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About moving on in Squamish

Local on being in the business of moving folks during a pandemic in all sorts of weather.
About a local Gusto
Lukas Peter Guetling (left) and boss Erich Starr.

Brackendale's Lukas Peter Guetling, operational manager for Gusto Movers, sports a cheerful bright pink toque and crinkles his eyes in a smile behind his mask, as he sits down outside Bean Around the World.

The Squamish Chief met up with the 27-year-old to find out more about moving to Squamish from Germany and what it is like being a mover during a global pandemic that has recently seen unfavourable weather with heavy rain, snow and ice. 

What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Q: You came from Germany originally? 

A: In 2016, I did my work and holiday here for a year and did the typical skiing and cycling stuff. I worked for Gusto as a swamper. Then, when my visa expired, I went to Australia with my aunt. She lives there and has a restaurant. 

I tried Australia, but it's too hot and there are too many poisonous animals. I am too curious. I want to touch everything. So, no. 

I texted my boss Erich [Starr], at Gusto and he said he needed someone to help run it, so I said, yes. Great. I have been back since 2019 since right before the pandemic started. 

Q: What is your hometown like compared to Squamish? 

A: My home region is called Oberallgäu. Within this region, I moved a lot. The most important two villages to my upbringing were Sonderdorf  and Westerhofen. Both are very small — around 200 residents in each place. In Westerhofen, we don't have street names because the place is so small. There are more cows than people. So, Squamish is like a city for me.

Q: What are some other cultural differences that you've noticed here? 

A: Beer and food. In Bavaria, we are really strict about our beer, right? We have got a law that you are only allowed to put three ingredients into your beer, otherwise, it is not a beer. And here, It's a little bit different. Food, it is what you grew up with, right? 

 I can cook a little bit here and there, but it's still not like my grandmother’s cooking.

Q: Turning to being a mover, you said you were a swamper before. What is that? 

A: It's basically the passenger of the driver, like the helping hand of the driver.

Q: What are some of the biggest things you have ever moved?

A: My back remembers pianos, for sure. Not the upright ones, the baby grand. Not fun. 

And we moved a big granite plate like a kitchen plate — countertop — to the island. We moved that to Powell River. That was an experience, but it worked out in the end.

And then there's china hutches and stuff, right? But in the end, all the furniture is kind of doable. If it's too big to get out of the room we just take it apart.

Q: How many people and what equipment does the company have? 

A: It goes up and down, but we have a crew of five, including me and we have two five-ton trucks and one, one-ton. We also have a 17-foot trailer.

Q: How has it been moving folks during COVID-19? 

A: It definitely slowed down at first. At first, no one knew what was happening. A lot of people were just sitting and waiting to see what was going to happen. 

But then, of course, there were still people who had to move because of previous arrangements before COVID.

We talked to Vancouver Coastal Health and we just had to get it done, with protocols. 

We try to have as much distance as we need. If we can be alone in the room, then we ask the clients to be alone.

Sometimes people want to be there, and that is fine. We keep our distance of two metres apart and wear masks and any other protocols.

Q: Anyone who has moved knows it is physically exhausting. How do you take care of yourself? 

A: Lift properly. Bend your knees properly, keep your back straight.

I always see it as my workout. I don't pay for the gym. 

 And don't try to be the strong guy, the tough guy because an eight-hour moving day can be long. Have breaks, have your snacks and a proper lunch break, and then just recharge and do what you can. I'm always happy with my workers who do what they can. They don't have to show off or anything, right? Because if you show off you get hurt, and it's not good for them or for me or for the company.

Q: What are some moving tips or tricks you wish the public knew? 

A: Make sure that the boxes are properly taped at the bottom and have lids because if they don't have lids, we can't stack on top of them. And then we waste space in the truck and time and the client's money. 

If the client wants to save money, they can take their beds apart. We do it, no problem, but it just takes longer and that is added to the bill at the end.

Q: What is it like when you have to move yourself? 

A: If I moved myself, then I do it last minute because I have got so much stuff on my plate. I hate moving myself. 

Q: That is funny. How has it been moving in this crazy weather? 

A: In the end, it is what it is, anyway, right? We can't change it. So, we suck it up and get it done. Or we start complaining, but then it just takes longer.

There was one time when we tried to move someone from Brackendale to downtown. The problem was that there hadn't been a snowplow — it was in a cul-de-sac. 

So our one-ton got stuck. And then I came with a pickup and tried to push it up and pull it up there. We tried it for about two hours and made it maybe five meters. And then we were like, "We have to come back." 

It was just Mother Nature. It's just stronger.

Q: Did the floods that closed roads in November impact you? 

A: I think we had one long-distance move to Kelowna or Kamloops, which is something we had to postpone. But it was okay. Because they had a lot of wiggle room. So it was not too bad and then, in the end, you can't change it. 

Q: Any driving tips for folks from what you have seen? 

A: I think if you don't have to leave your house when you have those snowy and icy conditions, then just stay at home. If you have to go because of work then just make sure you have proper tires because I think the tires are the most important thing. You can have the best car in the world, but if you do not have appropriate tires, you end up in a ditch anyway, right? And then, of course, drive as the conditions allow, or drive even slower. In the end, it's your safety as well. 

Q: How does it feel driving like such a big truck? Most of us don't get to see that position.

A:You're up there, you have a big steering wheel. I like it. I like it a lot. Since I got my licence at 17, in Germany, I just love driving. I don't mind driving long hours. I just love it. It's nice. 

Q: What are the long-haul moves like? 

A: It just works a little bit differently because we don't charge hourly. We charge a flat rate. And then we mostly load up, travel, sleep in a hotel, travel the rest of the way and unload. 

It's so funny, because back home, if you're on the autobahn, you can go fast and it takes like, eight or nine hours to go from where I live to the top of Germany —  to like Denmark.  And here, after eight hours, you are barely at Kamloops, kind of thing. 

Q: Do you drive the Duffey? 

A: If we go Lillooet, then we try to go around it. It is a better price for the client if we go around. 

First of all, it's the Duffey, right? And also, with how hard it is on our trucks with maintaining them with the brakes and all that stuff is not worth it. 

Q: How does the increasing cost of gas impact you guys?

A: It's hard because we can't really put it on top of our rate. So we kind of need to see where it's going and kind of suck it up at the moment. It is sometimes cheaper in the city and I don’t know why that is. 

Q: What do you like about being in the moving business? 

A: You get to know the city or the town. And you get to be part of people's lives, in their homes. See how places are set up. It is interesting. You get a feel for clients. Like, it is interesting what kind of books people have.

You meet a lot of different people. That's cool.

Q: Anything else you wanted to say? 

A: Just a big thank you to everyone who's gone with us and who's trusted us during this time, right? It's not easy on anyone. So, a big thank you. 


"About a local" is a regular column that features an interesting Squamish resident. Have an idea for someone we should feature? Email jthuncher@squamishchief.com