SANTA ROSA − Dreaming of a life at sea, a young Dave Proffer enrolled at the California Maritime Academy to pursue a career in nautical industrial transportation. However, it didn’t take long for him to discover he preferred the comforts of dry land. “You don’t really appreciate land until you don’t see it for five days at a time,” he laughs. “In the end, I decided being out at sea just wasn’t for me.” Fortunately, Dave’s prior experience in auto repair gave him something to fall back on when he returned to shore. “I took auto shop in high school and spent a lot of time fixing cars, so I decided to get back into it on a professional level, and I’ve being enjoying it ever since.”
Today, as owner of Empire Auto Repair & Smog, Dave says one of his favorite parts of the job is surprising customers by radically transforming their vehicles. “I enjoy watching a customer’s reaction when they see their vehicle go from the ‘before’ stage to the ‘after’ stage. Every so often, a car comes in that the owner is ready to give up on, which gives me an opportunity to ‘wow’ them when they return to pick it up.”
Dave currently resides in Santa Rosa, the same town in which he was born and raised. “Having grown up here, I know a lot of people in the area, which is probably my favorite thing about living and working here,” he says. “Not only do I have a lot of longtime friends and customers, my local longevity also helps me get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.”
Outside of work, Dave spends much of his time in the company of his two teenage sons, Justin and Cody. “We enjoy outdoor activities like camping, riding dirt bikes in the Indian Valley and water skiing at Lake Sonoma. The boys are also involved in martial arts and kickboxing, but I’m getting a little too old for that,” he laughs. At home, Dave can often be found absorbed in his labor of love: restoring a 1968 Pontiac Firebird convertible.
In his life and career, Dave espouses the importance of living life to the fullest. “You’re only here for a short time, so you might as well make the most of it,” he says. “Whatever you’re doing, whether in your professional or personal life, do it to the best of your ability, and don’t do anything halfway.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Dave says he’d get to work on completing his Firebird restoration. “It’s been a slow process because I don’t find a lot of time to work on it, so if I retired tomorrow, I’d commit myself to finishing that car.”