Hamilton: The Timbit City!

Everyday Tourist says Tim Hortons missed a great opportunity to create a real museum and tourist attraction on the site of their first store in Hamilton, Ontario.

Hamilton has had a few nicknames over the years - the “Ambitious City,” “Steeltown” and more recently, “The Hammer.”  However, I’m surprised the City hasn’t be branded the “Timbit City” given the iconic Canadian coffee and donut empire Tim Hortons was launched in Hamilton, back in 1964.

Today, the Tim Hortons empire has grown to 4,000 stores across Canada. It dominates Canada’s coffee culture much like Starbucks does south of the border. 

The first Tim Hortons was on Ottawa Street North in Hamilton, Ontario was a former ESSO gas station.

The new two storey Tim Hortons on the same corner with a statue of Tim out front and parking at the side.

Tim's Timeline

1964: Tim Horton (an all-star NHL hockey player) opens the first store in a converted service station on Hamilton’s Ottawa Street N, not far from the city’s iconic steel mills. You could get a coffee and a donut for 25 cents and a dozen donuts was 69 cents.

1967: Tim Horton and Ron Joyce, a Hamilton police officer become partners and open the first franchise Tim Hortons. 

1974: Horton dies in a tragic car accident and Joyce purchases Horton’s shares for about $1 million and assumes full control of the then 40 stores in the Tim Hortons empire.

1976: The Timbit is introduced and becomes a Canadian icon in and of itself. Canadians have eaten enough Timbits to stretch to the moon and back almost 5 times.

2014: The original Tim Hortons at the corner of Ottawa Street and Dunsmure Road is torn down and replaced with a two-story modern coffee shop with a museum on the second floor.

If you are Tim Hortons’ junkie, or even in the area and in the mood for a “double-double with a dutchie, or perhaps looking to learn more about this Canadian success story – stop in for a visit.

Read: Horton: A Corporate Ghost

At the top of the stairs, you are welcomed by a replica Tim Horton counter with all of their iconic donuts. 

The second floor's Memory Lane is a showcase of Tim Horton memorabilia and historical photo collage of Tim Horton and Hamilton images. 

The second floor's Memory Lane is a showcase of Tim Horton memorabilia and historical photo collage of Tim Horton and Hamilton images. 

Ron Joyce on the left and Tim Horton on the right.

Ron Joyce on the left and Tim Horton on the right.

Tim is probably rolling over in his grave?

Recently touring the new coffee shop, it still baffles me why Tim Hortons didn’t restore Store #1 back to its original configuration it as a museum and open a new flagship store somewhere near by along Ottawa Street. There are many opportunities as the street is full of empty or underutilized spaces.

Nonetheless, the museum is interesting with its Tim Hortons artifacts and memorabilia, as well as some vintage photocollages of mid-century Hamilton. However it lacks the authenticity that would have come from restoring the original store as a museum. 

Read: Hamilton’s James Street North: A Hidden Gem

Service with a smile.

One of the many window displays. 

Game misconduct?

To add insult to injury, as part of Tim Hortons 50th Anniversary celebrations in May 2014, a temporary replica of Store #1 complete with its original Toronto Maple Leaf blue colours (Tim Horton played for the Leafs from 1952 to 1970) - was created, but oh no not in Hamilton, but in front of Young & Dundas Square in downtown Toronto.  I call a “game misconduct.”  

The least they could have done was have two simultaneous pop-ups Store #1, one in Toronto and one in Hamilton.

Read: Cities of Opportunity: Hamilton/Calgary

Last Word

Shame on you, Tim Hortons!  Yes, I know you are good to Hamilton in other ways (like sponsoring the new Tim Hortons Field for the Ticats) and your Tim Horton camps for children, but you missed a golden opportunity to honour your “roots” by creating a real tourist attraction for the City of Hamilton and Tim Hortons. 

It would seem in the eyes of Tim Hortons leadership team, Toronto is the donut and Hamilton is the Timbit! Tim Hortons could have created something special in Hamilton like Starbucks has done in Seattle.

Read: Starbucks Tasting Room vs Simmons Building