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'It Just Happened,' A Little Bit Of Luck Leads To An All-Female Industrial Transaction

The Dodge Co.’s sale of 1550 Beach St. in west suburban Batavia was far from the biggest recent deal in the Chicago area, but it did represent a rarity in the commercial real estate world: Everyone involved, from the buyer, seller and the parties’ respective attorneys to the broker, was female.

Although some progress has been made in diversifying commercial real estate, it’s still largely male-dominated, especially when it concerns industrial structures such as 1550 Beach St., according to Lora Fausett, the Dodge Co.’s attorney. 

“I do a fair amount of commercial work, and to have all the parties be female, I don’t know if I’ve ever had that before,” she said.

Maria McNeil

Dodge Co. Vice President Kristie Dodge said she wasn’t making any kind of statement when she first brought aboard Brown Commercial Group broker Maria McNeil to find a buyer.

“It just happened,” she said. “We interviewed five different real estate companies, and Maria was the only female, but that’s not why she was picked. She was simply the best prepared.”

Other prospective brokers brought in local price comparisons to give Dodge an idea of what the firm could expect to get for the 13K SF, one-story brick building. But McNeil did a bit more, digging deep into the property’s history so she understood its ownership structure.

“She had done more homework,” Dodge said.

“I had to earn my way into that listing,” McNeil said.

The Billerica, Massachusetts-based Dodge Co. manufactures and ships embalming chemicals and cosmetics, and didn’t need the Batavia location after outsourcing its manufacturing to Southern Illinois, Dodge said. Once aboard, McNeil went to work recruiting the other team members, including the Glen Ellyn, Illinois-based Fausett, and the eventual buyer, Komal Chaudari of Komal’s Passion Leather. The buyer’s attorney was Gabrielle Gosselin of Batavia-based Gosselin Law.

Like Dodge, McNeil said she had not been trying to assemble an all-female team, something that would be difficult to plan.

“I referred the sell to a couple of attorneys, and they picked Lora,” McNeil said. “You can refer people, but if they don’t gel, they’re not going to work together.”

1550 Beach St., Batavia

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic at first made it difficult to complete a sale, as many companies hit pause, according to Fausett. Once the deal’s pieces fell into place, however, it went smoothly. The buyer, previously located in nearby West Chicago, plans to use the space to expand its handmade leather business.

Using all-female crews is not a panacea for the difficulties that typically arise in real estate deals, but it may have helped in this case. Fausett said she hopes it inspires others in commercial real estate to recruit women.

“We were all female, but no one took notice of it while we were doing the transaction," she said. "We just worked well together and there was a lot of camaraderie as we worked toward the same goal.” 

McNeil said she wants to see more women brokering real estate deals, especially on the industrial side. Although few women work in the sector, for McNeil it was a natural fit. Before becoming a broker about six years ago, she worked for a homebuilder, spending a lot of time on construction sites, another male-dominated part of the business. That led to a fascination with the process of construction, which is a big part of dealing with industrial clients.

“It’s nice to see women being leaders and being on the industrial side of the business world,” she said. “I didn’t notice at first, but when I realized we were all women [selling the Dodge property], I was really proud.”