By: Thea Atkinson

It all started at a humble family dinner. It was Christmas. The smell of stuffing and pine boughs and cinnamon hung in the air. A family chatted as they ate, and made generally merry, their hearts alight with the joy of the season.

A jibe for the new-comer from the big capital of Ottawa to a small town in Nova Scotia was made in earnest. Maybe he needed a map of the area to find his way around. The town being so large and all.

Miguel d’Eon, co-founder of Saltwreck, meant the jest in good humor and Mark Dunkley, the new-comer, was quick find the welcoming humor in it.

But the light-hearted joke might have seeded a thought, even if subconsciously. One that didn’t truly take shape for weeks to come and ultimately grew from the roots of an idea for a new business opportunity.

As a paramedic, d’Eon has a feast or famine type of schedule. Some days are brutally busy and others are brutally quiet.

“I was looking to use my downtime at work to do something productive,” he says.  “I have always been passionate with many entrepreneurial ideas, just never going for it.”

Reclaiming driftwood seemed a perfect concept for a maritime business that he could pursue during his downtime.  The possibility? Create driftwood frames to sell as craft items to come-from-aways and locals alike. The conundrum? To fill the frames with something interesting as a means to show the inherent beauty of the reclaimed wood.

They called the business Saltwreck as a play on the origins of driftwood being reclaimed materials from the ocean.

Plus, it had a certain ring to it. On its own, it represented the soul of a maritime business.

He asked Dunkley, by now his business partner, to design the graphic that would offset their driftwood frames and hold true to the nautical nature of the company.

That was when that idea, seeded innocently as a joke meant to make a newcomer feel at home, grew into a full-blown business model.

Dunkley must have remembered that friendly Christmas dinner jibe and in response created a map with the town of Yarmouth’s street grid imposed into a lobster shape. It seemed perfect as an iconic graphic to represent the town and fit the theme of the company name.

“It was beautiful, impactful,” d’Eon says. “And you had to look at it twice, three times. I loved the layers the depth, the boldness of the map.  It was something I knew would connect with people’s hearts and because of that the idea would spread.”

He convinced Dunkley to design more cities and towns, drawing on the same concept of creating an iconic design meant to represent the sentiment of the town it embodied. Although Dunkley modestly imagined his designs weren’t “all that great”, he did create more.

Four hundred of them, in fact. Each representing places all over Canada, and each was as interesting and arresting as the first.

Reviews began to trickle in from customers who were proud of their roots and the places they’d visited.  They loved the quality and the minimalist, artistic design that Saltwreck presented with each order.

“We also put a lot of heart/effort into every step of the customer journey,” d’Eon says. “We do things above and beyond and people notice.”

It’s a commitment of heart. One that goes into every stage of the customer experience. 

“We really want to pull at heartstrings of all Canadians with our Map art,” d’Eon says.

It’s a pretty fitting sentiment for a company that started with all the heart and joy of a holiday dinner.