Richard Berry pulled weeds outside his father’s Kettering Boulevard business at 8 years old to earn money for a moped.
Nearly 50 years later, the son of John Berry Sr., who grew Dayton-founded L. M. Berry & Company — Yellow Pages — into a national business directory giant, is selling his $20 million Colorado resort-style mansion just outside of Denver.
The retired race car driver plans to move into a small home near Denver that doesn’t require as much upkeep and will travel half of the year now that his triplets are off to college.
The 25,400-square-foot home built on 80 acres was built to the taste of Richard Berry, one of five sons born to former Dayton tycoon John Berry Sr.
“In staying in fine hotels, living in other big homes and seeing hundreds of them growing up and as an adult, I kind of took a little something from everywhere I’d been that I liked,” Berry said.
In 1986 when Berry Co. was sold, it was one of Dayton’s largest employers, generating more than $1 billion per year. You can’t drive around Dayton without seeing something that was built from donations from Berry.
Berry, now 56, grew up in Oakwood, attending Harman Elementary School and later splitting his semesters between Oakwood High School and a school in California where his family loved to stay and his father would travel often for business.
“I remember (Oakwood) as a real tight knit community,” Berry said. “Oakwood was a great place to grow up.”
Berry loved the Dayton-area parks, and every time he would visit Dublin near Columbus for a race as a team owner, investor and sponsor, he’d stop in the city for a Marion’s pizza.
He still about once a year will buy 10 half-baked Marion’s pizzas and have them shipped to the Colorado mansion just outside Denver where he moved in the early 2000s.
One of his fondest memories of Dayton was driving around on his moped at 8 years old, which he bought by pulling weeds outside L. M. Berry & Company. His father promised if Berry made half the money, he would match the other half.
“Sure enough I earned half the money…He never thought I’d earn half,” Berry said. “He was a heck of a businessmen. He was just absolutely incredible and he wanted to instill that in all five of us.”
Later as a teen Berry would work in the mail room on his summer breaks from school and was 23 when his father sold the company. At that time Berry’s father was worth a little more than a billion dollars, he said.
His father was also a philanthropist, donating $7.5 million for scholarships to the University of Dayton in 1998, the largest single commitment in the school’s history at the time. A large single donation has since been given to the school, said spokeswoman Meagan Pant.
He also donated $27.5 million to Dartmouth College for a new library in 1992 and previously helped the Ivy League school build a new sports center.
“(The company) was huge when I was very, very young, needless to say. But through my youth I watched it grow,” Berry said. “They really picked the right time to sell right before the internet age…got top dollar for it. If they would have waited five or 10 years later that probably wouldn’t have been the case.”
By the time he was a junior in high school, he had mostly moved to California, but would return off and on to Dayton for short periods into his young adulthood. From California he moved to Colorado in 1985 to put roots down somewhere new, near a city but still in the mountains.
Berry started building his dream home in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land that is now “unattainable,” he said. The first thing he added was a 10,000-square-foot car garage that includes a car wash and a gas station.
Meanwhile the architect spent four days camping on the site of the house to get the “feng shui of the house positioned perfectly on top of the mountain.”
From there the build of Thunder Ridge, named for the Broncos and the summer monsoons typical of Evergreen, Colorado, took nearly 5 years and a total $30 million, Berry said. Later he added 20,000 square feet to the existing 10,000 square foot car barn about a half mile from the house for a museum.
The car barn is more than 4,000 square feet larger than the house, and can hold more than 100 cars. A buyer could easily transform it into a show arena for horses or an athletic complex, Berry said.
He doesn’t have enough cars to fill the building now, but at one time Berry said he had 240 cars.
Some of Berry’s favorite parts of the house are the Star Trek-themed theater with seats that move to make viewers feel like they’re in a movie, a wine cellar with a table for tastings and the Hugh Hefner-inspired grotto pool with underwater speakers and a waterfall, he said.
He envisions a professional athlete who spends a lot of time in Colorado, a resort or a local business tycoon buying the home that sits atop a hill with a 360-degree view of the continental divide. The land is good for horses and has hiking trails and just about every type of wildlife from elk to mountain lions, Berry said.
“It really does have a resort feel to it,” he said. “I have had a lot of people say this could be a great clubhouse.”
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