Saturday, June 16, 2007

Always Fresh: The Untold Story of Tim Hortons by the Man Who Created a Canadian Empire by Ron Joyce

Date Completed: May 2007
Publication Year: 2006
Pages: 233
Purchased in 2007

It’s as Canadian as hockey and beer, and almost every town has at least one. Many know that it was hockey legend Tim Horton who opened the first Tim Hortons restaurant in Hamilton, but few know the inside story of Ron Joyce, the former cop who, after the death of Horton, grew the company into a colossal North American enterprise that now earns over a billion dollars a year.

Always Fresh is Joyce’s own story in a blend of memoir and business book, as he looks back at how the franchise became a sacred cultural tradition. Joyce takes us back to 1964, from the first almost-failed Tim Hortons Donut Shop in Hamilton, to his full partnership with the eponymous hockey player and the tough years of franchise expansion. Recalling the tragic death of Tim Horton in 1974, and relating the little-known chapter on Joyce’s attempt to sell the chain and his subsequent legal battles with Tim’s widow, Lori, here Joyce sets the record straight. With great candour, he reveals the strategy behind the chain’s phenomenal expansion, including the introduction of Timbits; how Tim Hortons'coffee has become a number one seller, despite intense competition; an inside look at Donut University; and just why it is that every day tens of thousands of Canadians line up for Tim Hortons products. Joyce also gives the inside scoop on menu items that didn’t quite work out, the company’s launch of drive-thrus, why the franchises have done so well in small towns, his decision to sell the company to Dave Thomas of Wendy’s, and gives his take on Tim Hortons’ much-anticipated IPO. This book provides an insider’s look at an empire, its successes and failures, and the determined passion and character of the man who created it.

This is one of those books that Canadians should buy because there will always be people that have not read it, and you can come up with random trivia from it to make you look really smart. That is what I have been doing since I read this book. I had heard about it a couple times since it came out, but I had never remembered to look for it. Last month, I was ordering books and for some reason it popped into my head, so I ordered it and read it soon after. First off, let me just point out one thing. Tim Hortons is the largest coffee shop chain in Canada. While Ron Joyce owns it no longer, it was thanks to him, and a wonderful team, that the business has flourished as well as it has. Ron Joyce has a 9th grade education. I think that goes to show you that with hard work and determination, dreams do come true.

Tim Hortons started out as a donut shop, but nowadays it is one of the main places for people to go to pick up a cup of coffee. "Double-double" (two creams and two sugars) is even in the dictionary. There are very few places that you can go to in this large nation that does not have a Tim Hortons, or at least have one near it. (The North is a little iffy, but not impossible). It is named after a hockey player, Tim Horton, who used to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as some American teams. He died in a car crash, though, while Tims was just gaining popularity, so while it was him that started it, it was Ron Joyce that built it to what it is today. I have to admit, I never even thought about who Tim Horton was for years, they do a good job keeping the restaurant separate from the man. According to the book, when the company first started, though, Tim Horton as a hockey player was a major draw, but that changed over the years. (Now, it is back. If you read the video screens they have at Tims it tells about him a bit).

I really enjoyed learning how timbits came into existence and when the first time people everywhere "Roll up the Rim to Win". Ron Joyce talks about the struggles to make the company what it is today, and he talks about his regrets for selling out to Wendy's when he was ready to move on to another aspect of his life. I do think he went on about that a bit much, to be honest. I will admit I was sad to hear that Tims was no longer Canadian owned, but they have at least kept it a part of Canada. The bakery is also not fresh anymore, something I noticed years ago. The product is shipped in frozen, and while the donuts still taste fine, there is a difference. Also, Ron Joyce speaks to the fact that there is no magical reason why Tims coffee is so addictive, it has been tested several times and it actually has less caffeine than other coffee places.

Overall, I learned a lot from this book. I have been using it to make me look smart, as everytime I go to Tims with someone I tell them a random fact. I think I will be keeping this close by for a reread in the future, want to keep my smarts about me. And now, if you will excuse me, I am in the mood now for Tims.


  1. When we visited Niagara Falls a few years ago we stayed on the Candadian side and got doughnuts at a Tim Nortons (had never heard of them before). They were the best!

  2. oops! I meant Tim Hortons.

  3. They have spread into the US a bit, like there used to be a couple in Florida for the snowbirds and they exist along the border with Canada in a few places, but mostly an American company.

  4. I am SO craving a Canadian Maple donut now. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll have to go to Timmies while I'm at the laundramat this afternoon..... (Though I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the flavoured Iced Caps.)

  5. I haven't had the flavoured Iced Caps yet. I will have an ice cap once in a while, but I get mine made with chocolate milk. Tastes way better that way.

  6. And it's healthier with chocolate milk as opposed to cream. :)

  7. Just finished a hazelnut Ice Cap Supreme. Mmmmmmmm!

  8. Anonymous3:30 AM

    I am repeatedly disappointed by this farce of a doughnut shop. Frozen doughnuts...bad food safe practices...
    I bought some doughnuts this evening, and never again! I'm ashamed of this particular "flag ship".


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