A Story of Family: The Cocherl Family and the Magic of Christmas
By Kathy Feist
It was a snowy white Christmas eve, when 10-year-old Patrick Cocherl III saw something spectacular.
“I saw Santa running through the back of the yard yelling ‘Rudolf got away with my sleigh!’” recalls Patrick III, now 31 years old. “I sprinted after him and he dropped his hat.”
Santa Claus escaped Patrick that night, and clearly caught up with his sleigh. But the magic of Christmas was preserved that night for the youngest Cocherl son.
“It was pretty awesome,” laughs his older brother Ryan.
“Christmas was magical being one of the [Cocherl] kids,” recalls Ryan. “It was huge. It was magical. Mom made the house beautiful. It was rich in tradition.”
Christmas is a big deal for the Cocherl family, who own the Bailey Bros. Savings & Loan building in Martin City where the annual Christmas lighting ceremony takes place.
Ryan and his father Patrick, Jr. rehabbed the old Martin City Bank building and renamed it after the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Two businesses now operate within the building. A photo processing business called Heartland Imaging KC run by Patrick and a vintage wood craft business called Fezziwig’s run by Ryan.
For those who may not remember Fezziwig is a character out of Charles Dicken’s novel A Christmas Carol. Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Fezziwig is a smart businessman who is also kind and generous.
That characterization might also describe the patriarch of the Cocherl family, Patrick Jr.
Cocherl was born in Indiana but moved to Kansas City at the age of 6. He grew up in the Hickman Mills area. His father was a TV repairman and his mother a maid.
Cocherl met his wife Kathy while they both attended college. They got married in 1971.
The two eventually moved to south Leawood to raise a family of five: Jennifer, Shawn, Ryan, Kristen, and Patrick. The family attended St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Leawood and the children were schooled at the Blue Valley School District.
Cocherl maintained a job as an insurance agent and later as a partner in an athletic club.
In 1987, he and his family’s life changed forever. Cocherl saw an opportunity to fix broken circuit boards during a time when they were regularly replaced, an expensive process. He developed a quick two-day turn around time. Honing in on Panasonic circuit boards, his newly formed business, Heartland Customer Solutions, won an exclusive contract with Panasonic in 1988. That contract continues to this day.
Heartland consists of three facilities located off 142nd and State Line Rd. Another office is located in Chicago where the business can be near McDonald’s worldwide headquarters, one of its largest customers. Cocherl is getting ready to build a production facility near the other three.
Cocherl is a highly disciplined and hardworking businessman even now at age 68.
“People ask me ‘What drives you?’ Well, [golfer] Lee Trevino used to say when you are playing for $100 and you only have $2 in your pocket, you learn how to win,” he says. “I learned that the guy who works the hardest and the smartest usually gets there.”
“I’m a grinder. I just worked hard,” he says.
“I used to tell Kathy that if I ever have money, I was going to give it all away,” says Cocherl.
In 2003, he and Kathy started the Cocherl Family Foundation. Their five children are on the board.
The Cocherl Foundation donates to various local nonprofits and provides college scholarships to students in the Blue Valley School District. The Foundation recently sponsored the Arrowhead Concert series that featured Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran, with proceeds going toward Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to spouses and children of fallen soldiers.
“I realized I can make a difference in people’s lives and that’s pretty satisfying,” Cocherl says. “That’s a paycheck you can’t put a price on.”
The Foundation recently moved into a newly built facility on the Heartland property. The building is a remarkably detailed replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. No expense was spared. The elegant two-story building has a dining room, full chef’s kitchen that utilizes PBJ caterers, a library, board room, and even hidden passageways, all indulging Cocherl’s lifetime fondness for Jefferson’s work.
Every building, including his home, is decked out for Christmas starting Thanksgiving and going to January 10, following the Plaza lighting schedule.
In addition to the Martin City building’s reference to Christmas, the Cocherl Foundation pays homage to Cocherl’s two favorite Christmas stories. It’s a Wonderful Life plays continuously on numerous televisions throughout the building. A Christmas Carol ceramic village is displayed in the library. Wreaths and Christmas trees in the “Monticello” building reflect Jefferson’s time period.
“This time of year, I’m like a little child who can’t wait to put Christmas lights up,” says Cocherl.
“I’ve always loved everything about Christmas,” he says. “I love the snow, the fires, buying things or making things. I love giving every bit as much as getting.”
Cocherl holds precious one of his very first memories of Christmas; being asked to help his dad put up the Christmas tree. But his favorite memory includes his own family. “My favorite memory is of Kathy and me just sitting on the stairs before the children came down for Christmas,” he says.
Patrick and Ryan both don’t believe they could ever match the effort put into the holiday as what their father does.
“”It’s part of our fascination with how much our dad squeezes out of life and time,” says Ryan. “Despite all that he was responsible for and did, he made Christmas magic happen as well.”