Residents and visitors of Manitoulin Island are closer than ever before to their morning double-double.
The region is now home to a Tim Hortons franchise, located in Little Current.
“We’ve been trying to come to Manitoulin for a long time,” said franchisee Denis Lefebvre. “It’s a beautiful place, it’s a special place. We’ve had a couple deals that fell through, but this one came through and the end result is a beautiful restaurant here in Little Current.”
While it is not Lefebvre’s first franchise – he also owns locations in McKerrow, Blind River and Espanola -- it is the first of its kind on Manitoulin Island. The opening comes after opposition from many who were concerned about adding a fast-food franchise.
“People have expressed concerns about changing the fundamental way that Manitoulin Island exists,” said Northeastern Manitoulin Island Mayor Alan MacNevin. “I think from the perspective of our community, I think we’re very excited to have the opportunity to create more jobs and also to satisfy the needs of people.”
While some concerns have been raised, MacNevin said council itself has heard relatively few directly. While he confirmed the store does have the full support of council, they are looking into issues surrounding traffic flow.
“This is a busy highway and especially the first two days it was opened, we had lineups right down the highway and that was creating some problems in terms of traffic,” said MacNevin. “We're working with them, including expanding the sidewalks and restricting some of the parking on the side streets.”
Acknowledging those concerns, Lefebvre said he is optimistic about the future.
“I think almost every community at one point got a Tim Hortons and a couple of people might have been doubtful,” said Lefebvre. “We’re going to come to Little Current and do some special things and I hope everyone gives us a shot and we’re very, very proud to be here.”
The restaurant features one of the Canadian chain’s brand new designs for its newest locations. Emblems of Canadian culture can be spotted throughout, with a Toronto Maple Leaf’s banner on one wall and a piece of Olympic history spotted on a floor tile amongst others.
“This is our new 2020 Welcome model,” said Lefebvre. “It has a little different lighting, different display cases. Just the looks, the light, neutral colours have changed, more café-ish and not quick service. I think it’s going to be a great change for our guests just to see.”
In addition, two self-kiosks are placed not far from the main entrance, allowing a new type of in-store experience.
“So you can walk up to the machine and choose what you want to order and then pick it up right at the counter. You can pretty much bypass the line,” said Lynn Lefebvre, the wife of Denis and co-owner of the franchise. “It’s the same as using our mobile app on your phone.”
Since opening in late October, the store has brought nearly 30 new jobs to the area, with the Lefebvres saying they expect more help to be needed.
The mayor expects the newfound convenience to be welcome by many.
“I’m hoping as the novelty wears off I think the tension does as well, I think people are going to see it fits in with the rural landscape here,” said Mayor MacNevin. “Especially in evening hours when people are finishing work or early hours going to work, there’s an opportunity to get a coffee or a snack on the way.”