Longtime architect eyes future success with Gary Davis Group
Special to the Sun
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — At the entrance to Tahoe City, where the Truckee River meets Lake Tahoe, stands a modern, angular building with peppery-gray- and red-brick-toned siding, and large windows of different shapes and sizes look out at the passersby.
The contemporary design is hard to miss, starkly contrasted by its neighboring rustic chalets that border the sidewalks of Tahoe City.
“We bought this building in 2001 and remodeled it to control our future as far as rent goes,” said Gary Davis, founder of the architecture and engineering firm, the Gary Davis Group, established in 1992. “With that in mind, we also wanted to design something that would allow our clients to come in and see what we can do with structural and civil engineering.”
Davis has been overseeing the planning, permitting, design and construction process for projects around the Tahoe Basin since 1986 — ranging from private home remodels to major ski resort renovations, but his passion for civil engineering sprouted long before the business.
BUILDING ON A BATTLEGROUND
While in his late teens, Davis enrolled at San Jose State for civil engineering, but left after one year to enlist in the armed services.
Soon after, he found himself in the midst of the waging Vietnam War, where he was stationed for two years helping build the country’s otherwise poor infrastructure, working on projects from roadways to airbase facilities.
“When I got home from Vietnam, I didn’t go back to school or go back into engineering right away,” Davis said. “Instead, and because I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do, I bounced around a variety of jobs in retail, the restaurant industry, and business management.”
But the math and science side of Davis’ brain couldn’t calculate myriad job descriptions, and Davis knew it was time to hit the books again.
“It took me 15 years total to finally get through school, but I eventually did receive a degree in civil engineering,” said Davis, a gentle laugh erupting from deep within his chest.
MAPPING OUT A TAHOE BLUEPRINT
The young engineer gained experience working with public agencies around the Bay Area before launching his first San Francisco-based company.
“The recession in the early ‘80s hit the Bay Area pretty hard, so I decided to move up to Tahoe to get away from all that,” Davis said. “I started working at Wolfdale’s, which was a good way to get to know the movers and shakers in the community right away.”
Davis, an astute talker with an easy smile and a mop of thick, powder-white hair, came to Tahoe — like most stories go — with a one-winter plan.
“Winter turned into spring, and I thought, ‘well, spring is pretty nice’ and then summer came and that was really nice, and then the next thing I knew I was looking at fall and winter again,” Davis said.
Waiting tables helped Davis find his footing in Tahoe City, but he knew he wanted to get back into his engineering roots, so he got a job at a local civil engineering company until it closed its doors in the early ‘80s.
“I was learning more about structural engineering, and I always had an interest in architecture, and it made sense for me to combine them under one business,” Davis said.
Since 1992, the Gary Davis Group has masterminded projects from home remodels to ski resort chair lifts to the construction of roadways around the Tahoe Basin and beyond.
“We work with anyone from the government to private clients — like all the big ski areas — and we’re licensed in several states,” Davis, who now focuses on the management side of things, said. “We’ve been working with the TRPA for a long time so we know the rules really well, and that’s a big part of what makes us successful because we have so much expertise and experience with all the different regulations set in place.”
OLD SCHOOL AND NEW SCHOOL
The future of Gary Davis Group shines bright thanks to a recent collaboration with an architectural firm that brings another level of expertise to the table, providing opportunities for Davis and his team to take on larger projects, like renovations for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
“That partnership is going to open the door for that kind of work, and I think it’s going to be a great relationship in terms of the commonality between our two companies,” he said, “plus the fact that we want to provide successful job opportunities for young people so they can hold professional salaries and enjoy what this community has to offer.”
In addition to managing Gary Davis Group, Davis is also an active member of the community, and hopes to see the younger generation of Tahoe dwellers take on more leadership roles and responsibilities.
“We have this big gap between older folks who have been involved in the community for a long time, and then the younger people who need to step up and become a part of the decision-making process because they’re the people that are going to be affected the most twenty years from now,” Davis said. “There’s a shift happening, but I’d like to see more participation from these young people so this community can not only survive, but thrive.”
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.