Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Evan Schroeder
Editor’s Note: We had the opportunity to talk with Evan Schroeder of Schroeder Masonry in Leipsic, OH. Evan is a third generation mason and Vice President of Operations in the family business. He is proud to continue his father and grandfather’s legacy and of his place in the masonry industry. We want to thank Evan for taking the time to talk with us, and JagClamp for continuing to sponsor this series.
MASONRY Magazine: To get started, tell us about yourself.
Evan Schroeder: Well, I have done masonry my whole life, and I am 29 years old. [I have] been doing it ever since I was little, and then once I got old enough to actually go out on the job site and help Dad out, that is what I did.
M.M.: How did you get started in the industry?
E.S.: My grandpa was a mason, my dad is a mason, and I am a third generation mason. So, I have always been around it, I grew up in the industry, and helping my dad on side jobs when I was little and that got me involved and interested in the industry at an early age. My dad also competed in the MCAA’s FASTEST TROWEL ON THE BLOCK competitions. So we were always traveling and going to those and watching him in those competitions. I mean it really sparked my interest, and I knew I wanted to do that.
M.M.: Oh, so would you potentially do that in the future?
E.S.: Oh, I would love to someday yes. Of course, it would take some practice first.
M.M.: Very cool. So, tell me about some of the first memories you have working with your dad and your grandfather?
E.S.: I would say some of my first memories were when I was very young doing some foundations around our house and getting to help dad and grandpa with things. That’s what really got me interested in masonry, getting to carry mud to them. I was so young and little just carrying a little bit of mud at a time. It really opened my eyes, getting to see what they did for a living.
M.M.: How exactly did you get started in the industry?
E.S.: I pretty much just started out tending, I started at the bottom doing grunt work. Mixing mud and carrying brick and block for our masons, and I worked my way up from there. My dad always did a good job making sure that I started from the bottom and I worked for what I got.
M.M.: So how is it working with family, working in the family business?
E.S.: Well, there are pros and cons. You don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, everyone always means well, everyone’s just trying to get their point across, and give their point of view. But I do enjoy working with my family. It is fun getting to work with my dad every day, He gets us going at the office then sends out the foremen to our jobs, and we take it from there. My grandpa is 81 years old and still does stuff around the shop, fixing mixers, and that is a lot of fun being around him and just joking around about things that have changed since he started the business in 1964. Things have really come a long way since then.
M.M.: That’s awesome that they still come in and they still work with you.
E.S.: Yeah, he retired when he was, 65 but he is still involved and helps out around the shop. Even if new guys have questions in the mornings, he points them in the right direction, and he still helps out how he can.
M.M.: Did you always want to work in the industry?
E.S.: When I was younger, in my early teens, I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until I was old enough to get out on the large commercial jobs that I found more interest, and was drawn to everything that goes into a big project. Once I got involved with that, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
M.M.: You mentioned a little bit about what you do, what is your current role?
E.S.: I do a little bit of everything, my main role is a foreman/supervisor on jobs, but I am also behind the scenes. My dad is to hand a few more roles over to me. He is training me on the paperwork side of the business, with submittals etc. I also take care of a lot of safety training and making sure we have got things up to date for current projects.
M.M.: Very cool, so you wear a lot of hats.
E.S.: Yes I do. I mean, nothing beats getting to jump on that wall and throw some block or brick in. I love getting to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t get to for the full day or every day even. But when I can, I do.
M.M.: So what does a day-to-day routine look like for you?
E.S.: I usually get up at 5:00 AM, get to the office before the guys get there. Dad and I come up with a game plan for where we want to send guys. We go through the daily tasks. Then I start organizing my Toolbox Talks. Then I go through what I am going to do for that Day and the jobsite analysis sheets, things that I am going to be doing on my project that day. After all of that is done, then the guys show up, and we make sure that we have the trucks loaded and everything that we are going to need, and we go to the job that day and take care of it.
M.M.: That sounds like a lot.
E.S.: Yeah, it is a lot during our busy time, but luckily I am blessed with a good wife that understands and helps out.
M.M.: How did you get to where you are today?
E.S.: I would say, threw the good leadership of my dad and grandfather. Like I said before, I know my Dad, was trying to prepare me and I didn’t always appreciate it. Man, I felt like he would take it harder on me than most guys, but now I see why he did the things that he did through hard work and climbing the ladder that is how I got where I am.
