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With roots in Cape Breton, Calgary-based Tree Picks are catching on with guitarists around the world seeking a richer sound.
The company was created by Sydney River native Adam Chiasson, 38, who has been living in Calgary for the past 15 years. Like many Cape Bretoners, he moved out west after studying music at Dalhousie University and worked in the construction industry. But a hobby business making wooden guitar picks has, as of six months ago, turned into a full-time enterprise.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life,” Chiasson laughed during a call from Calgary. “I even sold hot dogs on Charlotte Street.”
He’s also been a musician his whole life and comes from a musical family. His brother, Carter Chiasson, is also a musician and the music teacher from Eskasoni who worked with singer Emma Stevens while she achieved worldwide success for her Mi’kmaq version of “Blackbird.”
Although Adam Chiasson has worked in other businesses, he’s always played and that has given him the ear to develop the right pick for the job while his construction background has given him the skills to make it.
He describes his wooden picks as being heavier than a plastic pick but able to deliver a different, better sound. The picks range in size from 1.3 mm to 1.6 mm and are made of cherry, zebra, maple, walnut and purple heart woods. There are also anigre wood picks for classical guitars and ukeleles.
“There’s a big difference in sound — it’s a warmer sound,” he says, adding the wooden picks can be used on acoustic or electric instruments.
Musicians are listening.
His products are being shipped around the world for free and are available in stores across Canada including The Best of Cape Breton and the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop in Sydney. He also has a slew of guitarists endorsing his products including Chris Kirby, Michel Bruyere, Matt Blais and Joy Frost.
In addition to free shipping, Chiasson says his company plants a new tree for every single pick sold.
The first planting took place last summer in Cape Breton. The cost of planting the trees is built into the price of the picks, which are sold in packages of five for between $15 and $17, depending on what wood is requested. There are also sample variety packages of six picks for $16.99 which allows players to find out what type best suits their playing.
For Chiasson, Tree Picks allows him to combine his two loves – music and business.
“I’m thrilled to be back into the music business. This allows me to be always meeting musicians,” says Chiasson.
“It’s a ton of fun.”