Tim Hortons is bigger than McDonald’s in Canada. I visited the first location of the beloved coffee chain and now I understand why.

Tim Hortons is a beloved fast food chain mostly known for its loyal Canadian customers.
The first store is still open and functioning, and it’s also a museum of the chain and its founder. 
I saw how it feels like a local icon to Canadians, despite now being a multinational chain. 

Tim Hortons is a coffee chain headquartered in Ontario, Canada and beloved by Canadians.

As a Western New Yorker, I’ve grown up going to Tim Hortons, and it’s a staple on long drives and early mornings.

I stopped by the original location, first opened in 1964, on a recent trip to Toronto.

I was initially worried that I might not find the right location, but it was immediately clear when I arrived that I was in the right place.

The restaurant had clearly been updated since its opening nearly 60 years ago, but it had a photo of how it originally looked on the wall outside.

Outside the entrance, there was a large statue of co-founder and namesake of the chain, Tim Horton.

Horton, named one of the 100 best hockey players of all time by the NHL, continued his career while starting up the chain.

Source: NHL

He died in a car accident in 1974 at age 44, only a decade after founding his namesake chain.

Being named after a hockey legend might be part of why Tim Hortons is beloved among Canadians.

Tim Horton’s is mostly known as a breakfast destination, but its menu has grown to include lunch and all-day coffee and baked goods.

I had several iced coffees from the chain during my trip, and a medium came out to a reasonable $1.99 in US dollars.

Everything about Tim Hortons screams “Canadian pride,” down to the maple leaf on the cup.

There are actually more Tim Hortons restaurants than McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, at 3,928 to about 1,400, respectively.

Source: RBI, McDonald’s

The store I visited had a section of Tim Hortons merchandise, like mugs and sweatshirts. The setup reminded me of Starbucks, which often has a similar product lineup.

The layout was similar to other Tim Hortons restaurants I’ve been in, with display cases for baked goods next to the register.

There’s also a selection of sandwiches, and I chose an Impossible Sausage sandwich with egg and cheese.

I’m not vegetarian, but I thought it was delicious and I’d happily order it again.

Off to the side of the counter, there were lockers to pick up mobile orders. I haven’t seen this system before, but it seems like a potentially smart way to handle order pickup.

Unlike most Tim Hortons restaurants, this location had a second level.

The second floor featured further dedications to the location’s history, including this plaque noting the opening date.

Just above the plaque was a copy of the original sign for the chain, called Tim Horton Donuts at the time.

Upstairs there was another register and display case, but this one wasn’t functional and instead showed how the restaurant used to look.

The initial menu was leaner than today’s, but similarly focused on coffee and doughnuts.

Past the register was museum-style exhibition showing how the chain has changed over the years.

In 2014, Burger King acquired Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion, and they merged under the new company Restaurant Brands International.

Source: The New York Times

Tim Hortons remains popular under RBI, with over $1.5 billion in sales in its most recent financial quarter.

Source: RBI

Tim Hortons is clearly popular with Canadians already, but there’s still room to grow.

In the first quarter of 2022, sales at Canadian Tim Hortons restaurants grew 10% over the previous year, RBI reported.

Walking through the museum dedicated to Tim Horton the man and Tim Hortons the restaurant chain, I found it much easier to understand why Canadians are so loyal to the brand.

To me, it felt more personal than McDonald’s or Dunkin’, because of the way the chain’s decor and dishes show pride in being Canadian.

For fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Buffalo Sabres (which I count myself as), it’s even more special to visit a restaurant named for and founded by one of your team’s greatest players.

Tim Hortons doesn’t serve my favorite coffee, but I get the appeal of supporting a restaurant that feels local, even if it’s a multinational chain.

I’ll definitely remain a customer, even if infrequently.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Retail, Sports, Features, Business Visual Features, Retail, Fast Food, RBI, Restaurant Brands International, Tim Horton’s, Coffee, McDonald’s, QSR, Sports, Hockey

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