The very first Starbucks in Seattle draws thousands of visitors per year. Every time I walk by I question why. Lineups are long and there is very little to distinguish it from any other cookie-cutter Starbucks in the world. From the menu to the carefully dictated chalkboards, it might as well be the empty Starbucks three blocks away. This got me thinking about what the very first Tim Hortons looks like. Does it draw a crowd? Is there anything unique about it?
Here’s my time seeking out where Canada’s favourite cup of coffee comes from.
Getting to the Very First Tim Hortons
Unlike Starbucks #1’s tourist-friendly location across from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Tim Hortons first store is a bit of a detour. Located in an east end neighbourhood of Hamilton, the Tim Hortons #1 is a 50-minute drive from downtown Toronto. There‘s not much in the area to draw you in but it‘s an easy detour if you are heading to/from Niagara Falls…which is exactly what I was doing on my visit. Truthfully, the idea didn’t come up until I was on my way back from Niagara Falls. I was in the middle of realizing how much Canadiana there is in Ontario then thought, “what’s more Canadian than searching out the home of the Timbit and double-double?”
25-minutes later I was discovering the history behind Canada’s most popular coffee shop.
If this story couldn’t get any more Canadian Tim Horton was, of all things, a professional hockey player. The doughnut shop wasn’t necessarily named in his honour for being a standout star. Back in the day, professional athletes did not make nearly as much as they do today leaving many to work odd jobs in the off-season. Tim Hortons coffee shop was just that, a little bit of extra cash on the side.
Although Tim Horton the hockey player was recently named to the top 100 greatest NHL players of all time, he was also a savvy businessman. By 1968, just four years after opening his first store, Tim Hortons (the coffee shop) was a multi-million dollar franchise. Even though he died in an alcohol-fuelled car crash in 1974, his name lives on in every corner of this great country. In Canada alone, there are over 4600 stores. The global expansion started slowly with stores in the northeastern US states, however, today there are shops in the Philippines, UK, and the middle east with a large number of food items on their menu. Personally, it was pretty awesome to stumble on a Tim Hortons in the Dubai Mall, of all places. It was an oddly patriotic thing to see a truly Canadian thing so far from home.
Visiting Tim Hortons #1
Tim Hortons opened its doors in 1964 as Tim Hortons Café and Bakeshop. Today it looks like any other Tim Hortons in the world except for the addition that sits on top of it. In 2014 the store received a facelift in the form of a small museum of sorts. Inside you will find memorabilia and a timeline through the franchises 50+ year run. This includes uniforms throughout the years, original display cases, and highlights of the company’s many charitable donations.
And of course, plenty of memorabilia about the man himself including hockey jerseys, collectables, and a statue out front.
Grab a Double-Double
Although it’s a small insight into Canada’s favourite coffee chain, it is more than what you will find at the first Starbucks. Far fewer people too. I enjoyed Tim Hortons #1 on a quiet evening with 2-3 other people. The museum is free and can be enjoyed in 15 to 30 minutes. It does, of course, go best with the double-double and a box of Tim Bits to share.
It’s great to see Tim Hortons solidifying its place in Canada’s story and is well worth the detour. Let’s be real though if you are road tripping through the area you’re gonna stop at a Timmy’s. It might as well be one with something to see!