By Jason Zasky
“I’m very much a tree-protective person. In fact, I’m a tree hugger,” says Jim Kelley with a laugh. The irony, if that’s the right word, is that Kelley operates A1 Professional Tree Service, a four-decade-old tree removal business that specializes in removing extra-large trees.
“When people start talking about taking down a tree to put in a swimming pool or a parking lot, I’m the first person to say, ‘Please move the tree.’ [As a society], we take out too many healthy trees,” he laments before noting that trees are essential to promoting a healthy environment.
Yet if one of the trees on your property has come down in a thunderstorm, ice storm, or another weather event, Kelley and his crew are available to come out 24/7 to handle the emergency—even on holidays like Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
“We have one of the most modern, well-equipped, high-tech tree removal companies in the state of Tennessee,” adds Kelley, noting that he has cranes, stump grinders, loaders, articulating loaders, bucket trucks, and “the best chippers money can buy,” all of which enables his crew to “remove extra-large trees that other people can’t even fathom how to remove safely and efficiently.”
They also offer a wide range of other services, including curb appeal checks (typically commissioned by real estate agents) and lot clearing, the latter performed with tree preservation in mind.
“We also do free estimates for prospective homeowners,” says Kelley, who advises that “before you buy a house, you should have someone in the tree industry evaluate the integrity of the trees because you may be buying into fifteen- or twenty-thousand dollars of tree work.”
For one, you want to know whether the trees or their roots are damaging the house or related infrastructure.
“Tree roots can get on a septic tank like an octopus and crush it, and they can do the same thing to the water lines going into your house,” he says. At the same time, tree limbs can rub against a roof, leading to shingles coming off and water leaking into the house.
Kelly also recommends safety evaluations, which can reveal whether a tree or limb is liable to fall on your home or car. At the same time, he can advise as to which trees to plant on your property—and where.
“A lot of people plant the wrong tree in the wrong place, and the next thing you know, they have an issue with their foundation or their driveway is rising up because roots are getting under the house [or driveway],” offers Kelley.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kelley—a former sergeant in the Marine Corps and a Vietnam veteran—also isn’t shy when it comes to opining about which tree removal practices are a “big no-no.” For example, he advises against allowing a bulldozer onto your property.
“After a bulldozer gets done what it’s doing, seventy to eighty percent of the remaining trees will die [in the coming years] because bulldozers run over the root systems and kill the roots,” he notes.
Another practice that Kelley rails against is topping trees, which involves removing the tops of trees and/or branches, which can lead to decay, increased risk of limb failure, and other significant problems.
All that said, it’s no surprise that Kelley views educating and satisfying customers as two of the most significant parts of his job, with safety the only higher priority.
“We don’t expect to be paid until the customer is happy,’” says Kelley, who notes that A-1 Tree offers discounts to both veterans and senior citizens. “And on extra-large jobs, if money is an issue, we will finance the job at zero percent interest.”
As for safety, “we’re fully insured and have all the equipment to do whatever is necessary to complete the job in a safe, efficient manner,” concludes Kelley. “So if you have an extra-large tree that no other tree service can handle, we will find a way to do it. Always. And at a fair price.”