Versatile Entrepreneur Builds Carolina Timeshare Empire

By Rosalie E. Leposky

Peppertree Resorts, Ltd., is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 1997. A prominent regional development firm based in Asheville, North Carolina, Peppertree owes its growth and success to the creative dynamism of C. Wayne Kinser (1934- August 31, 2003), its founder, chairman, and president; and to an executive staff consisting primarily of longtime associates and business partners who help to implement Kinser's ideas.

"Wayne is a visionary," says Donald K. Clayton, a Peppertree employee since 1984 who is the firm's senior vice president of marketing.

"The first time Wayne looks at a raw piece of property, he envisions how it should be developed. Generally, he is right," says Kenneth C. "Ken" Crump, Peppertree's senior vice president of construction resort development, who has worked with Kinser since 1986.

 

  C. Wayne Kinser

Fourteen and Growing

Peppertree currently is developing and/or managing 14 mountain and beachfront timeshare resorts with almost 44,500 members:

-- Kinser began his first timeshare project, Peppertree Vacation Club, in 1977 on the grounds of The Great Smokies Hilton Resort (now a Holiday Inn Sunspree) in Asheville, North Carolina. The six-acre project has 18 buildings, 28 timeshare units, and 1,310 members.

-- His second timeshare project, Peppertree Outer Banks Beach Club in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, occupies property he acquired in 1980 and 1983. The 11.5-acre site has 37 buildings, 184 units, and 9,024 members.

-- Peppertree Resort Villas in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, developed in 1981, has 24.15 acres, 27 buildings, 158 timeshare units, and 7,829 members.

-- Peppertree by the Sea in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, occupies property acquired in 1981. The 1.6-acre site has one building, 86 timeshare units, and 4,254 members.

-- Peppertree at Maggie Valley in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, began in 1983 on a three-acre site. It now has 16 buildings with 40 timeshare units and 2,050 members.

-- Sandpebble Beach Club in Surfside, South Carolina, was acquired in 1985 and 1986. The one-acre resort has one building and 13 timeshare units with 642 members.

-- Peppertree Blue Ridge Village in Banner Elk, North Carolina, acquired in 1986, has 52.39 acres with 12 buildings, 95 timeshare units, and 3,780 members.

-- Peppertree at Tamarack in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, acquired in 1986, occupies a 70-acre site. It has 25 buildings, 81 timeshare units, and 3,559 members.

-- Peppertree Laurel Point in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, acquired in 1986, is a six-acre resort with three buildings, 50 timeshare units, and 2,506 members.

-- Fontana Village, in Fontana Dam, North Carolina, was acquired in 1987. A resort community in the Great Smoky Mountains 90 miles west of Asheville, it occupies 360 acres of land leased from the Tennessee Valley Authority until the year 2060. "Fontana is a privately owned full-service town on the south shore of Lake Fontana, a 12,000-acre reservoir," says Kinser. "I'm vice mayor, and we have our own fire department." Fontana has a 98-room hotel built in 1974 that Peppertree purchased in 1987, a 20-unit campground, 200 cottages and rental condominiums, and 43 timeshare units with 1,739 owners.

-- Peppertree Sea Mystique in Garden City, South Carolina, was acquired in 1988. The one-acre resort has one building with 11 timeshare units and 548 members.

-- Peppertree Sands in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was acquired in 1989. A one-acre resort, it has one building with 12 timeshare units and 450 members.

-- Peppertree Ocean Club in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was acquired in 1991. It occupies a five-acre site and has one building with 108 timeshare units and 4,640 members.

-- Peppertree Hilton Head on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, occupies 40 acres of land acquired in 1994. Timeshare sales there have just begun.

In addition, Peppertree owns property at several other locations in North and South Carolina where development of timeshare resorts is planned.

Growing Up In Business

C. Wayne Kinser was born in 1933 in Athens, Tennessee. A decade later, he moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with his parents, C. Clyde and Esther Carney Kinser, and his older brother, Robert C. Kinser, so his father could work in a munitions factory.

While still in elementary school, Kinser engaged in his first entrepreneurial activity at the age of 10 -- selling used comic books. His father encouraged this endeavor.

