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The History of Tim Hortons

On May 17, 1964, NHL player, founder, and restaurant namesake Tim Horton opened the first Tim Hortons location in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ten years later, Horton passed away in a car accident, leaving his wife Lori Horton and franchisee Ron Joyce in possession of the restaurant chain. Joyce later became the sole owner after buying out Lori Horton’s stake for $1 million and a Cadillac Eldorado. (Lori Horton would later lose a court case contesting the sale.) In 1976, bite-sized donuts called Timbits debuted at Tim Hortons; they are now one of the chain's most beloved offerings. In 1984, the chain entered the United States — the first location was in Tonawanda, New York. In 1993, Tim Hortons locations began selling sandwiches such as ham and cheese. In 1995, Wendy’s International Inc. purchased Tim Hortons and one year later, bagels debuted on the Tim Horton’s menu. In 1999, Tim Hortons began selling its now-famous iced cappuccinos and in 2004, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary added “double-double” — a term for a coffee with two creams and two sugars that had become popular at Tim Hortons — to its lexicon. In 2006, hot breakfast sandwiches were rolled out at Tim Hortons locations. In 2009, Tim Hortons became a public company and also briefly served Cold Stone Creamery products at some of its locations, although that partnership came to an end in 2014. In 2018, protesters gathered outside Tim Hortons locations to show support for employees after some franchises cut benefits and break times in the wake of an Ontario minimum wage increase. That same year, the company relocated its headquarters to Toronto and tested an all-day breakfast menu at select Canadian locations. In 2020, the chain announced a plan to sell Timbits cereal in grocery stores and in 2021, Tim Hortons committed to removing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from the core menu by the end of the year. That same year, the chain also sold a special orange sprinkle donut in support of Indigenous charities that benefit residential school survivors. Tim Hortons also ran a partnership with Justin Bieber that included three limited edition "Timbiebs" Timbits as well as some exclusive merchandise. The company got into hot water in 2022 for violating the law by tracking the movements of people who downloaded the Tim Hortons app (even when it wasn't being used) but ultimately did not appear to face any major punishments for the violation. In 2023, Tim Hortons launched Dream Cookies and for one weekend, the company also operated a “boat-thru” where visitors could pick up cold drinks on Lake Scugog directly from their boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. The company also unveiled a new electric transport for making deliveries that reportedly creates zero tailpipe emissions in late 2023. On May 17, 2024, Tim Hortons celebrated its 60th anniversary and today, the Canadian chain remains popular in both Canada and the United States as well as several other countries where it has a presence, although it is not without controversy, as the company is currently facing a potential class action lawsuit over an issue with its Roll Up to Win campaign.

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