2018 Nominee Nine: DeVille Developments

Sitting in the Stark County Courthouse in the early 1960s Roger DeVille had an epiphany. He noticed that although 3,000 couples a year were marrying in Stark County, an equal number were divorcing. 3,000 suddenly single people were looking for apartments in competition with the post-war Baby Boomers just starting to leave their parent’s homes. Lots of people needed apartments and Stark County had few.

Roger DeVille has lived his life at the intersection of hard work, keen insight and good luck. After graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in accounting from Walsh University, DeVille began working as an accountant at the Timken Company. With the needs of a growing family in mind, he started acquiring and fixing up small apartment buildings in the less expensive parts of town. He did almost all the work himself after normal working hours and while also enrolled in a special post-graduate degree program at the University of Akron. Downtime was not high on his bucket list.

Soon DeVille was ready to begin building his first new 12-unit apartment building and was thrilled to see it rent out before the last shingle was nailed in place. It all seemed too easy, so he started researching the housing situation in Stark County leading to his discovery of a giant hole in the market.

Over the next few years, DeVille set about changing the nature of Stark County’s housing stock. Soon he owned over 1,000 fully rented apartments. Then luck intervened again to change his direction.

Whenever he bought new land to develop, there always seemed to be a small piece that wouldn’t work for apartments. Strips like the old Avalon Restaurant on 30th Street in Canton. DeVille wanted the acreage behind for a new apartment complex, but had no idea what to do with the vacant restaurant. One day he got a call from a Columbus-area man named David Thomas. Yes, that David Thomas, founder of Wendy’s Restaurants.

In short order Thomas offered DeVille a 20+ year lease, DeVille began building Wendy’s restaurants and commercial developments became his new business. And what a business it became.

DeVille knew the building business inside out because of those late hours spent renovating and building his own apartment buildings. He also quickly figured out the locations where retailers would most like to locate new stores. Working with blue-chip companies like Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Marc’s, Starbucks and more, DeVille Developments soon earned a sterling reputation for their ability to find good land and build good stores on time.

DeVille still has the ability to see the next wave of change. Now he sees a future where brick and mortar retail stores are smaller and developers will have to come up with ingenious ways to save on material and labor costs. Over 50 years after he built his first Wendy’s, Roger DeVille is ready for the next challenge.

Today, DeVille Developments does business in seven states and with some of the most successful companies in America. When asked the secret to his success, Roger DeVille says, “The key is hard work and the ability to build a great team who shares my commitment to helping retailers succeed. I find that if we provide services and facilities in a timely and economical fashion, we end up making friends.” Fortunately for the future of Stark County, Roger DeVille has made a lot of friends.