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posted: 12/7/2016 1:00 AM

Gewalt Hamilton Associates designs, grows empire in Lake County

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  • Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. in Vernon Hills celebrates 35 years of business. From left, Vice-President Michael Shrake, Co-founder David Gewalt and President Bruce Shrake in the business' lobby.

      Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. in Vernon Hills celebrates 35 years of business. From left, Vice-President Michael Shrake, Co-founder David Gewalt and President Bruce Shrake in the business' lobby.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. in Vernon Hills celebrates 35 years of business.

    Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. in Vernon Hills celebrates 35 years of business.

  • Lagestee-Mulder announced the acquisition of the Finley Business Center, 2505 S. Finley Road in Lombard.

    Lagestee-Mulder announced the acquisition of the Finley Business Center, 2505 S. Finley Road in Lombard.

  • Hatchimals sold out quickly at the Lake Zurich Learning Express store.

      Hatchimals sold out quickly at the Lake Zurich Learning Express store.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 

A great deal has changed since a pair of business partners launched their civil engineering firm in a home office in Lake Bluff. Gewalt Hamilton Associates now has 85 employees, is celebrating its 35th anniversary and settling into its Vernon Hills headquarters.

"It's amazing that we could grow to this size," said David Gewalt, who founded the firm with now retired partner Robert Hamilton. When the company started, the professional engineers had complementary skills; Gewalt focused on operations and financials and Hamilton built relationships. Over the past three and a half decades, the company has expanded services to include land surveying, transportation, construction engineering, transportation planning, traffic data collection and environmental consulting.

"Growth is the foundation of our business," said President Bruce Shrake, 63, who joined the firm in 1990. "As communities and neighborhoods have grown, we have proudly participated in the creation of schools, parks, community centers, medical facilities, senior care, colleges and private developments," Shrake said.

Gewalt said a project he is proud of is the work his firm tackled at Lake Forest College.

The football field, dorms, student center and classrooms were included in the scope of the project. Work at Lutheran General Hospital and Makray Golf Course in Barrington are other projects of note, said Gewalt, 67.

After the company moved from the home office, they called Northbrook home for 12 years before expanding to Vernon Hills. The company recently moved from one Vernon Hills location to its current 48,000-square-foot operation at 625 Forest Edge Drive. A satellite office operates in Missouri as well, Shrake said.

As the business has expanded over the years to include 14 engineers, traffic data collection is one of the fastest growing segments for the Lake County-based firm. "We are the largest traffic collection firm in the Midwest," Shrake said.

He added that he enjoys watching the younger engineers grow and show their dedication to the business, which has seen a great deal of repeat business and referrals.

As Gewalt has watched his company grow, he attests that it has been a "fascinating career."

Acquisition complete

Clarendon Hills-based Lagestee-Mulder announced the acquisition of the Finley Business Center, 2505 S. Finley Road in Lombard.

The 63,196-square-foot office building is located on a 4.35-acre site between 22nd Street and Butterfield Road in the western suburbs and was purchased by the company's new investment fund, LM Value Investors II LLC.

The seller, a private investor, was represented by William J. Novelli Jr. of CBRE. The sales price was not disclosed.

This is the first asset purchased by LM Value Investors II and the third office building purchased for the LM funds.

The building was built in 1985 and is 98 percent leased to six tenants, including Griffith Laboratories, Protection One, Vixxo, Munton's Malted Ingredients, Progressive Communications and Indemand Interpreting.

Hottest toy of the season

"It's all about the marketing and the hype when it comes to the toy industry," says Richard Derr, owner of Learning Express in Lake Zurich.

Spin Master, the Canadian manufacturer of Hatchimals, has created hype in this season's hottest toy for Christmas, Hatchimals.

The latest toy craze involves interactive stuffed animals that a child gets to help hatch and then teach to walk, talk and play. It's similar to a Furby that hatches from an egg, adorably poking through its sparkling shell when you rub it.

Hatchimals, geared for children between the ages of 5 to 10, can't be found anywhere, according to retailers. Suburban toy store owners and retail stores say they are getting calls from parents all day long.

"What a crazy phenomena," Derr said. The toys have a sticker price that ranges from $60 to $70. But price seems no barrier to some parents, who, in a frenzy, are paying what seems to be the going rate of anywhere between $150-499 for Hatchimals on eBay and Amazon.

Retail experts say there is always a popular toy during the holidays, but this one ranks way up there and is on a scale similar to past holiday successes such as Cabbage Patch Kids dolls in 1983-84 or the Tickle Me Elmo plush toy in 1996.

A good cause

Libertyville Rotary Sunrise and Zengeler Cleaners' 2016 "Coats for Vets" drive collected more than 4,000 coats and hundreds of other articles of clothing for veterans.

A total of 4,128 coats and jackets, along with gloves, scarves and other winter apparel, were delivered to the North Chicago VA Hospital on Veterans Day. The donations have a retail value exceeding $400,000.

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