In 1949 the Kinsers moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where C. Wayne's 85-year-old mother still lives. There C. Clyde founded the family's first company, Home Insulation of Asheville.

In the late 1940s to early 1950s no building insulation requirements existed. "Today, codes enforced by building inspectors require that building walls and ceilings have a certain 'R' value," says Kinser. "My father sold people on the value of blowing insulation into the walls and ceilings of their home, where most building heat loss occurs. We showed people how in just a few years the energy savings covered the original installation cost of Owens-Corning blown insulation materials. For several years our little Asheville company was Owens-Corning's largest Fiberglass insulation customer."

As a high-school student in Asheville, Kinser worked for his father's insulation company during summer vacations. An early client he helped was Sara Coleman Porter, the elderly widow of William Sidney Porter (1862-1910), a writer of short stories better known by his pen name, O. Henry. Porter is buried near the famous novelist Thomas Wolfe in Asheville's Riverside Cemetery.

In 1955, Kinser graduated from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, and joined his father and brother full time in the family firms.

Branching Out

"My father's business evolved into other aspects of energy conservation, including manufacturing and installation of storm windows and doors and aluminum windows and doors, so we changed the charter and company name of Home Insulation of Asheville to Kenco Corporation," he says. "Under the Kenco name we manufactured first aluminum and later vinyl windows and doors, and under the Deltec name we manufactured single-family homes, apartments, and vacation homes."

Fontana Village and several of the Peppertree timeshare resorts -- Peppertree Vacation Club, Peppertree Outer Banks Beach Club, Peppertree Atlantic Beach, and Peppertree Maggie Valley -- have some round and hexagon-shaped Deltec buildings.

"We used Deltec's pre-engineered panelized homes to help reduce construction time and material costs, and to have less ecological impact on the local environment, since building debris is recycled at the Deltec plant," says Ken Crump, who is a former Deltec Homes manager. "Deltec buildings also are less disruptive to the current owner base."

Trowbridge Offered Advice

In the 1960s, Kinser and a high-school friend, Kenneth A. Parton, founded Heritage Homes. "Shortly after, we realized we had to have a place to build homes," says Kinser, "so we founded Pioneer Land Development Inc. We became western North Carolina's largest home- development builders.

"In 1970, Parton and I divided up our holdings. Parton received all the stock in Heritage Homes and I received all of the Pioneer stock. About a year after the stock trade, as part of the national movement to consolidate homebuilding, Ken sold out to an Ohio company. In 1972, Pioneer started construction of the Great Smokies Hilton Resort and Conference Center, which opened in 1974." When the Hilton franchise on the 120-acre, 280-room resort expired in 1995, Kinser converted his hotel to the new Holiday Inn Sunspree brand.

"In 1976," he says, "I read an article in a trade publication about Sanibel Island developer Keith Trowbridge and his new timesharing concept. My parents owned a winter home nearby in Fort Myers, Florida, so I made a point to see Trowbridge when I visited there. He graciously spent time with me, and taught me how to divide up a piece of property 52 ways. I asked him where to locate a timeshare property. He suggested I select a place where people want to be."

In 1977 Kinser built the first of 18 villas of his Peppertree Vacation Club on the grounds of the Great Smokies Hilton Resort. "Peppertree Vacation Club, affiliation number 0066, was one of Resort Condominiums International's first 100 resorts," he says. "We used our own hotel guests as our first timeshare prospects. We've done well in Asheville even though most Americans prefer the beach to the mountains. Several of our other properties have been beach resorts.

"We developed the Peppertree brand with the creation of our third resort, Atlantic Beach. A half-dozen employees wrote down appealing names. I wrote down the name Pepper Tree because it was easy to say, and we used literary license." Kinser isn't sure how he learned about the pepper tree, a foothill chaparral tree (Schinus molle) native to Peru that grows about 1,800 feet above sea level on the south slopes of the Santa Ynez mountains near Santa Barbara, California.

Umbrella for Diverse Enterprises

Peppertree Resorts, Ltd., serves as an umbrella for other companies Kinser owns with a variety of partners. They include Atlantic Beach Enterprises, Inc.; Crystal Resorts, Inc.; Great Smokies Resorts, Inc.; Peppertrees Management, Inc.; Peppertrees Resorts Villas, Inc.; Peppertree Fontana Village Inc.; Peppertree Ocean Club, Inc.; and Pioneer Hotel Inc.

