A Tim Hortons Renovates to a No-seating Drive-thru

Farewell to Hamilton’s ‘Doughnut U’

Ted Brellisford, the Hamilton Spectator

Hortons demolishes Main and Wentworth store for drive-thru

April 22, 2009

Paul Wilson
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 22, 2009)

‘I’m sorry,” she says, and turns her head to brush tears from her eyes.

“This is my place,” she says. “I know all the people. It’s the only time I get out.”

Catherine Daisley is talking about the Tim Hortons at Main and Wentworth.

Last Friday the heavy equipment moved in, and now the restaurant is gone.

It was No. 66 in a chain that has grown to 3,200 outlets. This one had seating for 60. The new Hortons will have seating for none.

It will be a drive-thru, which does loyal customer Daisley no good at all.

She is 65, has heart problems, lives in a large seniors’ building on Sanford and stopped at Hortons a couple of times every day.

She would arrive mid-morning, bundle buggy in tow, for a muffin, a coffee and connections. Then she proceeded to No Frills for groceries. There would be another visit in the afternoon.

The Christmas before last, she sewed fleece mittens and scarves for the staff. And on this day, she is out on the street watching her Hortons fall.

Regular Wally Bochenek, a former DARTS driver, is here, too. He’s owned a home in the area for 40 years. “What a heartbreaker,” he says. “Hamilton is the city that got Hortons started and look what happens.”

Harland Izatt watches the demolition, too. He is a retired art teacher and did portraits of many of the customers at this Hortons.

When the restaurant closed two weeks ago, he gave 10 staff members “Thanks for the Memories” cards, each with a $20 enclosure.

“Tim Hortons really wants to be a community-minded organization, with the kids’ hockey and the camps,” he says. “But this is another community in need, older people, handicapped people.”

Lincoln Alexander, Hamilton’s favourite citizen, rolled his scooter into this Hortons about once a month. “I sympathize with these people,” he says. “But it’s free enterprise and I’m all for that.”

“We agonized over this decision,” says Maureen Sauve. She and husband, Dave, former Ticat president, own seven Hortons. But this was their first. Maureen Sauve knows the date of purchase by heart — March 27, 1988.

The Main and Wentworth store has been an underperformer for some years. All those seats, no drive-thru, and in a struggling part of the core.

And there was not enough land to build a sit-down restaurant with drive-thru, Sauve says.

To avoid traffic getting backed up, the city requires there be room for cars to be “stacked” on drive-thru property.

In this instance, there will be space to stack 14 cars coming off Main, with “alternate stacking” for a few more.

The Sauves own another drive-thru two minutes down the street at Main and Prospect, Hamilton’s first free-standing Hortons drive-thru, a silver spaceship that dropped down one January day 15 years ago.

That was a prefab. The drive-thru at Main and Wentworth, to open at the end of June, will be of brick. “It’s a significant investment in an economically depressed part of town,” Sauve says. “Close to half a million.”

Knocking down the old Hortons had nothing to do with the clientele there, she says. Yes, some stayed a long time, to talk, to do the crosswords. But with so many seats that wasn’t a problem.

“There were lots of characters,” she says, “but characters with big hearts.”

The nearest stores to the one that’s just come down are at Main and Wellington and at Cannon and Sanford, each about a kilometre away. While the new store will help motorists streaming past from the west, it does little to serve those living in the area. The concept of a walkable neighbourhood takes another hit.

I don’t like drive-thrus. I get out of the car. But that’s dangerous these days, because between you and the store door is a snaking line of vehicles headed for the order window.

The store at Main and Wentworth was proudly opened in 1977 by chain owner Ron Joyce. It was dubbed Doughnut University, a training centre for new franchisees and their staff.

“We’ll be baking around the clock so trainees learn the importance of providing fresh products at all times,” Joyce said.

He predicted then that the chain would continue to grow, that the food on offer would move beyond doughnuts and that a cup of coffee would soon jump a nickel to 35 cents. But of drive-thrus, he said not a word.

StreetBeat appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday




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