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The McMillen Story

David McMillen grew up on a dairy farm in Loysville, Pennsylvania, a small town 30 miles west of Harrisburg on the banks of Sherman Creek. This is his story:

Dairy FarmGrowing up on the farm, I got a sense that your career is your life, because farming is all you do. When you’re a dairy farmer, it’s more than a job. You live it, 24/7. So I learned a work ethic. Today, my job still isn’t a 40-hour workweek. If I’m not working, I’m reading about building, or cabinets, or coming up with new ideas, or making old ideas better.”

“As a young boy, I always enjoyed building things out of scrap lumber in a shed by my dad’s barn. In elementary school, I loved to look at plans of barns, sheds and houses in my free time. I would visit our neighbor who had a little wood shop and borrow nails. When I was older, he loved to remind me that I would always ask for ‘just one more.’

Uncle John Reapsome“In fifth grade, I started visiting my great-uncle Jim Reapsome’s wood shop. He was a professional carpenter and cabinet maker. I would spend after-school hours and weekends at his shop, and we would build little projects together. This went on for a few years, and by eighth grade I’d decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be a carpenter.

“In high school shop and drafting classes, I became more entrenched and confident in my career choice. I was sure that it was what I wanted to do.

“After high school I went to Williamsport Area Community College and majored in Construction Technology. Now I had the theory behind structures, load-bearing beams, stress points and the correct application of building methods. I thought about becoming an architect, but decided to become a builder, instead. I need to work with my hands and see each project through to completion.


“After school I worked as a surveyor, and then as a mason. With that experience I got a job with a custom home builder. After two years with the builder I became a supervisor. I enjoyed working with customers and helping them make decisions about layout and design.

“When construction work slowed down during the recession in the 1980’s, I began helping a professional painter, Paul Mayberry, with interior painting. We specialized in painting the interiors of high-end homes, and  I handled the painting crew’s finishing carpentry work. After a year and a half of working together, Paul Mayberry recognized my interest in detail, color schemes and interior finishes, and convinced me that I should be in business for myself.

“In 1983, David McMillen Custom Contracting was born as a painting contracting company. For the next seven years, our company did interior painting and wall-covering in many upscale homes. We did many historical restoration projects with fine finishes and other tricky details. Soon enough, word of my carpentry skills got out, and many projects started coming with requests for carpentry work. Suddenly I had two major divisions of the company: painting and carpentry.

“As carpentry became our focus, I knew I had to live up to Great-Uncle Jim’s standard of quality. My mother would tell me stories about what he would build. She would show me the pieces that he made, heirlooms that were passed down to her. That truly inspired me to get to the level of detail that he worked. I went back to my great-uncle’s roots and kept refining and improving our cabinetmaking. It is always rewarding to be a woodworker, but my greatest satisfaction comes from building detailed, good-quality pieces.

“Today, most of our employees are carpenters and cabinetmakers. Our painting is still done by our painters, and we design and build both custom homes and cabinetry. We do kitchens, law libraries, casework and furniture. And you could say I still spend time with Great-Uncle Jim – his tool chest is in my living room as a reminder to do good work.”