Craftsman Troy Yarbrough loves the attention to detail required for cabinet-making, which he says gives him a feeling of serenity. Photo by Michael Buck
Growing up, Troy Yarbrough discovered he had a knack for grasping the intricacies of science and mathematics.
His teachers were impressed, but the green-eyed monster reared its head with some of his classmates at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Sherwood Park Elementary and South Middle School.
“That created an atmosphere of being bullied because I was different,” said Yarbrough.
His difficulties didn’t end there. He moved out of his parents’ home when he was 16, at times eking out a life as a homeless teen.
He enrolled at Union High School but then dropped out, eventually earning his high school diploma in 1984 through the alternative high school program offered at Grand Rapids Community College.
Yarbrough doesn’t gloss over the rebellious streak he displayed as a teen, nor does he dwell on it.
“I didn’t want to follow house rules,” he said. “Let’s just say life wasn’t easy. People need structure. People need discipline.”
From 1988 to 1991, Yarbrough managed his father’s now defunct convenience store, Cutie Pies, in southeast Grand Rapids at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Hall Street, where the Madison Square Library is now located.
Eventually, Yarbrough said he learned to embrace the light rather than curse the darkness that besieged him — due, in part, because of what he could craft as a finish carpenter. Cabinet making is a particular forte of his.
He first worked as a finish carpenter starting in 1991, becoming a licensed builder in Michigan that same year and enrolling in Grand Rapids Community College with an emphasis on its carpentry program. His fondness for swinging a hammer hasn’t dampened through the years.
“I enjoy being able to feel good about creating something, how it all comes together,” he said.
Yarbrough was co-owner of residential construction company P&T Preferred Builders from 1991-2006.
He went on to work for another construction company, earning a reputation for his workmanship, which he remains proud of to this day.
“Either company would accept me back as an employee because I exemplified workmanship, trust, good communication skills and problem solving,” said Yarbrough.
Later in his life, linked to his faith in God, Yarbrough developed a desire to help others also find their footing in life through the construction trade. He remembers the hardships he faced in his early years that taught him life lessons he wants to help others avoid.
“I had the challenge of not having a mentor helping me to succeed,” said Yarbrough. “Being bullied has made me always want to help people because I despise bullies. Kids should not be harassed.”
It’s for that reason, among others, that Yarbrough said he uses the company he founded in 2011, Preferred Construction Group LLC, to come alongside young people and help them gain marketable skills in construction.
“Helping an individual to have directional focus is established by others that have experience in their lives,” he said. “I have been pretty blessed. If you help others to aspire to their dreams and aspirations, you will automatically aspire to yours because, if you help others to succeed, you’ve got to be successful yourself.”
He thinks of Preferred Construction Group as a guiding light for young people.
“I thought it could become a beacon in the community, a beacon that draws people to the organization because of the focus of Preferred Construction Group,” Yarbrough said. “We’re really excited because we’re poised to be a major contributor to our community in the construction industry.
“People in high school or just out of high school need help becoming viable members of the community through on-the-job training,” Yarbrough continued. “It’s my goal to give people opportunities they would never be able to have because of not having a relationship — that is, an opportunity to be a professional — not be able to perform in their expertise on a broader scale.”
Yarbrough said his altruism came from his parents.
“They have made me appreciate the very people who need a helping hand,” he said. “My parents instilled in me love, building trust. I like to share my dad’s quote because it stuck with me: ‘If all a man has that makes him a man is his name and respect of his word, if you take either one from him, he’s less than a man.’”
Finish carpenters develop a strong bond with their tools, and Yarbrough is no exception.
“I love my tools. I even work in my shop now, just out of a love for the field — the serenity of the field of doing finish carpentry,” said Yarbrough.
“My favorite project was cabinet making. I made cabinets for a lot of homes in Ada, East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Township. I love the detail because I think the attentiveness to details separates the difference between a trim carpenter and a craftsman.”
Working on a project is almost like being in a meditative state for Yarbrough, when he brings out his miter-box saw, pneumatic finish nailing gun, coping saw, and other tools of his trade to craft something from wood and other materials.
“I haven’t experienced the serenity like I know as when I’m building cabinets from scratch and see a finished kitchen or rec room,” said Yarbrough.
Last February, Yarbrough purchased a 4,200-square-foot building that was formerly a Grand Rapids fire station and now serves as Preferred Construction Co.’s headquarters.
He purchased the two-story facility from a private party with an adjacent, unattached 1,600-square-foot four-stall garage that serves as a workshop. He runs his general contracting/design build and construction management firm from the southeast Grand Rapids location.
Yarbrough’s company has a reputation for completing each project it takes on with quality workmanship that comes within budget and, when possible, ahead of schedule.
“I don’t believe there is such a thing as a problem, only a situation that needs to arrive to a solution,” said Yarbrough.
“I have effectively created 100 percent satisfaction on the hundreds of jobs I’ve completed throughout the past 23 years.”
Yarbrough recently added business partner Robert Johnston to his firm. Johnston is a licensed builder who’s been in the business since 1990 and has worked and managed a variety of residential and commercial projects.
He credits his wife of 24 years, Portia, a network analyst for the Kent County Health Department, for being the inspiration for all his achievements.
“She helped me to believe I could become a builder,” said Yarbrough. “She stuck with me. She learned the trade along with me and went through the hardships and just rode them through.”
Yarbrough’s interests are varied, ranging from oceanography to astronomy to what he believes the universe truly revolves around — mathematics — the abstract science of numbers, quantity and space and how it is applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering.
“Everything revolves around math,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough doesn’t pause when divulging his priorities.
“Having a good relationship with my creator, a close relationship with my family and helping others,” he said. “That’s fulfilling.”