VINCENT D. KICKERILLO HAS BEEN GUIDED BY SEVERAL PHILOSOPHIES THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE, BUT THE ONE CLOSEST TO HIS HEART IS “GOD TAKES ME WHERE I NEED TO BE.” THIS IS FITTING FOR THE BUILDER/DEVELOPER MOGUL, WHO AT THE AGE OF 13 LEFT THE FAMILY FARM IN BRYAN, TEXAS, TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE. BORN IN 1929 TO AN ITALIAN SHARECROPPER, KICKERILLO KNEW THE ONLY MEANS TO SUCCESS WAS THROUGH HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION. KICKERILLO COMPANIES HAS DEVELOPED SOME 15,000 LOTS AND BUILT MORE THAN 10,000 HOMES IN MORE THAN 40 COMMUNITIES. IN ADDITION, IT HAS DEVELOPED MORE THAN 1,000 ACRES OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTY INCLUDING SHOPS, CHURCHES, SCHOOLS AND RECREATIONAL FACILITIES. KICKERILLO HAS HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON THE GROWTH OF HOUSTON AND THE TRENDS OF THE UP-SCALE HOUSING MARKET. NOW, IN ITS SIXTH DECADE OF OPERATION, KICKERILLO COMPANIES’ FOCUS REMAINS ON DEVELOPING REAL ESTATE AND BUILDING CUSTOM HOMES IN RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES AND THEIR “BUILD ON YOUR LOT” PROGRAM. KICKERILLO TRULY BELIEVES GOD HAS TAKEN HIM EXACTLY WHERE HE NEEDS TO BE – WORKING NEXT TO HIS WIFE, MARY, AND DAUGHTER, KELLI, OVERSEEING A SUCCESSFUL REAL ESTATE EMPIRE.
YOU’VE SEEN A GREAT DEAL OF CHANGE IN HOUSTON. YOU’VE BEEN A GREAT CHANGE IN HOUSTON. WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE FUTURE FOR THE GREATER HOUSTON AREA?
I see more of everything. Houston is the greatest city! It is a wonderful place for new people, it is accepting of everyone, and it can take a belly punch. Business is good right now, but there were times over my last 60 years in business when the market was down, when the economy was less than ideal for real estate, or when there were national crises that affected the city, but Houston always bounced back. There is something for everyone in Houston, whether it is the unparalleled museum district, our amazing restaurants, the genius in our medical center or simply the great people. As homebuilders, we meet people from all over the world moving to Houston, and each one is as enthusiastic about our city as we are. So more of that enthusiasm, that acceptance of new business and new people is what I see for the future.
WHERE DID YOU START YOUR CAREER?
My first job was at Western Auto followed by a job at Hughes Tool Company when I was 13. At age 16, I joined the Merchant Marines and worked my way to second engineer, which allowed me to travel the world for the next 12 years. During this time as a mariner, I learned to play poker and eventually won enough to build my first home when I returned to Houston in 1957. That year my building company was born and it has led me to a lot of success and happiness. In 1964, I bought my first bank, which ultimately expanded into a wide variety of financial services, which included insurance, mortgage financing and savings and loans. Land development and the custom home business has been the mainstay of the company and what we focus on now.
CAN YOU COMPARE THE FIRST SINGLE-FAMILY HOME YOU BUILT TO KICKERILLO CUSTOM HOMES’ TYPICAL SINGLE-FAMILY HOME BUILT TODAY?
Style-wise I cannot compare the first single-family home I built to the homes we build today. The scale, type of materials and efficiency with which we build has changed 180 degrees, but the attention to detail, quality and the integrity of the crews I use has remained the same.
DO YOU LIVE IN YOUR AND YOUR WIFE’S DREAM HOME CURRENTLY?
We do. Mary and I live in our dream home. I broke ground on our home on January 1, 1963, and moved in on July 4, 1963. It took me 6 months to build and over the years we have remodeled, rebuilt and modified it many times. Mary and I did a major renovation to it in 1983 with designer Steve Chase of California. I love our home and want to live in it until I die. We are lucky to also have a home in Malibu, California, that was truly a labor of love and embodies all the ideas I had swirling in my head for decades. We have been in it since 2001, and I honestly would rebuild it today without changing one thing.
DO YOU REMODEL OR REBUILD?
Kickerillo Companies remodels and rebuilds. We have several projects going on right now that fit into this category. It isn’t the majority of our business, but we love these jobs because we get to see what we can do to update a family’s home.
YOUR ONLY CHILD, YOUR DAUGHTER KELLI, IS AN EXECUTIVE IN THE FAMILY BUSINESS. HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE OTHER FATHERS TO RAISE BUSINESSSAVVY DAUGHTERS?
Kelli has been working for us since she graduated from the University of St. Thomas. It was a foregone conclusion that she would be a part of the family business, but in the best possible way! Kelli has been in almost every meeting with me since 2003 and though I hope I have taught her a few things, she has a natural business savvy that I think she was born with. I think that she has seen that I love what I do and that work and home life don’t have to be separate. Kelli was always with me and Mary and she saw us working together and that rubs off I think. She has been listening to me for the last 34 years. Words that I said when she was a little girl now come out of her mouth. She is right on target about so much and knows when to listen and when to speak up. The best part is that I see her doing the same with her son now. Kick is almost three years old but he has been with her on job sites, in the developments and sitting with us at meetings since he was born. So my advice to fathers of daughters and sons alike is that it starts with you. Do you love what you do? If you do, you will be successful and your children will see that and go find what they love. Encourage them to get educated, learn their skills and to have a great deal of loyalty and respect for those around them. Success will follow if you work hard.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU HAVE YET TO ACHIEVE/DO?
I always say if you have your health, a good family unit and you make a comfortable living, quit looking. So I just want to do more of what I am doing with my family by my side. I am 87, have no plans to retire, love what I do and work every day with my wife and daughter. What more could I ask for?