Toys and treasures abound in a Lake Club showplace.
You would expect a lot from the most expensive home in Lakewood Ranch, and the Verble residence in The Lake Club delivers the goods — and then some. To be sure, you’ll find the usual amenities of a multimillion dollar home. There’s the requisite wine room (but this one holds 1,000 bottles), the elaborate master suite (this one has four separate rooms) and even some hard-to-find rarities (a tennis court).
It’s what you don’t expect — in fact, never dreamed of — that makes this house so remarkable. Like the eighth of a mile jogging track. Or the “car museum” with room for four of the owner’s most prized trophies, including the ultimate Corvette. Or most remarkable, the private golf course, an ingeniously designed space with five different tees, a putting green and even a classic golf course clock. “It’s perfect for sharpening your short game,” Mike Verble says.
The Verbles, Mike and Kathy, have a backstory even more remarkable than their house. They were married as teenagers and started life in a 32-by-8-foot trailer. “It was rusty, no air-conditioning, no TV,” Mike recalls. But Mike, the ultimate serial entrepreneur, was soon moving on. He began building homes, specializing in high-end models in North Carolina. Out of this grew his roofing company, North American Roofing, which became the largest commercial roofer in the country. Then came Home Depot, where Mike’s affiliated company, Home Depot Installed Products, turned what had been basically a hardware store into a construction business that would install your kitchen and put on a new roof. Then came eShopWorld, an international online shopping service. The list goes on and on, one home run after another.
Mike attributes much of his success to Kathy. “She’s my sounding board,” he says. “She’s been with me every step of the way.” He also credits his mother. “She was the original risk-taker, and that’s the secret: being willing to take a risk.”
The Verbles have a house in Asheville but had long enjoyed a second home on North Manasota Key. When they decided to head inland, they found a lot in The Lake Club and hired John Cannon Homes to build a residence of their own design. It’s Italian in style and comes in at over 9,000 square feet.
Unusually for such a large home, it’s all one floor. There is an almost overwhelming feeling of space in the house. Nothing is cramped; no corners were cut. The ceiling in the great room is 22 feet high. Even secondary rooms like the study are large. The master suite really is a suite, an entire wing, in fact. It has its own study, plus a separate office, the bedroom itself — with an enormous bath and room-size closets, naturally — and even an octagonal space that serves as a “doggie bedroom” for the Verbles’ two large dogs. (The two smaller dogs cuddle up with the couple themselves.)
Dogs are a motif throughout the home, with numerous paintings and drawings hung on the walls. At one point, Mike raised Irish wolfhounds and showed them in competition, parading them around the ring himself, a skill he learned and at which he became quite proficient. Today both he and Kathy love hiking the hills of North Carolina with their current canine family.
Sharing wall space with the dogs, plus some excellent old European paintings, you will notice music memorabilia, the result of another company Mike founded, Raintree Music Group. Through the company, he has acquired the publishing rights to a whole catalogue of country music, including songs by legends like Merle Haggard. Mike loves country music, but does he sing or play himself? “I wish I could,” he says with a sigh.
The front of the home contains a vast motor court, which has proven to be a great place for the Verbles’ eight grandchildren to ride their tricycles and bikes. On one side of the court is a four-car garage for the everyday family cars; on the other side is the boutique-sized car museum, marbled floored, with a seating area and an amazing Steinway piano, custom-made of Macassar ebony. Here the cream of Mike’s car collection is displayed, including a white Rolls Royce (Kathy’s car), a rare Porsche and the holy grail of the entire collection, an ultra rare, only 15 were made, 1963 Z06 Corvette, immortalized in the Beach Boys iconic song “Shut Down.”
In addition to the master suite, the home has four other bedrooms, each with private baths. The Verbles often have guests, particularly family, and in addition to housing them all, the home also entertains them — and in an unparalleled fashion. “You could say we built the place for the grandkids,” Mike explains. “There are so many things to do.”
He’s not kidding. There’s the pool and spa, set in a vast outdoor living area where the screening extends 35 feet high. Then there is the tennis court, the billiard room, the arcade games, the basketball court, the gymnasium, the jogging track and the most amazing amenity of all, the private golf course.
It’s not really a course but rather an ingenious game and a practice area that Mike designed with the help of a professional golf course designer. Five different tees offer a variety of challenging shots. It’s built on a slight bermed elevation, surrounded by the jogging track and hidden from the neighbors by carefully planted magnolia trees — 58 of them — and other Southern vegetation. The total lot area is 2.46 acres.
When most couples with a large home decide to move, it’s usually to downsize. Not so for the Verbles. They have put their Lake Club home on the market for $5,995,000 and are currently building a new home in Asheville that will come in at more than 17,000 square feet. Like the Verbles’ adventurous life, it’s the embodiment of a spectacular American dream that began in a rusty trailer 53 years ago and only keeps getting bigger.