Des Moines architect Bryan Shiffler always liked to draw and recalls wanting to be either an artist or an architect when he was young.

By the time he graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1967, he said, “I realized I wasn’t even the best artist in my homeroom,” which included Karen Strohbeen, now one of Iowa’s best-known artists.

This week, Shiffler, 68, wraps up a 44-year career as one of the state’s most creative architects, having designed homes, and commercial and industrial buildings in modern and historic settings throughout Iowa.

One of his favorites is the visually stunning Vermeer Global Sales Pavilion in Pella, which he says is a unique mix of corporate museum, auditorium and classrooms. It features a central wall imbedded with 50 years of parts from Vermeer equipment.

Shiffler’s interest in history is evident in many of his projects, which include renovating Harry and Pam Bookey’s Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines, converting a former General Motors parts warehouse in the East Village into high-tech workspace for Two Rivers Marketing, and creating a funky urban interior for the former City Grill, Mike LaValle’s 1980s restaurant in the Kaleidoscope.

Shiffler has designed retail stores for Vogue Vision’s Isak Sivi and car dealers Max Holmes and Ron Brown, among others.

His career benefited from his ability to attract powerful advocates, including the Krause and Hubbell families.

The bread and butter of Shiffler’s practice was designing stores for the Krause family’s chain of Kum & Go convenience stores. He was chosen to design the company’s West Des Moines headquarters in 1998 and wound up designing or remodeling more than 250 of its their convenience stores.

Shiffler said he realized why founder Bill Krause, who died in 2013, was so successful one day in 2002 when “a bunch of us were walking through a store that was due for an upgrade.”

“All of a sudden, we couldn’t find Bill,” he said. “But there he was, two aisles over, helping an elderly woman decide between Excedrin and aspirin.”

“This is a guy who owned a jet and 400 convenience stores, but he so valued his customers that he blew off a thousand-dollars-an-hour worth of consultants time to help that woman,” Shiffler said.

Krause’s son Kyle is equally savvy, Shiffler said, noting Kyle’s desire for stores in larger markets to be LEED Certified. He knew that energy-efficient and sustainable stores would attract environmentally conscious consumers, Shiffler said. And they have.

When Shiffler graduated from Iowa State University in 1973, he turned down offers from architectural firms around the country to work for legendary Des Moines architect Charles “Chick” Herbert, because “he promised me opportunity.”

And Herbert delivered. Within a decade, Shiffler was winning awards, including a top prize in 1982 from the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for a modular home that was “inexpensive to build, inexpensive to heat and inexpensive to maintain.”  

A year later, Shiffler was returning from a job in Fort Dodge, when the client, James Hubbell III, “asked if I’d ever thought about going out on my own.”

“I said, sure, which wasn’t true, because I was very happy. Chick Herbert was a great guy, a super mentor and role model,” he said. But after talking the idea over with his wife, Lyn, Shiffler decided to accept Hubbell’s offer to help him find clients.

He moved into the Hubbell family’s Equitable Building, and on the first day the telephone rang. It was L.D. McMullen, head of the Des Moines Water Works, where Hubbell was president of the board. McMullen wanted Shiffler to design a new administration building in Water Works Park.

It truly has been a remarkable career.