Our History

1920: Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee, Circa 1920

The year it all started…we remember it like it was yesterday. Well, sort of anyways. Back when E.M. Boerke returned from his service as a Lieutenant in the US Army during World War I (earning a Purple Heart no-less) and started what is now known as The Boerke Company, things were a little different. For starters, the street we are currently located on, Wisconsin Avenue, didn’t even exist. Instead, the street was called Grand Avenue, and was considered one of the most prestigious residential streets to call home in the entire country. For example, The Pabst Mansion (now “Historical….”), which can still be visited today, was a beacon of modern, luxurious living.

E.M. Boerke would humbly begin his storied career in the business of buying and selling industrial property. At the time, Milwaukee was known for its metal, leather, and wood industries. An excerpt from the Industrial Milwaukee annual review of 1929 read:

“The steady growth of the past may be slowed up by a few months of business recession, but recessions have happened before and after each one there comes a period of renewed growth.” (from Wisconsin Historical Society)

This statement was published right at the beginning of the Great Recession, and though times would get tough, E.M. Boerke, Milwaukee, and the country, would persevere on through the 1930’s and into World War II….

EM Boerke property Sign

E.M. Boerke, Industrial Real Estate Sign (circa 1935-1940)

During WWII E.M. Boerke worked closely with the US Government to secure industrial/manufacturing sites to help supply our troops in the war effort. In Milwaukee, companies like Allis Chalmers, the Falk Corporation, and Allen-Bradley turned their primarily private industry focus towards producing machinery for naval ships and other military needs.

In this picture (click to zoom), you can just barely see the E.M. Boerke property availability sign above the Thiele Tanning Co. wording. This is what is now called The Tannery building at 700 W Virgina Street, in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.

E.M. Boerke Portrait Painting

E.M. Boerke, Portrait Painting


1940's-1960's Original Business Card

1940’s-1960’s Original Business Card









Menomonee Valley Industrial Park Aerial

Aerial of Menomonee Valley Industrial Park

Into the 1950’s and 60’s, E.M. Boerke continued on with his and the firm’s success. He was even a pioneer in the effort to create Industrial Parks, a foreign idea at the time, but something that obviously took flight across the Milwaukee area and the country.

With a booming economy on the rise post-WWII, commercial real estate was able to ride the “success wave” too. But E.M. didn’t sit on his laurels sipping on fine Milwaukee brews like Schiltz or Pabst Blue Ribbion. No, no…instead he worked with others across the country to form an organization of like minded commercial realtors, then called the Society of Industrial Realtors (SIR). What was then SIR, is now SIOR (adding “Office” to the designation in 1986). E.M. Boerke was the national SIR President in 1957, and his influence helped to “spread the word” of SIR benefits across the region.

SIOR first logo

Original Society of Industrial Realtors logo (SIR)

SIOR logo

Current Society of Industrial, Office Realtors logo (SIOR)

The mid-1970’s and into the 1980’s were times of accelerated change for E.M. Boerke, Inc. Edison (the “E” in E.M.) retired from the firm in 1975, and his son David took over in his stead. Prior to David becoming President, the firm didn’t work much in other commercial real estate fields other than the industrial segment. But all of that changed, along with the firm’s new name, The Boerke Company, Inc.

Milwaukee Sentinel 1985, Jim Babiasz and David Boerke

Current Principal’s Jim Babiasz and David Boerke mulling over some plans in the Milwaukee Sentinel Business section, March 1985

New President David Boerke wanted to expand the firm’s commercial real estate knowledge and effectiveness into the office, investment, and retail segments. During these years is when a special tenant representation team was created, which really got current Principal Jim Babiasz into the mix and helped spur the company’s growth into the 1990’s. This is the era when current Partners, including Andrew Jensen, Jack Price, and the Riordan brothers (Brian & Kevin), joined the firm.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Clipping, March 1998

Article clipping from March 20, 1998 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The 1990’s continued to bring change to the firm, and in 1998 The Harrigan Company merged with The Boerke Company. At the time, this merger was a pretty big deal. It catapulted The Boerke Company into the commercial real estate forefront, making us the third largest commercial real estate brokerage firm in the state of Wisconsin.

RJ Harrigan Logo

Original RJ Harrigan Logo

Tony Wells, former Boerke Co. Principal

Tony Wells, former President of The Harrigan Co.

But, the merger came at a cost. Anthony “Tony” Wells, the President of The Harrigan Company at the time of the merger, was in a battle with cancer. Virtually 10 years from becoming the owner and president of The Harrigan Company, and 3 years after completing the merger, Wells passed away. He would be remembered as “a closer….a salesman’s salesman”, and coming to the U.S. from the United Kingdom as a boy, he never did quite shake his British accent. Wells brought with him a few current Boerke Company employees, including Principal Terry McMahon and Tom Kohl. The merger helped expand The Boerke Company’s office, retail, and industrial service teams, laying the groundwork for a lot of the firm’s success today.

After trying out an affiliation with Grub & Ellis in the late 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, The Boerke Company pulled off a game changing move in 2006, becoming the 20th locally owned and independently operated firm to join the Cushman & Wakefield Alliance.

The Alliance gave us the local freedom of still being an independently run commercial real estate firm, but gave us the national and global reach that comes with being part of one of the premier full-service commercial real estate companies in the world.


Similar to The Boerke Company’s humble beginnings over 90 years ago, Cushman & Wakefield was founded in 1917 and quickly became a rising force in the commercial property landscape. Being part of the Alliance allows us to network and coordinate not only with dedicated Cushman & Wakefield branches, but also with like-minded, independent Alliance firms across North America and the world.


For more information on our Alliance and the locally global benefits it provides, head over to the Our C&W Alliance page.

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