When he opened a doughnut shop in 1964, Tim Horton didn’t plan to lay the foundation for a Canadian institution. But that’s exactly what he did.
When he opened a small restaurant in Hamilton, Ont., in 1964, NHL star Tim Horton planned to sell coffee, doughnuts and a few of his own culinary delights. He didn’t plan to lay the foundation for a Canadian institution. But that’s exactly what he did.
A year after he opened that first store on Ottawa Street North, former Hamilton policeman Ron Joyce took over the fledgling store and opened up two more. He and Horton became full partners in 1967.
Early on the morning of February 21, 1974, Horton was driving on the Queen Elizabeth Way from Toronto to his home in Buffalo after the Sabres had played in Toronto the night before, in his De Tomaso Pantera sports car, a gift from Sabres’ GM George “Punch” Imlach. He was negotiating a curve on the QEW where it crosses over Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines when he lost control and hit a concrete culvert. The impact flipped the vehicle and Horton, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected. Horton was reported dead on arrival at the local hospital.
Not long after Horton’s death, Joyce offered Lori Horton (Tim’s widow) $1 million for her shares in the chain, which included 40 stores by that time. Once she accepted his offer, Joyce became the sole owner. Years later, Mrs. Horton decided that the deal between her and Joyce was not fair and took the matter to court. Mrs. Horton lost the lawsuit in 1993, and was declined for appeal in 1995. Lori died in 2000. Tim and Lori left four daughters, Jeri-Lyn (Horton-Joyce), Traci (Simone), Kim and Kelly. Jeri-Lyn married Ron Joyce’s son Ron Joyce Jr. and owns a store in Ontario.
Joyce expanded the chain in the following years, ultimately giving Canada more donut shops per capita than any other country.
In 1995, Wendy’s International acquired the chain and merged the two companies.
As part of the deal, Joyce became the largest single shareholder of Wendy’s, even larger than the chain’s founder Dave Thomas. Joyce retired soon after.
Wendy’s sold part of Tim Hortons operations in a public offering in 2006, and distributed remaining shares to shareholders later that year.
Tim Hortons kept its operational headquarters in Oakvillle, Ont., but incorporated in Delaware.
The chain continued to expand across Canada and into a handful of U.S. states. In the summer of 2009, it opened some stores in New York City – including one at Madison Square Garden, where Horton once played as a member of the New York Rangers.
Today, the chain is the fourth largest publicly traded quick service restaurant chain in North America, and the largest in Canada. It has 3,475 system-wide restaurants, including 2,939 in Canada and 536 in the United States.
The menu at Timmie’s, as it is affectionately known by Canadians, has expanded along with the chain. The chain served just coffee and doughnuts for its first decade in business. But since the mid 1970s, it has been adding items to the menu. It now offers everything from Timbits to flavoured cappuccino and chili.
I will take a Large Double Double….and a six inch Tim Horton figure….please!