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updated: 12/11/2017 4:24 PM

How a Loyola graduate went from drummer to CEO

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  • When Tom Crowley's band broke up while in Los Angeles, he decided to return to home and started a company selling computer components. MBX Systems became a pioneer in the now-booming server appliance business.

    When Tom Crowley's band broke up while in Los Angeles, he decided to return to home and started a company selling computer components. MBX Systems became a pioneer in the now-booming server appliance business.
    Courtesy of MBX

  • When Tom Crowley's band broke up while in Los Angeles, he decided to return to home and started a company selling computer components. MBX Systems became a pioneer in the now-booming server appliance business.

    When Tom Crowley's band broke up while in Los Angeles, he decided to return to home and started a company selling computer components. MBX Systems became a pioneer in the now-booming server appliance business.
    Courtesy of MBX

  • Rebecca Darr

    Rebecca Darr

  • Partnering with DoorDash, Portillo's offers delivery service at all Chicago and suburban restaurants and 94 percent of restaurants nationwide.

    Partnering with DoorDash, Portillo's offers delivery service at all Chicago and suburban restaurants and 94 percent of restaurants nationwide.
    COURTESY OF PORTILLO'S

 
 

When Tom Crowley, who grew up in Wilmette, graduated from Loyola University in 1983, his rock band signed a record deal and moved to Los Angeles.

Playing drums and singing background, Crowley said the group made a record and had a gig opening for Three Dog Night and the Beach Boys in Washington, D.C. But like millions of other band stories, it did not work out and the musicians broke up.

While California was beautiful, Crowley knew it was time to head back home. "I missed the seasons. I missed it here," he said.

Crowley still plays in a band at local nightclubs, but his primary job now is serving as CEO for Libertyville-based MBX Systems, one of the few companies in the country that focuses exclusively on designing and manufacturing server appliances that come preloaded with software applications for use in corporate data centers and other business settings.

When Crowley returned to the Midwest, he started a small company selling PC components. A customer asked about putting his name on a custom server and Crowley, 57, became a pioneer in the now-booming server appliance business.

He started his business in Island Lake in 1995, then expanded to Wauconda before moving to Libertyville. The Wauconda resident said he has 142 employees and is hiring. "The market is growing because of the burgeoning need for specialized hardware to handle the mountains of data that must be stored and processed for backup, network security, content management, broadcasting, video surveillance and other advanced solutions," he said.

"The business is doing well," he added. His daughter, Shae, works with him as the business development coordinator and his son is a student in law school.

"It's fun to come to work," Crowley said.

And when he's not having fun at work, he is on stage, playing guitar and singing with the Wichita Jacks. The group plays songs by the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker and Charlie Daniels to classics by Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Mellencamp and, of course, a bunch of Grateful Dead tunes. Crossroads near Mundelein and Docks on Bangs Lake in Wauconda are places the band often plays.

"I've had a running band since getting back from California. I never really left it," he said, adding that he's thankful that he listened to his Dad's advice to finish college before he attempted to make it big in the music industry.

A helping hand

For the 17th year, the Mundelein Police Department and Elly's Pancake House in Mundelein have teamed up to provide 40 Mundelein families with a complete Thanksgiving meal.

The turkeys were donated by Elly's and the side dishes were provided by Girl Scout troops and other local organizations.

"This is the 17th year that we have teamed up with Elly's to help make the Thanksgiving holiday a little easier for some of our families in need. None of this would be possible without the assistance of Elly's," said Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther.

The families who received the Thanksgiving meal are chosen through contacts developed through the police department, churches and from Mundelein school districts that provide names of families who are struggling and might need a helping hand.

Thank you

We would like to thank Rebecca Darr for being the keynote speaker at the Ledger's Influential Women in Business luncheon. Darr is a tireless advocate for families confronting domestic violence. She has been a WINGS leader for nearly 20 years. Darr was named CEO of WINGS in 2014, after serving as the agency's executive director for 15 years.

Services for families fleeing domestic violence are funded, in part, by proceeds from three resale stores in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and Niles. These stores are known for their selection of high-end donated merchandise. The stores stock a selection of high-quality clothing for women, children and men. In addition, the stores offer an array of housewares, accessories and furniture.

Darr noted at the luncheon that she buys all of her clothes from the resale shops, including the upscale suit she was wearing that day.

On the radio

It was fun chatting on the Steve Dahl Show, WLS-AM 890, a couple weeks ago about the story I wrote about how hot dog giant Portillos launched its delivery service.

The story was one of the Ledger's top trending stories for nearly a week. Partnering with DoorDash, the delivery service is available at all Chicago and suburban restaurants and 94 percent of restaurants nationwide. In Illinois, delivery is not currently available from restaurants in Normal and Rockford.

I was also able to interview Portillo's CEO Keith Kinsey for the story. He said the new delivery offering continues the tradition of innovation set forward by our company's founder Dick Portillo.

Kudos

Meet Chicago Northwest, a hospitality marketing organization for the Northwest Suburbs, received the Readers' Choice Award from SportsEvents Media Group. Sports Events Media Group, an industry publication focused exclusively on helping sports event planners produce competitions in the United States, said Meet Chicago Northwest in Schaumburg has been recognized as a 2018 Readers' Choice Award winner.

Meet Chicago Northwest will be honored in the January 2018 issue of SportsEvents Magazine based in Alabama. Sports event professionals were asked to nominate destinations and sports venues that they believe display exemplary creativity and professionalism toward the youth and amateur sports groups they host. Nominations were received from readers throughout the year, and the top picks were selected based on results from an online voting system.

"We are very honored to receive this recognition; which really is attributed to our outstanding Sports venue partners that make the Chicago Northwest region a viable sports destination," said Dave Parulo, president of Meet Chicago Northwest.