Eventually the Kinser brothers traded company shares. Robert retained full ownership of Kenco and Deltec, and Wayne retained full ownership of Peppertree and subsidiary operations. Later Robert sold Kenco's window-manufacturing operation to a midwestern window manufacturer, while retaining ownership -- but not day-to-day management -- of Deltec Homes. Kinser's timeshare-related business interests also include Meridian Financial Services, Inc., a collections company founded in 1989 and jointly owned by Kinser; John S. McFarland, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Peppertree Resorts, Ltd.; and Gregory B. Sheperd, president of Meridian.

In 1991, Kinser, McFarland, and Sheperd founded Paragon Financial Services, LLC, a receivables-management company that operates in 38 states to service loans and bill annual tax assessments.

Shepard operates both Meridian and Paragon. "Since November 1996, when I left Meridian to come to work full time at Peppertree Resorts, Ltd., I have had a hands-off relationship with Meridian," says McFarland, a Kinser associate for 13 years.

Herbert H. "Butch" Patrick, Peppertree's new chief financial officer, now handles Peppertree's relationship with Meridian. Patrick is intimately familiar with Peppertree after 18 years in the Asheville accounting firm of Painter, Patrick & Russell, Peppertree's outside auditor.

Family and Civic Affiliations

Kinser has been married since 1990 to Cindy M. Rice, an Asheville-area native who is the mother of Kinser's 14-year-old step-daughter, Natalie M. Rice. An avid outdoorsman, Kinser likes to take Natalie camping. He recently attended a Smashing Pumpkins rock concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, with Natalie, Donald Clayton, and Clayton's 14-year-old daughter, Kyla.

From a previous marriage, Kinser has two older children: Sharon K. Kinser, 38, manager of Harbor House Restaurant in Panacea, Florida, and David W. Kinser, 34, Peppertree's corporate pilot and manager of the firm's owners' vacation-rental and travel programs.

Kinser is or has been a board member of several Asheville community and governmental organizations and statewide committees, including the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Asheville City Planning Board, Manna Food Bank (which feeds the homeless), the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County, and the North Carolina's Governor's Council for Travel and Tourism. He has been an active Rotarian for 25 years.

Kinser Learned Patience From Fishing

C. Wayne Kinser, founder, chairman, and president of Peppertree Resorts Ltd., uses the patience he learned as a fly fisherman to envision, develop, and manage timeshare resorts.

An ardent fly fisherman or "wader" since junior high school, Kinser has waded in most of the world's best fly-fishing spots. Probably not by accident, most members of his executive-management staff share his passion for fly fishing. Timeshare-industry colleagues say they've learned not to offer Kinser or his staff their favorite fishing stories unless they've had a true wader's experience.

"The uninitiated will find fly fishing fairly portrayed in A River Runs Through It (a movie about fly fishing directed by Robert Redford)," says Kinser, "except that a fly fisherman may not catch fish every day. The fun is in the fishing, not in the actual catching of fish."

Kinser participates in catch-and-release programs for sport fishermen, but he kept one prize fish. Mounted on a wall of his office is a 13-pound rainbow trout he caught in the Rio Golgol in South Chile on the last cast of a two-week South American fly-fishing trip.

"Little-known outside of Chile, the Golgol River flows from the Andes Mountains into Lago Puyehue near the city of Puyehue," says Osvaldo Barrientos, chancellor of the Chilean consulate in Miami, Florida, and brother of Jorge Barrientos, one of Chile's best-known fly-fishing teachers. "Part of International Route 215 follows the Golgol River, connecting Portezuelo de Puyehue, Argentina, and Osorno, Chile. The Golgol fishing season begins in November and ends in April, with the best fishing in the first and last weeks of the season. Kinser's fish is large, but my brother Jorge has caught larger fish in the Golgol."

Since 1990, Kinser has been a local board member of the Land of Sky Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization of fishermen based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ghost May Inhabit Corporate Office

The corporate offices of Peppertree Resorts, Ltd., occupy Zealandia, a historic mansion that they allegedly share with a ghost.

