Beyond the Boardroom

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Keith Rogal

Author: Alexandra Russell
November, 2015 Issue

Keith Rogal

Napa-based developer Keith Rogal is responsible for some of that county’s most transformational projects, including the reinvention of blighted property into the award-winning Carneros Inn and the ongoing revisioning of Napa Pipe into a welcoming, family-centric community.

His work stems from an ingrained sense of possibility: “When I see places that have been despoiled—that are run-down, blighted, abandoned—I’m magnetically drawn to them, instantly obsessed with the question of how they could be reclaimed for the better and turned into beautiful, healthy places that would make people happy,” he says. “And if I really believe in it—and others who care deeply about land and community agree—then I don’t give much thought to the obstacles ahead, only to the ultimate outcome.”

It’s often not an easy journey. “The legacy of decades of bad development, which left places uglier than they were before, has left an enormous residue of distrust in the public about people who propose change,” he admits. “And that residue is very, very hard to overcome, regardless of the facts of any specific plan.”

Who’s been influential in your professional life, and what important lesson did he or she instill?

One very influential person in the last decade of my life has been former Napa Mayor Ed Henderson. He helped give me the confidence that good intentions could prevail even in the hurly burly, that one must have the discipline to listen closely to the content of criticism to find all that’s substantive within it, but not to let ill-informed or simply mean-spirited words affect me personally. In short, when the trajectory of my professional life inserted me into a much more harsh and political realm than I’d imagined, Ed helped me keep the positive attitude and hope alive.

Do you have a big family?

We were a smallish family, just five of us, but we’re very close. The travel business my dad started brought in his brother, and they were partners for 40 years. He also employed his stepdad and father-in-law. All the aunts, uncles and cousins lived in neighboring towns, so every big birthday or anniversary or holiday was celebrated together, with a minimum of five homemade desserts.

What do you love to do outside of work?

I enjoy watching the great soaring birds in Napa, the kites that hunt above the fields by Carneros Inn, the hummingbirds in the courtyards and, especially, the ospreys that now roost and raise their offspring every year at Napa Pipe. Also, traveling: I’m always interested in finding places that feel good, that are pleasant to be in and enjoying them but also studying why and what I can learn from them. I also love to drive my 1975 roofless International Harvester Scout II around Napa backroads.

Did you do anything wild when you were a teen?

I wouldn’t call it wild, but I was an actor from when I was about 12 until I was 22, with roles in a few dozen shows, mostly comedies. The plays and the parties were great fun. In one of them, I had to fight a duel on stage, so I learned fencing. That became my sport during college.

Do you keep up with fashion?

My uncle, KC Rogal, began in the garment business. He had great taste and with the family travel business, he could buy terrific fabrics in one place and have them inexpensively but expertly tailored in some other far-off place. And then he’d pass them off to me (I think as an excuse to get more made), that kept me well-tailored into my forties. I also have great things that were my dad’s, from his college days on out. It’s really only in the last decade that I’ve finally had to buy things for myself, as lots of my uncle’s items finally started to wear out. But I still always wear something from my dad or my uncle for important or sentimental occasions.

If you had to sing a karaoke song, what would it be?

“Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads

What was a favorite childhood snack or candy?

Peppermint stick ice cream with caramel sauce and M&Ms on top. I’d have a huge bowl of it, alongside my dad (having a similar dish), every night late while doing homework.


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