Integrity, Service and Value For Three Generations
Kale Realty in 30 Seconds!
In the early 1920 Nathan Kaluzna immigrated from eastern Europe to settle in Chicago. He quickly established a tailor shop in Chicago South Loop area, and became well-known for his attention to detail and his customer service. His son, Sol Kale, grew up watching his father build a successful clothing business, and soon followed in his footsteps.
Nathan Kuluzna in 1921
Sol Kale at his Tailor Shop on Roosevelt Road.
In 1951, Sol Kale founded and grew a fledgling uniform company into one of the largest suppliers of police, postal and fire department uniforms in the country. Kale Uniforms supplied the uniforms for several famous Chicago movies including Backdraft and The Blues Brothers. Sol went on to found his family-run real estate company which continues to thrive today as Kale Realty.
Kale which is short for the old family name, Kaluzna, has long roots in the South Loop neighborhood. A Kale has been on Roosevelt and Jefferson since 1921 and in 2007 the city honored Sol by naming the street after him. De Koven/Jefferson for Chicago History buffs is the famous past location of Ms. O’Leary’s farm where many say was the start of the great Chicago fire in 1871. Currently it’s the site of the Chicago Fire Academy right behind the Kale Realty office.
Sol Kale Way at Roosevelt and Jefferson
by Sylvia Kale, wife of Sol Kale
In 1921, the world was in transition and few could for see what the future held. No one could have predicted that within nine years the Great Depression would grip the country; even fewer could predict that within ten years the world would be embroiled in another World War. When Sol Kaluzna was born to his immigrant parents, he was an unwanted surprise. Little did anyone in their family realize that this child would grow up to be very successful and extremely loyal to his family.
It was a growing era in Chicago. The neighborhoods were settling in and still recovering from the great Chicago Fire. Sol’s father, grandfather, and uncle all put down their roots on Maxwell St. and Jefferson St. both bordered by a then sleepy Roosevelt Rd. While very few had cars or money in those days, street cars were the chief mode of transportation and rides were only seven cents. Sol’s father and brother decided to open a little store. It wasn’t much; a long and narrow storefront, one light bulb, no plumbing, and a stove in the middle to give off heat during the winter months. They sold used clothing in their store, a very difficult way to make a living for his family.
Yet, being a very honorable man, father never complained. As with any family, personalities clashed, and the partnership eventually fell apart. Little Sol at age 13 was already following in his father’s footsteps and showed a great interest in making money. He did odd jobs around the neighborhood which included fixing bicycles and delivering groceries to help put some money in his pocket. By the time he finished High School the Second World War was raging in Europe. Two life changing events occurred on Sunday, December 7, 1941; the United States entered the war and a still young Sol turned 20. After five years in the Army, Sol returned home with five battle stars to his credit.
The year was now 1945, Sol was married, with no home, no money, and no job. Thankfully, his father still had that little store on Jefferson Street, and by this time there were other little stores that had opened as well. The neighborhood was old and shabby with an overwhelming European atmosphere. Sol’s father invited him to join in the family business to now help provide for his own family. The store had a large window and shelf for service which father then decided to rent out to another business man for $50.00 a month.
That $50.00 would help with the rent and keep the family business open. Sol then joined his father at the store and spent most of his days hanging out with friends whose fathers also owned stores up and down the street. Some sold furniture others clothing just like Sol’s father did. As the years went by, Sol began to hustle and find ways to get into the uniform business, which was dominated mostly by the Irish merchants at the time. Most of the police and fire men were Irish immigrants themselves, so it only seemed to make sense that they weren’t interested in doing business with a Jewish merchant. In order to be competitive and work side by side with the Irish, Sol made the decision to change his then last name of Kaluzna to Kale, a Russian name, hoping for a better fit.
He worked hard to fit in and be accepted, long hours seven days a week. Eventually, all the Irish merchants either sold their businesses or closed their doors because they could not compete with Sol who was able to gain business by undercutting his competition. As he began to reap the rewards of his hard work, Sol saved his money and began to purchase real estate. Sol always made it a point not to forget his family by including his brother and sister in his decisions. For by this time father had died of a heart attack, and the family needed his help. Sol’s mother and sister, who always lived together on Roosevelt Road, sold their building and moved to the north side of Chicago. In that day that was considered to be “moving-up.” Now, Sol’s brother-in-law had to have surgery and was unable to work.
Nonetheless, every Friday evening, after closing the store, Sol made it a point to go and visit his mother and brother-in-law bringing them their weekly earnings. As the years went by, Sol continued to add more real estate to his portfolio. This gave Sol a lot of happiness and added income, which he shared generously with his family. In 1975, the first shopping center was built on Roosevelt Rd. There were 10 stores and not all of them were rented. Sol wanted to buy the shopping center so he could move the business over to larger quarters. Sol’s business was growing and needed more space. So it was a very happy day when the deal was finalized, a parcel of land which he has held onto until this very day.
The City of Chicago now was growing in population and beginning to change. He felt it was time to invest in more real estate on Roosevelt Rd. The street cars were now gone and Chicago had busses, and lots of cars that traveled down now busy Roosevelt Rd. Noticing the change, Sol decided to purchase two additional shopping centers on the same stretch of road. All was going great when on one fateful day billionaire Warren Buffet called Sol and expressed interest in buying his six store uniform business. While he was paid well for his life’s work, Sol, once again, was more than generous with everyone who helped him along the way.
The years have passed now, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the once sleepy Roosevelt Road is now a modern builder’s paradise. Complete with high rise condo developments and big box retailers, the South Loop was born. What ever happened to Sol Kale you ask? Well, he still comes to his uniform shop weekly, but now it has a new tenant… his grandson Nick Patterson. Nick opened Kale Realty in the same spot his grandfathers business once occupied. Nick’s decision to carry on the family name was not just the right thing to do… but was done with Sol’s blessing.