When Kevin Person walks into his workshop to play with his toys, life changes instantly.
He is no longer preoccupied with the pressures of the world, the demands of being an adult, or what is going on throughout the day. His only focus is the project he was commissioned to build.
Pearson is a self-taught carpenter. Really. He had no formal training. He didn’t go to college to figure out how to use his hands to make something out of nothing. And he does not study the work of others to improve his own.
“I learned by playing and messing up,” Pearson said. “The more I did, the more I knew I could do.”
As a child, growing up in Lexington, Pearson spent a lot of time playing with friends. Their activities often consisted of scouring his grandfather’s basement to see what there was to discover. On many occasions, they would locate old wood and nails that encouraged them to let their creativity run free. Using their talents, the group constructed many objects, including ladders and boxes. It was Pearson’s first indication that he possessed a unique skill.
However, as he got older, he found himself not engaging in the activity as often as he used to. Even though life took him away from his natural talent, a few years ago he found himself drawn to it.
“It came out of nowhere,” he recalls. “The hands of God laid it on my spirit. I just looked at a piece of wood one day and saw what it could be. I can see him when he’s not even there. Building something is like watching your child grow. You see it when it’s nothing and you see it all the way.
And with that incentive, El-Roys Custom Builds was born.
The name El-Roy is a derivative of his middle name which he shares with his grandfather, the late Leroy Pearson, who is the first and only African American police chief in Lexington’s history.
“I wanted to keep the same letters as Leroy,” said Pearson, 36. “El-roy means the king. My grandfather wore his police cap and it was his crown.
Listening to Pearson speak, it is evident that his pioneering grandfather remains a constant source of inspiration to him.
“He had a big impact on me,” he said. ” I am watching him. I saw from him what it means to take care of the family, what family is and to take care of business. He was simple, adorable, brave, successful, everything I want to be. He left his mark on our city. I too want to leave my mark.
Along with his grandfather, the craftsman also draws inspiration from those he calls “his world” – his wife, Tasha, and two daughters, Ja’Myrah and Kynlei and son, Ke’Derius. While he is the designer, his daughters sometimes join him in the shop to help out. Often they leave wanting what he builds.
“They always want something,” Pearson said with a laugh. “Every time they see me building something, they want it. I don’t know if they know what they want.
Over the past few years, his company has shifted from making products sparingly to constantly working on projects. Currently, he is building a dollhouse, a first for him, and a bench. He can’t wait to be asked to make a hall tree and a headboard.
His favorite thing to build so far has been a giant pencil, which was commissioned by a teacher.
“I can imagine the look on children’s faces when they see a pencil that’s bigger than them,” he said, smiling.
To grow her business, Pearson used the power of social media as well as local small businesses. When a mini-bar buyer failed to secure their order, Pearson contacted Roy’s Furniture Outlet on South Main Street. The owner graciously allowed him to bring it into his store in hopes that it would sell. And it was. To a Tennessee buyer.
“I was proud of it,” he noted. “To have something that belongs to me so far from home.”
If you ask Pearson, there’s nothing he doesn’t feel like he can’t build. Its portfolio includes tables, niches, toy chests, bookcases, canes and its popular wine chairs.
“It has a few wine glasses and bottles in it,” Pearson said. “When you sit in it, you feel like a king or queen because of the way it fits – you’re on your own throne.”
And that’s the feeling Pearson wants you to get with everything it creates – that it’s custom built for you.
“My business is built with love and care,” he said. “If I feel rough or annoyed, I won’t build anyone’s stuff. I don’t want that energy to go into their project. Everyone’s business is built with love in my heart.
To view Pearson’s custom builds or to contact him, visit www.facebook.com/El-Roys-Custom-Builds-110466137058295/.
Kassoundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.