Toronto’s 130 King Street West has welcomed it’s newest high-end boutique coffee shop. Hosting a range of espresso beverages such as Nitro Cold Brew and Honduras Trifinio lattes, and with a range of milk alternatives, you would assume it’s yet another elitist, coffee-lovers haven in the heart of the financial district. But you’d be wrong. Tim Hortons has opened its very first “innovation cafe” at the bottom of The Exchange Tower, and everyone is just a little curious.
Known for its “always fresh” brewed coffee and grab-and-go nature, Tim Hortons has been the backbone of Canada’s coffee culture since 1964. The company’s ‘Double Doubles’ and ‘Timbits’ are iconic, and despite Starbucks and various others infiltrating the market on such a large scale, a Tim’s can still be found on almost every city corner, travel pitstop, and shopping mall across the country. Despite our love for the brand, associating luxury and Tim Hortons seems alien for the average Canadian. Perhaps in particular for Torontonians who are used to their indie coffee spots like Boxcar Social and Jimmy’s coffee supplying them with cortados, flat whites, and everything else one’s caffeine-obsessed heart could desire.
Yet here we are, faced with a Timmy’s that asks for your name when you order and offers you different types of espresso depending on your preference. Recent times have seen Tim Horton’s expand its retail vision to include vegan options, such as the beyond meat burger, and add the nutritional value to their menu items. Assuming this is all in an effort to keep up with competitors, both independent and franchise alike, perhaps this new project shouldn’t come as a such a shock.
Hundreds of people lined up on the morning of July 25 to grab their now-lavish iced capps and maple bacon “Dream Donuts” to start their day just right. The location is spacious with ample seating and display cases filled with bakery and lunch items. A “Dream Donut Tower” sits next to a classic glazed donut, with a turkey avocado club sandwich and decadent yogurt parfaits also in attendance. A bar runs down one length of the counter where you can sit and enjoy your draft latte, pulled to your liking by one of the baristas, or charge your phone using a wireless charing station.
This flagship location definitely pays homage to Tim’s hockey background, with the head of global design for Tim Hortons, Brian Noviski, noting that part of the driving factor behind the concept was the idea of merging two of Canada’s favourite things: coffee and hockey.
Contemporary Toronto is changing fast. Our needs are perpetually becoming more elaborate and our expectations exorbitantly higher. The press release for this “innovation cafe” described the new location as “a modern interpretation of the Tim Hortons brand” and as “a unique space to test new menu items and technology initiatives.” Some argue that Tim Hortons should stay in their lane; continue to do what they do best and leave the opulence to others. This cynicism seems contradictory to what we all seem to strive for in today’s retail world. Let’s allow Tim’s to do their thing; let them reinvent themselves and explore new markets. We know we’ll still love them either way, whether it’s for their Vanilla Dream Cold Brew or their plain old Double Doubles.
Editor’s note: First Canadian Place’s leasing team Beauleigh was heavily involved in the Tim Hortons lease deal at The Exchange Tower, and leases out that retail centre as well as others across the country.