Tim Hortons a big part of Canadian identity

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 28, 2014 at 6:56 am •  Published: August 28, 2014
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TORONTO (AP) — Few things unite Canadians the way Tim Hortons does. For half a century, they have warmed themselves on chilly mornings with the chain's coffee and Timbits — or doughnut holes to Americans.

So news this week that Burger King will buy Tim Hortons served as a bittersweet reminder of how beloved the homegrown chain is in Canada, where 75 percent of the all the coffee sold at fast food restaurants comes from "Timmy's," as it is affectionately known. Tim Hortons is found in just about every small town and large city across Canada, and hockey-mad Canadians often head to their local Timmy's before or after their kids' games.

Tim Hortons, in a bid to quell any concerns that its distinctly Canadian brand could be watered down, went out of its way to assure that the red and brown coffee and doughnut shop won't change, taking out big ads in newspapers and declaring "fellow Canadians can all rest assured that Tim Hortons will still be Tim Hortons following this transaction."

The chain's aura in Canada comes from its namesake: hockey Hall of Famer Tim Horton, the co-founder who died at 44 in a 1974 car accident after playing in a game for the Buffalo Sabres. In a long run with Canada's most popular NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the defenseman won four Stanley Cups, including Toronto's last in 1967. That, and the chain's omnipresence, puts his fame in Canada on the order of a New York Yankees baseball legend like Mickey Mantle or Yogi Berra.

"Tim Hortons is iconic in terms of Canada and I wouldn't like to see that diluted," said Daraius Bharucha, a 46-year old teacher from Ajax, Ontario, and a customer since he immigrated to Canada from India 21 years ago. Bharucha said the first thing he does when he returns home to Canada from a vacation is visit the local Timmy's. He knows he's home. "Even among new Canadians the idea of going to a Timmy's has become part of the vocabulary," he added.

While the takeover by Burger King, which is based in Miami but controlled by a Brazilian private equity fund, is getting much attention in Canada, it's not causing panic. U.S.-based Wendy's recently owned Tim Hortons and its brand remained intact. Wendy's then spun off Tim Hortons as a separate company in 2006 after more than a decade of ownership.

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