Two generations of Rodrocks build and develop Johnson County character. Rodrock.
If you’ve lived in southern Johnson County during any of the last 30 years, chances are it’s a name you’ve come to know. It’s a name proudly displayed—with gold letters glistening—on the hewn-stone entrances to many of our finest subdivisions. It’s a name spoken often by real estate agents eager to assure clients that a house is top-notch—“It’s a Rodrock home,” they whisper. And, more than anything, it’s a name that’s become synonymous with a standard of living, an expectation of amenities and the extraordinary sense of community that Johnson Countians enjoy every day.
And while Johnson County residents might assume that community is something that just “happens,” it’s actually the deliberate result of a strategic plan put into play more than three decades ago by Darol Rodrock, owner of Rodrock Development.
A former schoolteacher and coach, Darol Rodrock first began building homes to supplement his income during summers in the 1970s. And whether a result of family know-how (his father-in-law Delbert built area homes in the 1950s), genius or a combination of both, Rodrock’s part-time gig in homebuilding fast became a full-time career in real estate development. All was propelled by Rodrock’s unique long-term vision.
“While others were out there building and selling houses, Darol was the first to offer customers the opportunity to buy into a community,” says Mark Simpson, LionsGate developer. Revolutionary in his strategy yet labeled “crazy” by detractors, Rodrock began to buy and plat one hundred lots at a time. On the land he continued to build quality homes, but created new things as well: wrought iron perimeter fences, stone monument entries, play parks, walking trails and communal swimming pools. In addition he set up Mom’s Councils to organize neighborhood July Fourth bike parades, hayrack rides at Christmas, even scholarship funds for kids. Most importantly, Rodrock offered the Blue Valley School District the opportunity to obtain land in his neighborhoods for free or reduced rates.
Before long, Rodrock’s neighborhoods were recognized for what they had become. More than just subdivisions, they were communities, places where outsiders became insiders just by moving in. Says Lathrop & Gage law partner Pete Heaven of his “extremely bright” longtime friend and client, “Darol can see a big picture better than anyone I’ve ever met.” During the height of his Overland Park development in the 1990s, one “Rodrock corridor” stretched the full length of Antioch from 123rd to 151st streets.
But not long after, Rodrock did the unexpected: he stopped developing in Overland Park. Whether rising land prices made Rodrock’s preferred business model unsustainable or the savvy developer foresaw moves in the market that others did not, Rodrock turned his attention toward Olathe and Shawnee, where he continues to develop flourishing communities today. To date, he’s developed more than 60 communities in Johnson County with a skill that even his largest competitors don’t deny.
“Darol Rodrock is a mentor to me and a leader,” says Jeff Robinson, owner and custom homebuilder of J.S. Robinson Fine Homes. “He’s an innovator, he’s creative and he’s flexible, and he never stops working until things are just right.”
Recently, back in Overland Park within the last several years, a second generation of Rodrocks is working to make things right for their customers. Separate from Rodrock Development, Rodrock Homes began as a homebuilding company run by Brian Rodrock, Jeff Reglin and Jeff Gifford, the respective son and sons-in-law of Darol Rodrock. Originally called Concord Homes, the enterprise was backed by Darol Rodrock until 2007 when Brian, Jeff and Jeff became their own entity, renamed the business Rodrock Homes, and began building in Overland Park as well as Olathe.
“We were ready to expand the business,” says Brian Rodrock, chief executive officer, “and we felt the market in Overland Park was right.”
So far, Rodrock Homes has built more than 500 homes in 11 communities in Johnson County, including homes in Overland Park’s Wilshire Farms, Mills Farm and Wyngate. Recently, Rodrock Homes received a Gold Award for a custom-build in Wilshire Farms, and Builder Magazine ranked the company in the top 200 builders nationwide based on its number of homes closed in 2010. By the end of this year, the company is on track to sell more than 100 houses.
The reason for Rodrock Homes’ recent success? Impossible to pick just one, the answer lies in a convergence of factors that include a diverse product offering, a nimble business plan, strong finances, an emphasis on value and a responsiveness toward customers.
With more than 20 home plans available ranging in price from $220,000 to $550,000, Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Reglin attributes Rodrock’s growth to its wide product offerings.
“During the downturn, that kept us alive,” he says. In addition to plans and prices, Rodrock Homes’ clients also have many building sites to choose from. “We have a nimble business model, which means we can pick up and build anywhere,” says Rodrock.
Jeff Gifford, Chief Operations Officer, attributes some of his company’s strength to its enviable financial position, gained through careful planning and a strong relationship with banks.
“We realize there’s a cycle to real estate, so we plan for it before it happens,” says Gifford.
Unlike some builders, the company seems able to exercise financial flexibility; they’ve even been known to slow a building process for a customer needing more time for selections.
“Our relationships with local banks are key,” says Brian Rodrock, who gives credit to his father, Darol, for his initial help in fostering those transactions.
And, perhaps taking a page from their patriarch’s playbook, the leaders of Rodrock Homes are gaining notoriety for offering amenities at a value.
“We’re going above and beyond what the market is doing in terms of standard features,” says Brian, whose homes boast standard three-car garages, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. To help customers save on energy expenses, Rodrock also regularly installs extra insulation and more energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning.
“Brian and his brothers-in-law have done a good job representing value in the marketplace,” says developer Mark Simpson.
But awards, financials and amenities aside, the truth about a homebuilder usually comes straight from the mouths of homeowners themselves. And while Rodrock homeowners admit their abodes are still relatively new, they say they’ve been pleased with the company’s responsiveness, flexibility and professionalism.
When Katey Chamblin found her in-process home in Wilshire Farms, she anticipated that the final building phase might prove stressful. Instead, “Rodrock made it easy,” she says. “Anytime I needed something, I got a response within just one hour—day or night,” says Chamblin.
Mills Farm resident and geotechnical engineer Casey Jones had a less pleasant experience when discussions with a third-party about a problem at his home site reached a fevered pitch. “I was ready to walk away from the project,” says Jones. “Then Brian Rodrock came in, negotiated a solution and saved the deal,” says the new homeowner, who’s now glad he stayed put.
Allen and Debbie Turner, who have built homes with four other builders, called their experience with Rodrock Homes “the best one yet.” When the couple inquired if the paint they had chosen for their home’s exterior was an incorrect color, they expected a fight. Although repainting ultimately proved unnecessary, the response from the builder was conciliatory.
“Rodrock immediately offered to repaint the home and make it right,” says Allen Turner, who calls that kind of customer service “amazing for today’s society.”
Given that traits tend to run in families, it’s possible that the ability to “make things right” is simply a part of Brian Rodrock’s genetic makeup.
“Brian has a drive and flexibility that’s similar to his dad’s,” says homebuilder Jeff Robinson. “The words ‘can’t do’ just aren’t in his conversation.’”
But despite the similarities between father and son, Darol Rodrock doesn’t agree with all of the business decisions his son and sons-in-law have made. Still, he has one thing to say about the group he affectionately calls “the boys.”
“I’m really proud of what the boys are doing,” says Darol.
And these days Rodrock Homes is doing more and more. Having built more than 23 homes there, the company is making its first move from building into developing within south Overland Park’s Wyngate community. When he talks about their new foray into his legendary father’s line of business, Brian Rodrock seems confident. “After all, what better teacher could I have had?” he asks.