Why Shopping at Tim Hortons IS Buying Local

Are you someone who likes to “buy local” and pick up your morning java at an independent coffee house rather than stop at Tim Hortons? The “buy local” movement is getting stronger—and that’s good news for small businesses—but not all of them.

There’s a common misconception that franchise owners are not “local owners,” and by shopping at national franchise chains like Tim Hortons, Boston Pizza, or COBS Bread, that the money is going into the umbrella company’s corporate bank account and helping a high-level CEO fund his or her next vacation in the Caribbean!

However, when you shop at a franchise, you are supporting a local business owner in your community just as if you were getting your goods at the corner grocer, bakery, or neighbourhood café. That’s right, when you shop at franchises your money stays in your local economy!

As a local business owner, I’m happy about that, having owned and operated two M&M Food Market franchises (formerly M&M Meat Shops) on Vancouver Island for 16 years. I’m glad that people want to support small businesses, but unfortunately, it’s going to take some effort to educate people about where franchises fit into the local economic landscape.

When buying some delicious white chocolate raspberry scones at COBS Bread in Victoria’s Harris Green Plaza, things were hustling and bustling but I managed to sneak in a quick conversation with franchisee Joshua Aspin.  When I mentioned I wanted to set the record straight about shopping at franchises as a way to support local owners, he immediately turned around and showed me the back of his COBS t-shirt that stated: “Proud Local Community Baker.”

In fact, not only is this COBS bakery a local business, but it’s also a family business. Aspin’s wife Joanne is a co-franchisee and their 18-year-old son also works in the bakery.  Kids can start working at a franchise and learn about business and responsibility at a young age, which is not usually the case at corporately owned bakeries.

And if there was ever any doubt about the company’s place in the city’s economy, their website makes it clear: “We are your local community baker. We can confidently say that because we live here, we work here, we shop here, and we support our local community at every opportunity.”

Maybe it’s the image of multiple locations across a big geographic area that gives the perception that a franchise unit is really just another big corporation.

And no doubt, sometimes franchises are bigger companies.  But regardless of the size of the company, the local franchise owner made the decision to buy into a proven system rather than to start a new business from scratch.  Sounds pretty smart to me!

Franchisees at the local level also make decisions about their own advertising, support for community events, and how they want to give back to the places they live in.  Other than the on-average 6% royalties paid to the franchise company for use of the brand, support systems, and marketing, the money they make stays in the community where they live, shop, and pay taxes.

Now back to Tim Hortons.  If your intent is to support local business means only buying coffee at the independent café nearby, think again!  All regional Greater Victoria, BC Tim Hortons are owned and operated by local owners, some of whom are big believers in keeping the business in the family.

Take Sherry Findlay and her daughter Jodell Jordan, who own and operates five Tim Hortons in the Victoria area. In the early days, Sherry would bring young Jodell in to “help” in the back of the store rather than hiring a babysitter, and then find her asleep on the big bags of flour.

Sherry and her father opened the very first Tim Hortons on Vancouver Island back in 1986.  It was such a new concept, some people thought a guy named Tim Horton had opened a coffee shop and they would come in asking for Tim!

For Sherry, local ownership means community involvement. Over the years, through their Tim Hortons business, she and her daughter have supported initiatives such as Jeneece Place, Cops for Cancer, the Bayview Island Savings Tournament, and Junior Curling.  

Other examples of franchises that help keep money on Vancouver Island, include Montana’s Cookhouse, Nurse Next Door, Bosley’s, Dairy Queen, Merry Maids, Pita Pit, Cora Restaurant, Good Earth Coffee House, Vibes Fitness, Home Hardware, Marble Slab Creamery, Great Canadian Dollar Store, and so many more.

So while I still support those delightful little independent coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, and other neighbourhood businesses, keep in mind that hard-working, local owners are also running franchises, and offering the opportunity to “buy local,” and support both the community and the economy.