Wood Talk: John Yarema

Yarema and SonJohn Yarema is the owner of Yarema Inc. in Lapeer, Michigan. Throughout his career, Yarema has focused on custom installations and has completed noteworthy projects around the world. His work has been recognized with a NWFA Wood Floor of the Year award more than 10 times.

Yarema recently was featured on the NWFA Wood Talk podcast, so Hardwood Floors magazine caught up with him to ask a few more questions.

Tell us something interesting about yourself. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. For five years, I programmed dealer systems for Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which was a company bought by General Motors.

How did you get started in the industry? While I was working at EDS, my wife and I bought a one-room schoolhouse. It was in disrepair; it was horrible. Every night after work, we would work on the house. When we got to the flooring, I thought, “I can’t afford flooring,” so we cut down the biggest red oak on my family’s 100-acre farm, cut it into planks, and laid it on the floor. I realized there was nothing more rewarding than building something with your hands and being tired at the end of the day. I got another job, then another job, eventually went part-time at EDS, and ultimately quit EDS to go out on my own.

Photos courtesy of John Yarema / Yarema Inc.

Who has influenced your career the most and why? My father. He was the hardest working person and he showed us how to work.

What is your favorite wood floor project that you’ve participated in? The White Horse Inn project. It was a local inn from the 1850s, about six miles from my house. It went out of business during the last financial downturn. Our neighbors bought it and restored it. We went to their woods to cut trees down, and there were only cherry and maple trees, so we built the entire project out of those trees, just like someone would have done 200 years ago. In those days, it was built from whatever was local to the site. We had maple on the wall, maple on the ceiling, a maple timber frame, and a cherry floor and a maple floor. The room was 23 feet wide, so every plank was 23 feet long. It was a real organic process that I think turned out beautifully, and it was nice to work on something local.

What energizes you to stay in the wood flooring industry? My son, Philip, graduated from furniture school and he’s in the business now. He’s excited and loves creating new things so that’s the biggest reason I’m still doing what I do. Somebody told me once that when you have kids, you get to see a duck again for the first time. I get to do these things again for the first time and it’s new and it’s exciting. You’re teaching someone and passing down a craft.

What are you reading right now? Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.

Do you have a morning routine that sets you up for success? I usually get up at 5:00 a.m., have coffee with my wife, then I go to the gym, and arrive at the shop around 8:00 a.m.

What keeps you busy outside of work? I love to fish. My wife and I just finished a half marathon. I’m trying to keep my knees in good shape because I was extremely hard on them for the first 20 years. I’m trying to stay healthy.

You can listen to a technical-focused discussion between John Yarema and NWFA’s Brett Miller, as well as other hardwood flooring experts by visiting hardwoodfloorsmag.com/nwfa-wood-talk-podcast.

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