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Circling the ice at the old North Sydney Forum for high school hockey and minor hockey games are some of the best memories from Adam Burton’s youth.
He knows each of those memories was made possible by community volunteers who gave their time so that he could play hockey.
Though he lives away now, his desire to give back to his home community has led to the founding of a clothing company with his brother Brian that gives a portion of company profits back to local charities.
“It’s one of those things that so many people dedicated their time to you over the years, sometimes you always have that hope that when you were older you’d be able to give back a little bit,” said the 35-year-old Calgary school teacher.
“This is a way now where we are in a situation and position to be able to do something that is fun and also be able to do something that can give back to the community and area we grew up in.”
The first logo from Down North Apparel fittingly depicts the North Sydney Forum and 10 per cent of sales from each piece of clothing it is on will be directed back to Northside Minor Hockey.
The brothers from Sydney Mines came up with the company idea in October and launched it not long after.
The North Sydney Forum logo has proved popular, so have nostalgic ideas from other communities, including the 8:30 whistle known to New Waterford residents.
“I think when we first started the engagement piece was pretty huge on Facebook and social media and a lot of people just had some fun with it,” he said.
“Obviously, nowadays with the pandemic and things like that it was just a good way to bring back some laughter and some people would reminisce about a few things.”
Orders from around the community are arriving at homes this week and proceeds from those sales have already meant a $500 donation will go out to local charitable organizations.
This is just Phase 1 of the company's plan. Phase 2 expectations are for printing and shipping out of Cape Breton Island.
“It’s been so nice to get our foot back in the door in the community a little bit, especially during these crazy times,” said Brian Burton, who operates a successful New York-based dog behaviour and training business.
“It’s a big part of who we are growing up and it has been nothing but positive so far.”
Instinct Dog Behavior and Training, that Brian runs with his wife Sarah Fraser from Pictou County, is in its 12th year and has franchises spread across the United States. Its IT and customer service branches are located in North Sydney.
Franchisees and clients are happy with the professionalism and friendliness of the Northside employees, which is why Brian Burton believes future growth of Down North Apparel could happen in Cape Breton.
“There are so many good people and hard workers in Cape Breton,” the 39-year-old said. “For me, from a business perspective, there’s a lot of great people to tap into.”
Some jobs in the apparel business could be created in Cape Breton this year, Brian Burton said, if issues with the pandemic begin to clear. You just might also see Down North Apparel at different festivals and pop-up shops.
Some expansion across Nova Scotia to tap into the culture and nostalgia from other communities is possible as well.
In the meantime, they continue to encourage people to send them ideas to showcase on new apparel lines. If your idea is put to print, you get to choose a charity in your hometown that will benefit.
“The people and the community and the culture of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia is just awesome,” said Brian Burton.
“Going back there is really good and just being able to have more time to spend with my foot halfway back into the community and being involved is thrilling for me.”
Greg McNeil is a business reporter at the Cape Breton Post.