M.M.: There is nothing like hard work, if you want something, you have to work hard for it.
E.S.: I guess when you were asking like the day-to-day. Every project is different, and luckily I have been on the same project for a year now, or close to a year. We are getting close to wrapping it up, so the day-to-day gets a little more comfortable when you are at the same place that long. Now the smaller jobs that, you are in and out, those take a little more prep work day in and day out
M.M.: So, where do you see yourself in five years?
E.S.: Well, if all goes as planned I know my dad wants to retire in the near future, so I would say that that would probably put me as the President of the company at that time if he sticks to his plans.
M.M.: So you are the Vice President right now, or the VP of Operations?
E.S.: Yes, my dad is the President, and my mom is the Vice President, and I am the V.P. of Operations, foreman, and…
M.M.: You are a jack of all trades, you can pretty much do anything.
E.S.: Yeah, and that is one thing that I understand now that I am starting to see more of the management side of it. My dad made me go through everything he could think of to show me different scenarios, show me different roles, so I can understand how the company needs to work and operate and as a whole.
M.M.: What interests you about the industry?
E.S.: Things that we build. It is fascinating what you can do with masonry. There is kind of an art to it. It is not just slapping some things in concrete and mortar and making it look nice, and I like the challenges that it brings every day.
M.M.: Have you worked with younger people in the industry?
E.S.: Yes, I would say we have a pretty young crew, three-quarters of our crew is probably 30 and under. So, I would say that is one thing that we are pretty good at, trying to hit that younger crowd. We go to high schools job fairs around the area and lay out the sample wall. We let the kids get their hands on the mud, and the brick and the block. A lot of people don’t know what we do, and we gain interests, and we pick up a quite a few young guys every year whether its summer help or full time.
M.M.: That is great. You don’t necessarily hear that. When my high school did job fairs, they didn’t have any of the trades. The National Guard and the Armed Forces would come in, but we never really saw any of the trades, so I think that is awesome.
E.S.: Yeah, and I thought that was crazy, and you probably can relate because that’s exactly how it was when I was in school. They did not really push the trades. My guidance counselor was just appalled that I would not go to college. I told them, “No, I mean I know what I’m gonna do, I am already practicing with blueprints,” things like that.
But now, when I went, I was surprised at the last job fair. At least, the schools around here are telling the students that college isn’t for everybody, that the trades can be a good job, it is a good field to be in, and that we need them. There are not enough masons out there.
M.M.: Yes, I think at the beginning of high school it felt like going to college was the only option we had after high school. But towards my senior year, I think they started to switch up that idea that everybody has to go to college, and would invite other types of trade schools in. College isn’t for everyone, and we are starting to see this trend in more high schools now, which is great.
E.S.: I have explained that to some kids at these job fairs. We tell them that college isn’t for everybody if you want to go to college that is great, good for you, but you know there’s debt that comes along with it, and if you want to explore other options, definitely think about masonry. Our workload for this year is crazy, we are swamped, and there are not enough people coming into the industry.
M.M.: What is your experience been like working with older people in the industry? Do they treat you any differently, because you are younger?
E.S.: Oh yeah, definitely. It always happens that way. I would say, not on our crew so much, but when I am working with other generals or other project managers. They all see me walk in, and I am 29 years old, and then I have got to prove myself to them before they will work with me, but I feel that I have.
M.M.: So what does it mean to continue the family business, to continue that legacy?
E.S.: Oh, it means a lot to me. I want to keep it going and keep it as successful as my grandfather, and my dad did. That way if one of my boys in the future want to keep it going they have that option. I will probably do the same thing that my dad did, and encourage them to do whatever they want to do, but if it is something that they want to keep going and pursue, then it will be there for them to do that.
M.M.: Tell us about the benefits of being a member of the MCAA.
E.S.: Yeah, that is something as the company has changed over the years, and we took advantage of the MCAA’s Train the Trainer for the Silica Training. Now that I am getting more involved in the management side, I do a lot of looking on the MCAA website. They have so much to offer, and I wish I would have done it years ago. The networking and the products they can provide for you with Membership Perks, it is definitely a good thing, and I am glad to be a part of it.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone going into the industry?
E.S.: It is very rewarding work. I love being able to step back at the end of the day and say, “I built that” or “that is going be around for 100-200 years possibly, being masonry,” It pays well, it is has a lot of perks, and that they should think about pursuing it.