– Story by Tess van Straaten Photography by Lia Crowe
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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Whether it’s waiting for the steel to heat up when he’s blacksmithing, waiting for the hay to dry on his Central Saanich farm or waiting for the right business opportunity, construction guru Dan Schuetze has learned to have patience.
“I can’t say I always have patience, but I’ve learned throughout my life that things always work out in the end,” the 43-year-old owner of Villamar says. “It can sometimes be short-sighted to think it has to happen now and we have to have the answer now. There are times you really have to work hard and you really have to make something happen. But there are other times you have to sit back and be at peace. You do just have to hurry up and wait sometimes.”
That inner calm, coupled with a strong work ethic, is definitely working for Dan. Since starting Villamar in 2006, he’s built a name for himself as one of the top high-end custom homebuilders in Greater Victoria in addition to running successful renovation, commercial construction, design and telecommunication technology arms of the business.
“I like the creativity of it and turning a concept into reality,” Dan says. “Every project has a bit of a different challenge. The whole idea of being able to think outside the box and having great people around you seems to be the best way to meet any challenge.”
Dan’s start in construction came early. His dad was a builder and he began working with him right out of high school. His parents were missionaries and the family moved to the Saanich Peninsula when Dan was 16 years old, after living in Northern Spain and Mexico during his childhood.
“We flew down to Mexico on a small plane and that’s where we lived for nine years,” he says. “I think the experience that I was able to grow up with was incredible — seeing how other people lived, different cultures and different countries.”
Dan says it taught him to be resourceful and helped cement a strong work ethic instilled in him by his parents.
“A lot of the people around us were so poor — they had nothing and we didn’t really have much either,” he explains. “You looked around and saw how resourceful people had to be and how hard they had to work to get ahead. That’s something we don’t really see or experience here as kids.”
It’s a different kind of childhood to what own his two daughters, aged 11 and 14, are growing up with on the pastoral Peninsula, enjoying the tranquility and freedom of their farm.
“It’s just such a peaceful place to live and it gives our kids a ton of freedom to run around,” he says. “I get to drive a tractor and bale hay in the summer. There’s something about being on a noisy tractor on a hot day, with no distractions, watching birds fly around.”
For Dan, who got into blacksmithing about a year ago, there’s also something about forging metal with his own hands and creating something out of nothing.
“It’s rewarding to make something you can actually use,” says Dan, who is planning to make a set of kitchen knives for his house. “I like the pace of it. You have to wait until the steel is hot enough, and then you have to act fast or you miss your window of opportunity. It’s like a lot of things in life — timing is everything.”
Dan’s other passion is cars — he’s owned hundreds over the years and he bought his first vehicle before he could even drive.
“The first car I bought was a 1978 Toyota Corolla — so definitely not a glamorous car by any means or a collectable or fun car — but it was the one I could afford at the time!” laughs Dan.
It was the first car he owned after he got his license, a 1972 BMW 2002, which really ignited his passion. He now has a small collection and says early Porsches are his favourite.
“There’s something so timeless about them,” he explains. “My favourite is my 1968 Porsche 912. I love the lines, the way they drive. There’s just something really authentic about them. An older car reminds you that you’re driving, where a new car kind of makes you forget you’re driving.”
As Dan continues to drive Villamar forward into bigger and better things, one piece of advice really sticks out.
“The biggest shift for me has been from thinking what can I get from someone to what can I give?” he explains. “If you do something that only gives you something back, it’s a one-sided relationship and it won’t work. Being able to add value to others is the key.”