This month marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Lee McGraw, who
started Brookside Real Estate Company back in 1986. This also marks the 37 th year that
Brookside Real Estate has served the Brookside community “and beyond” as our byline
advertises. I’ve often been asked if Brookside Real Estate Company was founded by my
father, Jim Kraus, Sr., but that’s not the case. I’m here to tell you the story of how Lee
and I met, the history that Lee and my father shared, and why Lee decided to sell the
company to me in 2005.
I got my real estate license in 2002 while fully employed by a local radio station.
The radio station was my first “real job” but after 15 years I was “burned out” to say the
least. Although I loved it for most of the 15 years, the last few years were not what they
used to be and the fun was gone.
My dad knew I was unhappy and suggested I get my real estate license and give it
a try. I grew up in real estate and, while it provided the means to put 8 children through
private schools, my dad was gone a lot. He spent decades as one of the highest decorated
salesmen for JC Nichols out of The Plaza office. Back then there were no fax machines
and I watched him many times shovel down dinner to go meet with a client to get
signatures, etc. Occasionally he would take a “plate for the road” and then drive to
Topeka or some other place to get those signatures. And, while he did his best to attend
my football, basketball and soccer games, work came before play with 8 mouths to feed.
I told him I would get my license. My dad passed away in 2000, and a year later
nothing had changed in my unhappy radio life. So, I took the course and got my license.
Still in radio, I had to figure out how to manage both jobs and it wasn’t easy. I first had
to find a broker to place my license with and work under. I ran into a former neighbor
(Casey O’Kelley) at a continuing education class and she smiled and asked “Jimmy, are
you going to follow in your father’s footsteps and sell real estate?” I answered, “I have
no idea, but I promised him I’d get my license and try it. Now I need to figure out where
to hang my license, which may not be easy since I’m still fully employed in radio.”
Casey suggested I call Lee McGraw where she and her husband, Pat, worked for years.
So, I called Lee and remembered my father mentioning Lee’s name but really
didn’t know the connection between them at that point. Lee said, “Jim, I’d love to have
you put your license with my brokerage, whether you ever sell a piece of real estate or
not. Just having your name affiliated with the company will make me money, given your
dad’s reputation.” That warmed my heart and I dropped off my license paperwork the
I met Lee at the office in Brookside and walked into a very “tired” place. Lee was
on the downside of his career, had one listing at the time, and really came into the office
just to get mail, check his emails, and play solitaire on his computer, of which there was
only ONE for the entire office! The fax machine had cobwebs and the place was a mess!
I asked if it would be okay to do some painting, etc, and with his permission I spent
nights freshening up the place, knowing I might actually need to meet someone there at
As I began my real estate career I had 2 cell phones: one for radio in my right
pocket, and the other for real estate in my left pocket, ALWAYS on vibrate. A week or so
later, Lee left me a message stating he was leaving for Hong Kong for a month, that I was
in charge, and any leads generated by his one listing at 57 th and Oak were mine. Talk
about learning on the fly! I didn’t know how to fill out any of the paperwork at the time
and leaned heavily on my sisters Kim (Curry) and Courtney (Kraus), both realtors, for
I did get calls on his listing, showed the house, and picked up buyers as a result.
In 6 months I had 16 transactions under my belt and eventually quit my “six-figure” job
for a commission career in real estate, all the while managing to support my wife and
four sons. I was off and running as my last day in radio was Valentine’s Day of 2003.
The radio station threw a send-off party at The Brooksider and many had no idea what
my next move would be. When asked at the party, I said “I’m actually going to sell real
estate and my office is right around the corner from here.” How ironic!
A little history . . . my dad was lured away from JC Nichols by Hardin Stockton, a
new up and coming real estate brokerage, to open their first office, also on The Plaza.
That meant he needed to recruit sales persons to fill up the office and one of those was
none other than Lee McGraw. They knew each other from the industry and were friends.
Lee would later tell me he sat near my dad’s office intentionally to listen to him “work
the phones” and picked up many tips that added to Lee’s long successful career in real
estate. Hardin and Stockton was later purchased by Coldwell Banker, another new up
and coming real estate brokerage at the time.
My dad left before Coldwell Banker took over and went onto other adventures, but
stayed in real estate until he retired in the mid-90s. I don’t know what Lee’s path held
other than that he founded Brookside Real Estate Company in 1986, as mentioned.
At our company Christmas party in 2004, which included maybe 4-5 agents back
then, Lee approached me with an idea. He told me he’d been waiting for “someone to
pass the baton to” as he was nearing retirement and he felt I was the man for the job. He
added that my dad was really his mentor and regretted never having told him that before
he passed. That brought tears to my eyes and we scratched out an agreement on a napkin.
We formalized the paperwork over the next few weeks and consummated the sale of the
company and the building shortly afterwards.
Lee continued to dabble in real estate for a few years and then hung it up around
2010. We continued to stay in touch as he literally lived one block north of my house
near 55 th and Brookside Blvd. We would have lunch occasionally, he stopped by the
office now and then, and he always attended our Christmas parties each year. He still
loved to discuss real estate, keeping his finger on the pulse of what was going on in the
market. You might say real estate was in his blood, as it is in my blood, too.
Lee was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, always there to teach me when I
had a question or a “sticky” situation I couldn’t figure out. We became friends after
being colleagues and I miss him dearly, as do many “True Brooksiders.” I know he’s
proud I kept his legacy intact and that Brookside Real Estate Company continues to
thrive today and is still a part of the real estate community.
RIP my friend and MY real estate mentor, Lee McGraw.
-Jim Kraus, Jr.