Blogs & Comment

Tim's Square

They just want to be a part of it.
Tim Horton‘s has arrived in New York City. With considerable fanfare, the company announced opening day would be July 13th, at a wide range of locations across the city, including Midtown (Seventh Avenue near 50th Street) and in Penn Station.
How Tim’s will go over in the world’s most competitive city, however, is another question.
You would think Tim’s could rely on one solid source of support: the vast and varied group of Canadians living in New York. At a party Jacob Weisberg, the former editor of Slate magazine, gave at his loft in Tribeca last fall, one of many Canadians-in-NYC attending dubbed his brethren the “invisible minority.”
Though this news may come as a surprise to those living back home, Canadians dominate New York. Their talents flourish in circles from media (magazine writers Adam Gopnikand Malcolm Gladwell;broadcasters Morley Saferand, rest in peace, Peter Jennings; cartoonists Bruce McCalland Barry Blitt) to music (Brooklyn’s New Pornographers ) to design ( Karim Rashid). But while there, they never discuss the fact.
To promote Canadianness in NYC, you see, would be a mistake. The whole point of moving to New York is to melt in with everyone else. The goal? To slip the constraints of your former life and remake your world into exactly what you’ve always wanted it to be. (See The Corrections, by Franzen, Jonathan.)
Such invisible Canadians might find it a touch harder to blend in, however, now that Tim Horton’s is on their doorsteps. Going there every day would be a sure giveaway.
Branding concerns aside, Tim’s will be doing what it has always done in Canada: competing on a blend of quality and cost. One friend who works at the Port Authority dubbed the chain (approvingly) a mix of Starbucksand Dunkin’ Donuts quality products at low-end prices. And given the Great Recession has crushed appetites for US$3 lattes, steamers and the like, Manhattanites may well decide that Tim’s more affordable lattes and iced cappuccinos are just what they have been looking for.
Yesterday the Canadian Association of New York , a social organization designed to link all those invisible Canadians together, sent out a circular trumpeting Tim’s arrival.
To celebrate, on opening day, Tim’s gave away free small coffees as well as iced coffees from their Penn Station location, which is on the Long Island Railroad level. (I am trying to picture the American reaction to getting a free small coffee. Even in troubled economic times, Americans don’t do small.)
While planning a large push into Manhattan, Tim’s management has ironically decided to head in the other direction back to Canada. The company announced in late June that it is heading north with a plan to reorganize and convert its ownership to a Canadian corporation. That’s to take advantage of a few benefits, including Canada’s lower corporate tax rates. (According to releases, the company also, interestingly, indicated that being Canadian again will make international expansion easier.)
Meanwhile, New York state government grapples with a budget shortfall so severe, legislators are hiking subway fares, jacking state taxes, and fomenting much extremely entertaining discord in Albany. Wall Street reaction veers from amused to aghast.
So while Canadians in New York (quietly) celebrate the arrival of Tim Horton’s, you can be sure that some of their American counterparts are (just as quietly) taking notes on the company’s decision to move HQ the other way.