day.

Move-In Ready: Gallagher and Henry Unveils One-of-a-Kind Home in Lemont

In Lemont’s Covington Knolls community sits a one-of-a-kind home from award-winning homebuilder Gallagher and Henry.

On that Covington Knolls corner lot, the aptly named Cornerstone blends an open-concept floor plan with a posh owner’s suite, a lanai, and two separate garage spaces. The farmhouse-inspired four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home located at 2 Auburn Court is priced at $574,900 and move-in ready.

“This is the only Gallagher and Henry home of its kind, and any buyer can settle in immediately and begin enjoying the summer,” Gallagher and Henry principal John Gallagher says of the Cornerstone.

At approximately 2,723 square feet, the Cornerstone dazzles with an open layout reminiscent of an urban loft. The kitchen-great room combo, in fact, covers some 500 square feet. With its rich, dark-toned hardwood floors, nine-foot ceilings, and calming light blue walls, the first floor is warm, open, and inviting.

The kitchen embraces a contemporary vibe with a grand kitchen island that includes a sink, a stainless-steel range hood, glistening quartz countertops, sleek pendant lighting, and a heathery blue-hued backsplash. Function isn’t lost thanks to a walk-in pantry and dinette area.

“This is not compartmentalized living at all,” Gallagher says. “These common spaces, which are the real heart of the home, are as comfortable and cozy as they are stylish.”

Off the dinette area, residents can exit the home and enjoy a spacious lanai. The covered porch pushes the home’s living space into the outdoors and provides homeowners another intimate space to relax or entertain guests.

The Cornerstone’s main level also includes a mud room, a bright powder room, and an “pocket office” – Gallagher and Henry’s term for a flexible space that can be adapted to a homeowner’s needs. Guarded by a sliding barn door, the private space can function not only as an office, but also a craft room, music center, or other personalized environment.

“Buyers enjoy these blank-canvas spaces and the ability to adapt the space to their needs,” Gallagher says, adding that the Cornerstone also includes an expansive full basement that allows for additional customization.

On the Cornerstone’s second floor, the luxurious owner’s suite features nine-foot ceilings and an expansive walk-in closet designed to accommodate even the most ambitious wardrobes. The owner’s bathroom’s premium spa-like setup includes a water closet, a long, double-sink vanity, a free-standing soaker tub, and a walk-in shower appointed with multiple showerheads, including a rain head.

Each of the roomy secondary bedrooms features an oversized walk-in closet, while the hallway bath includes a door separating the bath area from the vanity to ensure privacy. The second floor also hosts a sizable laundry room, which confirms the Cornerstone’s focus on convenient living.

One of the Cornerstone’s most distinguishing characteristics, however, is clearly visible from the street: two separate garages, one a rather standard-sized two-car setup and the other an extended depth one-car garage running 28-feet deep.

“It’s so long that you could easily park one large vehicle in there and still have a good amount of workspace or storage room,” Gallagher says.

As with all new Gallagher and Henry single-family homes, the Cornerstone carries the ENERGY STAR label, a credential that enhances comfort and reduces energy costs. The two-story residence also features other treasured Gallagher and Henry staples, such as brick construction and a concrete driveway.

“The Cornerstone may be unlike any other home in the Gallagher and Henry line-up, but it still features the same high-quality construction and attention to detail that has made Gallagher and Henry one of Chicagoland’s most trusted homebuilders,” Gallagher says.

For more information on the Cornerstone or to schedule a tour of the home, please contact the Covington Knolls sales office at (630) 243-0900.

First to the Fremont

Two months before the completion of the Fremont model home in Woodridge’s Farmingdale Village community earlier this year, a long-time west suburban couple became the first to purchase the 2,280-square foot ranch home that pairs open concept living with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a three-car garage, and basement.

Sam and Connie discuss their decision to purchase the Fremont from the blueprints and the experience of working with Gallagher and Henry.

What prompted you to look for a new home?
We had our home for sale for three years. We had 6,200 square feet in Burr Ridge and it was simply too much for the two of us. It was about time we downsized, especially as our home went from having five adults to two.

How did you discover Gallagher and Henry’s Farmingdale Village community?
We saw Farmingdale Village building up as we were driving south on I-55 and decided to stop in one day. We wanted to stay in the western suburbs close to all the things we need and enjoy, such as shopping, doctor’s offices, expressways, and our children. At about six miles away from our Burr Ridge home, the location was an appealing draw.

What attracted you to the Fremont?
We wanted to downsize and we wanted a ranch. We saw Gallagher and Henry had one ranch plan (the Amberwood), but the plans for the Fremont drew us in. It was a good size and exceptionally open, not closed in at all. That openness was important to us.

Were you reluctant to buy a home off the plans alone?
Yes, and that’s why we wanted to see the model first. That way, we could address any changes we wanted right away and see as close to the finished product as possible. And really, that turned out to be amazingly beneficial. We got to see the model home at Farmingdale Village go up before our eyes and get a behind-the-scenes look at Gallagher and Henry’s construction process. We could see their care, their attention to detail, and the quality of their work. That gave us a lot of confidence in who we were building with.

And did you identify some specific changes you wanted as you saw the Fremont model home take shape in Woodridge?
Definitely. We liked so much about the plan, but also had some changes in mind that would bring the home more in line with our needs and our vision. We extended one of the kitchen islands to 102 inches. We traded the closet in the guest bathroom for a larger vanity. We requested pocket doors for the master bedroom closet and the mudroom closet. We eliminated the closet in the flex room to create more usable floor space and also removed the wall in the kitchen heading down to the basement, replacing that with a metal-spindle railing that will open up sight lines and create an even more open floor plan. Finally, we shifted from a wood-burning fireplace to an electric fireplace that we’ll be able to comfortably use year-round.

How would you describe the experience of working with Gallagher and Henry thus far?
This is the third home we’ve built and it’s been a different experience this time around. Gallagher and Henry has been very accommodating with the changes we’ve wanted and we continue working one step at a time. It’s been smooth thus far, thorough and well organized. Both [Farmingdale Village sales manager] Sandie Kanakes and [Gallagher and Henry principal] John Gallagher have been gracious with their knowledge and time, and we’re grateful for their support and attention to detail.

What are you most excited to enjoy in your new home?
We’re looking forward to one-level living and a reduced footprint that will be much easier to maintain. It’s like a little dollhouse and we can’t wait to move in this spring.