KC Stock made his mark in Southwest Florida, not only as a builder and developer, but as a man of principle and kindness.
Stock, 84, the founder of Naples-based Stock Development, died on November 28.
He is remembered as a true businessman and a strong but affable man who loved business and life.
Voted “Least Likely to Succeed” in high school, the Wisconsin resident defied the odds.
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He succeeded, and then some, through hard work, sheer determination, and old-fashioned grit.
Stock Development is just one of his many success stories. But it’s the success story that has left the biggest mark in Southwest Florida.
After vacationing in the Naples area for years, KC and his son Brian launched Stock Development in late 2001.
True to its name, the business began as a development company, with the purchase of 340 acres at the Lely Resort, east of Naples, but the company quickly expanded into home construction.
Over the years, the now diversified real estate company has continued to evolve and adapt, surviving more than one recession and other setbacks.
Through it all, KC and Brian worked side by side, making decisions together, with input from their trusted management team.
“It was their business together. KC was involved in every decision, everything, every action,” said Claudine Leger-Wetzel, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.
KC saw his employees as the key to his success, treating them with respect and kindness. One of his favorite sayings: “You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”
“That’s something he lived and breathed for,” Leger-Wetzel said.
A few weeks ago, he flew to Naples from Wisconsin to attend an employee’s wedding.
“That’s how it was,” Leger-Wetzel said.
Father and son had a “once in a lifetime relationship”
KC served as the president of Stock Development and as a mentor to Brian, who is the CEO.
“There was probably nothing that Brian didn’t handle for his father. They were always talking about everything,” said Matt Sellick, president of the company’s homebuilding division.
“It really was a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime relationship,” she said.
Together, they were not only successful, but they gave back in a big way.
KC strove to make a difference in people’s lives. In 1991, he founded the KC Stock Foundation to do just that. Over the years, the foundation doled out millions to various charitable causes, mostly in Wisconsin, but some of the money found its way to southwest Florida.
In particular, in Wisconsin, his foundation made the primary donation to start a children’s hospital at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, so that most families in the northeastern part of the state would not have to make the long trip to Milwaukee for receive treatment.
Stock Development has made large community investments and own donations.
The company recently awarded Florida Gulf Coast University’s construction management department a $2.5 million grant to support its growth. The department has been renamed in honor of the company.
Despite all his successes, KC remained humble and grateful.
“Our hearts are broken here. Because he was just a legacy that
they’re going to hold out every day,” Leger-Wetzel said.
Sellick echoed those thoughts.
“They just don’t make them like that anymore,” she said of KC and her family.
Sellick, a hire fresh out of college, said he will be with Stock Development for as long as they have him, until the day he retires.
“The bottom line is family. That’s what always goes back to family,” he said.
“And its core values,” added Leger-Wetzel, who joined the company more than 20 years ago.
One of Sellick’s earliest memories of KC is seeing him pull up to a job site in a modest Sebring convertible. It wasn’t about showing off his wealth.
“That’s not what he cared about,” he said.
Stock Development Has Reshaped Southwest Florida
Since its founding, Stock Development has built more than 6,000 single-family homes in Florida, Wyoming and Montana. Most of those houses are in southwest Florida.
In Florida, the company has completed about 1,200 apartments, with hundreds more under construction and another rental complex in development.
The builder recently announced that its first high-rise tower project, One Naples, overlooking Vanderbilt Beach in north Naples, would be a signature Ritz-Carlton residential development.
The ultra-luxury community has been rebranded as Ritz-Carlton Residences, Naples. It will include 128 residences on six acres in a pair of 12-story buildings. Construction and sales are underway.
Stock Development has also built commercial projects, from retail stores to offices.
After buying out the original developers, KC and Brian built two golf courses in Southwest Florida, Grandezza in Estero and Olde Cypress in Naples, along with homes.
At just 19 years old, KC built his first home.
Over the years, he owned, built, expanded, and sold many businesses, including Stock Lumber, his first contractor shipyard, and Cruisers Yachts, a boatbuilding company, both in Wisconsin.
After buying the logging company from his father in 1971, KC turned it into a multi-state construction supply operation. He later sold it for around $100 million.
True to its roots, KC bought Oconto-based Cruisers to avoid a closure in 1993.
“He bought that company because he employed everyone in his hometown,” Sellick said. “He was going broke and he didn’t want everyone to lose their job in his hometown.”
At one point, Cruisers had as many as 750 employees.
When it sold Stock Lumber and Cruisers, KC shared part of its profits with employees, based on their years of service.
He founded Stock Development after the sale of Stock Lumber.
Brian stayed with Stock Lumber after it was sold, but the new owners wanted him to take a higher-level position, which required him to move and travel more abroad, which he did not find appealing, Leger-Wetzel said.
So KC offered his son a better option, to go into real estate together, in a place they both loved.
KC Stock always kept busy
In an interview with a local reporter in 1999, after winning the Free Enterprise Award from the Rotary Club of Green Bay, KC shared that her sister told her “you have to smell the roses.” But it wasn’t his style.
“I just enjoy being busy. I like a challenge. I like to work and be with people. I like to learn other things,” Stock said many years ago.
For a time, staying busy included serving on the Green Bay Packers’ board of directors.
Throughout his life, KC also owned eight farms, which also kept him very busy.
He loved the cattle business. In 2020, he purchased what is now known as the Stock Ranch with Brian in Bozeman, Montana so he could get back into the Black Angus cattle business.
Last year, KC sold Cruisers Yachts after nearly 30 years of ownership to Clearwater, Florida-based MarineMax.
in a Press releaseMark Pedersen, President of Cruisers Yachts, said, “The statement that best describes KC is their love and commitment to employees.”
“Every time I would visit, I would first ask how many team members were working and then I would walk around the floor to visit them,” he said.
KC, short for Kenneth Charles, was married to his wife Georgia for 54 years, whom he met when he owned and operated a pallet business.
“She was the love of his life,” Leger-Wetzel said.
They had four children. Brian is the youngest.
KC will be greatly missed by his family and friends and many others who have crossed his path in Southwest Florida and up north.
Former Oconto mayor Victoria Bostedt said she never forgot her roots and remained friendly and outgoing, despite the heights she reached.
She described him as one in a billion, who cannot be replaced.
“He can never be forgotten. Never,” he said.
Funeral services were held Monday in Green Bay.
Richard Ryman and Christopher Clough of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, part of the USA Today Network, contributed to this story.