Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs: Melissa Kowalski of Dwellings Real Estate, Inc.

Welcome to Meet Berwyn’s Entrepreneurs! Berwyn has become a hot spot for urban professionals, entrepreneurs and creatively minded individuals. From musicians to crafters, small business owners to dedicated team members, Berwyn is home to a remarkable group of movers and shakers who keep our community vibrant. This segment give us a chance to get to know what makes our local leaders tick!

Meet Melissa Kowalski, Real Estate Connoisseur at Dwellings Real Estate, Inc.

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Current Residence: Oak Park, IL
Melissa’s Bio: This September, my husband Rob and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Together we have three amazing children; Jacob Charles (24), Chelsie (just shy of 21) and Nina our youngest (nearly 18). We enjoy spending time together out west either canoeing, camping or hiking—sometimes toting our crazy dogs Bonnie and Clyde, too. We especially love going to concerts and listening to live music. This July, you may even spot us at the Lollapalooza Music Festival, an annual family event!

Family means everything to me.  I’m super close to both my mom and dad, who were loving parents growing up, as well as my brother Joe and stepmom Irene, who also have supported me in many ways over the years.  I’m also super lucky to be able to spend time with my 91 year old gram.

The Business Side: Ok, I’m dating myself here…back in the mid 80s, I began my real estate career renting and then managing large, sometimes 400+ unit apartment communities. In 1992, I managed condominium buildings in the city. One of my favorite experiences managing occurred while I managed buildings at 900-910 N Lake Shore Drive, designed by Mies van der Rohe.  These buildings were not only architecturally stunning, but being that close to the lake, the views were breathtaking!  After taking a few years off to raise my children, I returned to real estate in 2001, this time in residential sales.  Today, I hold both a Managing Broker and Condominium Management Association license, along with a Senior Real Estate Specialist Designation.  Mostly, I enjoy working with clients who are down sizing from their family home.

Describe yourself using 3 words and explain why you chose them.
Integrity. I strive daily to anchor myself with integrity, while using “my word” to be true to my principles. When I give my word, I find myself taking measures to keep it so that I can be accountable not only to others, but also to myself. I believe that it’s important to have integrity with my family, friends, when I volunteer and in my work.  Without my word, I have nothing.
Compassion. For me, compassion lies between listening and understanding.  Not so long ago, I realized that if I don’t agree with someone’s opinion, I can still listen and understand without having to judge or be “right.”  This allows me to connect on a deeper level with others.
Giving. Through gratitude, I give. I feel lucky to live the life I have and realize that not everyone feels the same, maybe due to their circumstances or perception.  By being so fortunate, I feel it’s my obligation to help others—it’s important to me to give back.  So whether it’s volunteering by delivering meals to seniors unable to leave their home, mentoring a Girl Scout troop in planning for a lifetime trip to England or fundraising in order to bring art and music programs to a local children’s group home, I try to do my part.

What inspires you?
People who also generously give to those in need. The inherent belief that most people have good intentions. Humanity and feel good stories. One story that I heard recently was when two police officers showed up to a house because of an evening call/complaint last Easter.  When they arrived and made sure everyone was safe, they noticed that several of the young children living there were upset that the Easter Bunny forgot to stop at their house, some of them even tearful.  During their next break, these officers went to the store to purchase and deliver Easter baskets for each of the kids.

Tell us something that people might not know about you.
A few years ago, after an intensive study program, several of our group members decided to celebrate by going skydiving.  I never thought I’d be someone to jump from an airplane 14,000 ft high above the ground!  I HATE roller coasters and get sick if someone even mentions the Giant Drop ride at Great America.  However, I’m glad I did it.  It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.  I look back at how exhilarating it was and the courage it took for me to go.

What are you passionate about?
This is a tough one because I’m passionate about several things.  My family tops the list, but I’m very passionate about Human Rights, specifically Women’s Rights.  This past January, my youngest daughter and I donned our pink hats and drove to D.C. to support other women by walking in The Women’s March.  I feel it’s important that each woman knows that her voice should be heard.  I also love my critters, so Animal Rights would be a big one as well.

What is your most memorable/unique travel experience?
I love to travel!  I love to visit new places, experience different cultures and meet new people.  I’m up for a new adventure anytime. One of my most memorable traveling experiences was my first trip out of the country back in 2003. Rob and I traveled with our 3 kids, his mom and his dad to northern Italy.  We were lucky enough to show our children where their grandma lived and went to school as a child.  It was truly touching to provide that connection to their family history for them.

If you could collaborate with any person or group on a personal project, who would that be and why?
I’d love to collaborate with other Berwyn Depot District business owners, managers and residents to make our area become a destination for community members and beyond.  It’d be great if we could incorporate local artists and musicians as well.  I’m looking forward to being a part of something great here!

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