Custom Home Builder Gary Fries of GS Fries | ICONIC LIFE

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Close to Home | A Scottsdale Custom Home Builder Creates Exquisite Residences Right in His Own Neighborhood

Gary Fries custom home builder in DC Ranch

Jason Williams Photography

You may not know his name off the top of your head, but Gary Fries is the man behind some of North Scottsdale’s most luxurious custom dwellings in DC Ranch and Silverleaf.

Builder Gary Fries doesn’t have to venture far from his home base to work on his residential projects. Most are within walking distance or a short drive away, in Scottsdale’s DC Ranch neighborhood, or in adjacent Silverleaf, set on the desert slopes of the McDowell Mountains and said to be Arizona’s most exclusive community.


Jason Williams Photography

Fries has worked hard to get into both enclaves, building not only luxe abodes but also great relationships with clients, architects and designers who seek him out to build dream homes.

But Gary Fries, who grew up in the Phoenix area, didn’t set out to become a custom homebuilder. He began his career in hospitality, starting as a bellman for a local hotel, then climbing the hospitality ladder to become vice president of operations for Destination Hotels. For some 15 years, he worked out of the company’s headquarters in Denver, overseeing such stellar properties as the Hotel Del Coronado in California and Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix. “I was overseeing something like 7,000 people,” Fries recalls, “but the further along my career grew in hospitality, the more corporate and the less ‘hospitality’ it became.”

luxury custom home builder Fries Construction

Michael Duerinckx Photography

Feeling restless, he jumped at the chance to join a friend’s homebuilding business back in Arizona. “It made perfect sense to abandon everything I’d worked years to achieve to try something new and something I knew basically nothing about,” Fries says with a wry laugh.

Fries brought with him his business acumen, and soon realized that custom home building was not unlike the hospitality industry. “Both hospitality and home building are transformational experiences,” he philosophizes, “not just transactional experiences. In both fields, you have to understand, manage and anticipate the needs of the client and be detail-oriented.”


DC Ranch custom home builder by Fries Construction

Michael Duerinckx Photography

By 2009, Fries was ready to launch his own home building business — even though it was not an auspicious time to take a risk. “Honestly, those first few years were a blur,” he recalls. “We did everything we could to get started, doing projects all over Greater Phoenix.”

But Fries was soon able to narrow his scope. After moving with his family into the DC Ranch community and joining its country club, he began to build relationships—and his business. Before long, he was constructing luxury residences and estates in and around his Scottsdale neighborhood with some of Arizona top architects and designers, such as Mark Candelaria, Matthew Thomas, Luis Antonio Bonilla and others.

Styles were heavier and darker a few years ago, but markets have evolved, and now everyone wants lighter, more open looks. I also think we’ve just about played out the white-and-gray phase. Clients are starting to ask for more color.


Jason Williams Photography

“We’ve done everything from Spanish and Mediterranean designs to modern houses, and everything in between,” Fries says. “Styles were heavier and darker a few years ago, but markets have evolved, and now everyone wants lighter, more open looks. I also think we’ve just about played out the white-and-gray phase. Clients are starting to ask for more color.”

Though he’s built more than 50 homes in DC Ranch and Silverleaf alone — and claims that his favorite project is the one he’s working on at the moment — several still resonate with him.


Jason Williams Photography

“We remodeled a production house in DC Ranch a few years ago, and it was a top-to-bottom job that we did with interior designer Claire Ownby,” Fries recalls. “The spaces were reconfigured, and the finishes were changed out. It lives like none of the other homes and still holds its own, five years later.”

A more recent project was a house Fries developed, with architect Jon Poetzl and interior designer Holly Wright, in Silverleaf. “It was a significant spec home in one of the most respected communities in the Southwest,” he explains. The 11,000-square-foot, five-bedroom abode was done in what he calls “a cleaner version of a rural Mediterranean style.” It featured a warm, welcoming interior as well as a 2,000-square-foot attached casita. The home sold in 2020 for $8.3 million.


custom home in DC Ranch by Gary Fries

Michael Duerinckx Photography

Despite his successes, Fries prefers the small-business approach. “It’s me and one employee, so I don’t take on projects all over the place,” he says. “When a client, architect or subcontractor wants a meeting on the job site, it’s me. I don’t have a superintendent. Right now, I have about a dozen projects going, and that’s enough to keep me awake at nights.”

The relationships are what drive him and inspire him to continue being hands-on. “I take great pleasure in talking to the clients, the architects and the designers,” he says. “I like that small, intimate approach — the collaboration and the sense of accomplishment when everything is finished.”

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