Iqaluit Tim Hortons outlet rumours confirmed

North West Company in negotiations, nothing settled


They opened an outlet at a Canadian military base in Afghanistan. So why can’t Tim Hortons make it to Iqaluit?

Maybe they can.

The company that owns Iqaluit’s Northmart hopes to open a Tim Hortons franchise right in town.

Soon, passengers returning to Iqaluit from Ottawa may not have to bother schlepping that awkward box of Tim Bits on and off the plane for friends, family and work colleagues.

Michael McMullen, executive vice-president of the northern Canadian retail group for the North West Company, said in an interview he brought a representative of Canada’s most popular donut and coffee company to Iqaluit to have a look at the town and consider the options for opening a store here.

“We’d be thrilled to death to do business with them,” he said. “Tim Hortons is a great, iconic, Canadian company.”

Unfortunately, he added, all he is able to say now is that the two companies are in negotiations.

“Nothing has been settled yet.”

In fact, he’d rather not talk about it at all at this point, McMullen admitted.

But since Nunatsiaq News called him, “I’m not going to deny it.”

Tims is interested, McMullen said, because his northern division’s sales of the Tim Hortons brand of canned coffee has exploded in the last couple of years, moving “from a low volume of sales to our number-one brand.”

“That piqued Tim Hortons’ interest. They wanted to know, ‘Who are these guys? Where are all those sales coming from?’”

So he brought a Tims’ rep north for a tour that included Kuujjuaq and Kuujjuarapiq in Nunavik, Moosonee in northern Ontario, and the prime prospect for a northern TH outlet — Iqaluit.

McMullen knows the lure of the Tim Hortons mystique all too well. He’s visited Iqaluit seven times in the past year on business. And each time he brought a box of donuts and Tim Bits up for store managers.

He said, though, that Tim Hortons is just one of several fast food chains the company is considering.

“We hope within the year to have an interesting new concept in fast food for Iqaluit.”

Some scoff at the Tim Hortons chain, claiming neither the coffee nor the donuts are anything special. And others are horrified at the thought of more unhealthy food being marketed in Iqaluit.

But there’s no denying the company’s success in the fast-food market, where it trades on the name of its hockey-star founder and kids summer camps to project a wholesome image of hometown values.

Airline passengers from Ottawa disembarking with a bright boxful of Tim Hortons donuts and Tim Bits balanced precariously with their other carry-on luggage has become a common sight at the Iqaluit airport.

Northmart manager Eldon Drodge was travelling last week and unavailable for comment, and an assistant manager denied any knowledge of the visit by the Tim Hortons rep.

But other Iqalummuit were a little more forthcoming — even if not exactly authoritative.

One claimed to have seen the drawings for a proposed Iqaluit outlet.

And another, when asked about the visit, laughed and said: “We’re not supposed to talk about that. And anyway, he was only here for one day.”

Since the late Tim Horton opened his first donut shop in Hamilton, Ont., in 1964, the company has captured 62 per cent of the Canadian coffee market (Starbucks is second with seven per cent), three-quarters of the Canadian market for baked goods, and nearly a quarter of all fast-food revenues in the country.

As of last December, the company, once merged with the U.S. fast-food giant, Wendy’s, and now publicly traded, had nearly 3,000 outlets across Canada, another 500-plus in the United States — and none in Nunavut.

That could change, a prospect that must strike fear into the hearts of the owners of the Tim Hortons franchise at the Ottawa airport.

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