And for all you coffee conspiracy
theorists out there it’s pure coincidence that Tim Hortons celebrated
its first Syracuse coffee shop the same day Starbucks in North Syracuse
shuttered its stylish doors. And it would be a stretch to say that
Seattle-based Starbucks is running scared from its Canadian competitor.
It’s really Dunkin’ Doughnuts that should pay attention to Tim’s
invasion of Central New York.
That’s because DD and TH are remarkably
similar, even though their coffees taste quite different. Both carry
bagels, doughnuts, muffins and breakfast sandwiches; Tim Hortons’
doughnut holes are named “Timbits,” introduced in 1976 and sold in
boxes of 10, 20 and 40. Tim Hortons, which celebrated the grand opening
of its first area store, at 7043 Manlius Center Road, East Syracuse, on
Friday, Oct. 3, also sells soup, chili and sandwiches. This is the
latest of six planned Central New York stores; Cortland and Auburn have
already opened. The next store opening, at 911 N. Main St., North
Syracuse, will take place Monday, Oct. 13, while 6227 Thompson Road,
DeWitt, and 200 E. First St., Oswego, are on their way.
Oh! Canada: Import Tim Horons is staking its caffeinated claim in Central New York. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
“We had been planning on entering the
Syracuse market for a couple of years now,” Douglas continues, “and the
announcement by Starbucks came a few months ago. We certainly have a
different business model than Starbucks; they have a higher price
point, our value is going to speak to customers. You always want to be
competitive in your pricing.”
Tim Hortons the corporation was founded
in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, and the first store offered two
products—coffee and doughnuts. Tim Horton the man was born in 1930 in
Cochrane, Ontario, and spent 22 years in the National Hockey League,
playing defense for the Toronto Maple Leafs for nearly 20 years. His
final years in hockey were spent with the Buffalo Sabres in player
development. He knew he wouldn’t be lacing up the skates forever, so he
founded an eponymous coffee shop.
But Horton didn’t live to witness the
chain's great success. He was traveling back to Buffalo from a game at
Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens when he was killed in an automobile
accident on Feb. 21, 1974. The Buffalo Sabres retired his No. 2 sweater
as a tribute to his memory. At the time of Tim's death, there were 40
Tim Hortons stores. In 1995 Tim Hortons merged with Wendy’s
International, and now there are more than 3,200 locations across North
America, more than 400 in the United States.
While it is now a North American
phenomenon, there are some differences between American and Canadian
stores. If you travel to Canada and stop into a Tim Hortons in the
summer craving an iced coffee, you won’t find it. Canadians don’t know
from iced coffee. “Nope! No iced coffee in Canada,” Douglas chirps.
“Americans love the colder drinks more than Canadians. We launched iced
coffee two years ago in the U.S., and we’ve been testing it in Canada.
Americans are much more familiar with what iced coffee is, whereas
Canadians are not. We have a different flavor profile, I guess.
Whenever I cross the border I go to Tim Hortons to get an iced coffee.”
At the Oct. 3 grand opening, held
beneath a tent billowing in an early-fall breeze, it was further
announced that Tim Hortons is partnering with the six Wilson Farms
stores in the area. “The shops have been retrofitted for Tim Hortons
coffee and baked goods,” said Wilson Farms CEO and president Paul
Nanula. The stores will feature self-serve kiosks with freshly ground,
one-cup-at-a-time coffee, cappuccino and espresso drinks.
With the logical hockey connection, Tim
Hortons has sponsored learn-to-skate children’s programs in all the
communities it has stores. Labeling the skaters “Tim Bits,” the company
donates jerseys to the kids, in Syracuse’s case the Valley Youth Hockey
group. Throughout North America, the Tim Bits program has more than
50,000 children participating.
Tim Hortons has also partnered with the
Golisano Children’s Hospital. Proceeds from sales on Oct. 3, from 6
a.m. to 2 p.m., were donated to the hospital, and as of 1:15 p.m.,
$2,241 had been raised. And for one week each year, the company will
sell “smile” cookies for $1, with all proceeds donated to Golisano.
But back to the coffee. “It’s a blend,”
Douglas notes, “that comes from various parts of the world. It’s a very
specific blend that we’ve had for over 40 years. We wouldn’t change it
for anything. Our customers love it.”
And now they won’t have to drive to Buffalo to get it.