Located about 2,500 feet above sea level on a ridge of the Beaucatcher Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, Zealandia is minutes from downtown, half a mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and about 30 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A New Zealand sheep rancher, John Evans Brown, built the original red-brick Zealandia on a 168-acre tract in 1860. In 1904 a later owner, O.D. Revel, sold Zealandia with 40 acres of land to Australian-born world traveler and art patron Sir Philip Henry, who expanded the home in 1919-1920 to a three-story, 62-room English manor house with a separate cottage and stables. One of Sir Philip's daughters, Violet Henry, and her husband, General Harley H. Maconochie, remodeled and combined many of the rooms in the 1950s. Today it has 28 rooms on 16 acres of land.

In 1961 the Maconochies sold Zealandia to Miami hotelier George Dixon and his wife, Isabella June Wolf "Dottie" Dixon, who used Zealandia as a summer home. George Dixon died on March 28, 1969, and Dotty stopped summering at Zealandia in the early 1970s. Peppertree moved its offices into the house in 1984.

"I've never seen the ghost," says C. Wayne Kinser, Peppertree's chairman and president. "Mrs. Dixon told me that one evening she and her husband were watching television when an apparition came down Zealandia's grand staircase, walked across the entrance foyer, and then went up the back steps.

"Mrs. Dixon called Zealandia's former owner, Violet Henry Maconochie, and asked if she had seen the apparition. Mrs. Maconochie suggested the apparition was Helen, the first wife of her father, Sir Philip Henry. She said Helen had died in a Pennsylvania fire, and was looking for her family. Mrs. Maconochie suggested that Mrs. Dixon tell Helen where the family had moved, and Mrs. Dixon never saw the apparition again."

Why Asheville?

Most early timeshare developers gravitated to sandy beaches or Orlando-like attractions. C. Wayne Kinser's first timeshare project on the grounds of the Great Smokies Hilton Resort in Asheville, North Carolina, is different because it is in a traditional mountain summer-resort community where visitors don't expect sandy beaches, ski lifts, or rodent-themed amusement parks. "Affluent families sent the wives and children to spent the summer in the mountains, while fathers stayed and worked in the hot cities," says Kinser. "Large homes were built in sections of Asheville to accommodate summer residents. Asheville has many fine architecturally significant buildings, with perhaps the largest collection of art-deco buildings outside of Miami Beach.

"Floridians have exerted a great deal of influence on Asheville. Prior to World War II and the introduction of mechanical air conditioning, Asheville was cool when most everywhere else in North and South Carolina and Florida was extremely hot. Typically the temperature drops three to four degrees during the day for every 1,000 feet of elevation, and even more at night. In the 1920s and 1930s, screened sleeping porches were very popular in Asheville homes and hospitals."

Historically, Asheville's summer visitors came to enjoy the fresh, cool summer air, hot mineral springs, and mountain attractions of a southern Appalachian community just a day's journey from New York. The convenient location attracted George W. Vanderbilt III (1862-1914), creator of the Biltmore Estate, the largest private family home in America.

Vanderbilt combined 125,000 worn-out acres of land to create the Biltmore Estate, which remains privately owned but is open for public tours. Architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) designed and built the mansion and gardens between 1890 and 1895. The mansion contains 255 rooms with a collection of 70,000 objects.

 
   Biltmore Estate 

Vanderbilt combined 125,000 worn-out acres of land to create the Biltmore Estate, which remains privately owned but is open for public tours. Architect Richard Morris Hunt (1828-1895) and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) designed and built the mansion and gardens between 1890 and 1895. The mansion contains 255 rooms with a collection of 70,000 objects.

Vanderbilt's wife, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt (1873-1958), encouraged the development of local craft industries. After her husband's death, she carried out his wishes and deeded about 110,000 acres to the United States Government to form the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest, which now covers 495,000 acres.

In the early 1960s the Vanderbilt grandsons -- the sons of George Vanderbilt's daughter, Cornelia, and John Cecil -- divided the estate. William A.V. Cecil kept the house and the 8,000-acre, self-sustaining working estate and winery that the public visits today. His older brother, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, received 5,000 acres.

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

For More Information

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Copyright 1997 Ampersand Communications
All Rights Reserved
Published in The Resort Trades, May.


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