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Thankful Thursday XIX – Timmies

This Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for one of my fonder memories of Canada – Tim Horton’s. Only a few Americans know what that is, and fewer people still from other countries. But to Canadians… they’re a way of life and as much a cultural keystone as maple leafs and geese.

Tim Horton’s, or simply “Timmies” to many Canucks, is a chain of coffee shops. Diners perhaps would be a better word since they offer an array of foods as well. But they are a great deal more than that up north; not only do they define the national obsession with coffee and the “down to earth” mentality, in many communities they have become the de facto “town square” – the meeting place, the place to hang out when you don’t want to be by yourself. Quite an achievement for something begun in the ’60s by a second-string hockey star as a single little coffee shop in the factory city of Hamilton.

Today there are over 4000 of them, the vast majority of them in Canada, although Americans close to the border – those in Western New York, Washington State and the like – have some of their own, perhaps as much for the Canadians driving south as the locals. Although they started out as simple purveyors of cheap coffee and a range of donuts (another Canadian obsession, and something Tim’s does very well) they have through the years expanded the menu to have a number of lunch options from sandwiches to soups and chili, and even brought in cold soft drinks for those who for some difficult-to-understand reason don’t always want a hot coffee! As such they’ve become a viable competitor to the various sub and burger places in the fast food market.

Through the years, I consumed many a cup of that java. Many a thousand cups, actually. When I was going somewhere in winter, there’d always be a Tim Horton’s along the way to stop and get a coffee at and quite probably, get rid of the last coffee, if you catch my meaning. Many a work lunch break was spent sitting in one, a cup of coffee and a bagel with cheese (their poppy seed bagels are pretty extraordinary too) as I read the newspaper and forgot about the job for half an hour. I’ve taken dates to Tim’s, sat and chatted with my dad for many an afternoon, packed my laptop and sat in one late at night when the wi-fi at home gave out. I might add that I wasn’t convinced they offered the best coffee of any chain in Canada; but they were the one that was always there for me. And the 33 million others in that land.

And therein was the appeal. Tim’s are a unifier there, a totally democratic sort of institution. The prices were reasonable, the décor comfortable but very basic. It’s the place the grubby street people go and sit in when they’ve panhandled up enough for a drink and a donut just as much as they’re the place the office execs from the shiny city towers stop at to get their cruller and double-double at on their way to work. If Ryan Gosling or Bryan Adams are back in their hometown, chances are if you wait long enough, they’ll be at Tim’s. The local cops are likely to be there between calls, just as are the teens coming home from school, the socialites heading out for a night on the town and the retirees who don’t have a lot to do during the afternoon hours. So they find the Tim’s and each other and then have something to do in the afternoon. So engrained into the culture are they that they’ve even added to the lexicon. “Timbits” anybody? “Roll up the Rim?” The Canadian in the crowd will know.

That sort of thing doesn’t really exist in the States, or at least not in my part of them. Coffee isn’t king down here (mind you, I guess it takes a special breed of crazy to be like me and want hot coffee day in, day out, in a place where half the year days top 90 degrees) and of course, there is a Dunkin’ here and there if you search them out, and a few Starbucks but it’s not quite the same. Dunkins seem a place to get in and get of quickly; Starbucks are pricy and have a sort of elitist air to them. They’re all places where you can get a hot drink, but not a place to go.

While there isn’t a Tim’s shop for about a thousand miles from here, at least we can get the coffee in imported bags at the supermarket. So sipping one in my own room isn’t like being in a busy restaurant watching the world go by, it is pretty good “jo”. And a nice reminder of where I came from.

10 Replies to “Thankful Thursday XIX – Timmies”

  1. Very nice write-up, Dave. We got Tim Horton’s in MI maybe 15-20 years ago? I love the cup you have in your picture and even own one! Sounds like they are so much more than a place to stop for a cuppajoe in Canada. We have Biggby Coffee shops based out of Lansing that are pretty cozy to sit in. The Barnes and Nobles have some nice coffee shops also to sit and read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you. Yes, Michigan makes sense since it’s so close to S. Ontario. those Tim’s ceramic mugs are great… one of my pet peeves about them when I was up there was if I was staying I’d always ask for it to “stay” , and usually you got the mug, but some outlets gave you a paper cup anyway…somehow the coffee tasted better in the ceramic.
      Around Atlanta there was a chain called Caribou, which were very nice… a bit more upscale than tims but more friendly and warm than a Starbucks… not sure how widespread they are though. The B&N here has a little cafe, it sells all Starbucks drinks and pastries but isn’t actually run by Starbucks (won’t accept Starbucks coupons, don’t wear Starbucks shirts etc.) It is nice enough but still a little pricey .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I wish I could find a place that sells those cups. I love the shape of them and my older son does also. They’d make a good Christmas present for him and his gf.


  2. Most places in America wants you in and out quickly because they want turnover. Starbucks…you have to mortgage your house before you walk into one…I’m not a coffee drinker at all…you could probably count on two hands the cups of coffee I’ve had in my life…I always felt like I was missing out on something but I’ve tried…it just didn’t click.

    I thought of Krispy Kreme…that might be close.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. do you have Krispy Kremes there still? People around here talk regularly about how much they miss them, they used to have a presence but left these parts long before I got here (you still see their boxed donuts in stores though.) They tried to start in Canada maybe 20 years ago but didn’t catch on too well… I’m told the coffee was not very good and the lineups for donuts were usually long.
      Strangely, as a kid and even a teen, I wasn’t a coffee drinker… my family back then seemed to opt for tea. But when I began working a midnight shift at the hotel… quickly it became a go-to drink! We had bars in the building and when they let out, a couple of bartenders would go across the road and have coffees and one in particular almost always got me one and brought it back. Found it helped me stay awake through the shift , soon I’d be locking up the cash drawer and dashing across the road myself at 3:30 or 4 for a cup.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes they are all around. I will say they are the best doughnut I’ve ever had. They really melt in your mouth…for real. They are so rich though that I cannot eat more than one at a time. So much better than Dunkin.

        One of my early jobs…when I was between jobs at 19 or so I was a security guard with a midnight shift… I tried to drink it but just couldn’t.

        We had tea also but my mom and dad were total coffee drinkers…one of my first memories was a coffee percolator every morning making that noise.

        Yep I can see why you started…If I would have liked the taste I’m sure I would have.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. at first I didn’t like the taste, and I’d have sugar in it but in time I have come to like it by itself, usually drink it black at home, occasionally put a sugar in one at a restaurant. For some reason, after my parents split up my Mom switched almost entirely to coffee… perhaps it was my dad that dictated tea when i was young.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I would drink it with so much sugar that I pretty much had coffee with my sugar so I thought…if I have to cover the taste up that much…it’s not for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. makes sense – I’ve known people like that too who pile so much stuff in I wonder “why have coffee to begin with”. Why not have a milkshake or something. I once worked with a girl who had 7 and 6 in her coffees, like an ordinary (not large or XL) take out coffee. Can’t remember if it was 7 sugar, 6 cream or the other way around but really, what difference would it make?!

        Liked by 1 person

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