BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
On Monday, August 27, Grey Highlands Council approved the permit application to build a new Tim Hortons restaurant with a drive-thru and parking lot located at 217 and 219 Toronto Street South in Markdale. The permit was granted to 219 Toronto Street South Developments Inc. who have estimated the construction costs for the new facility at approximately $730,000 not including fees and permits.
Artist rendering of the planned Tim Hortons restaurant in Markdale.
The site of the new development in Markdale.
Before and since the announcement, many people have voiced their opinions about the prospect of having a Tim Hortons on Highway 10 in Markdale and what it could mean for the town and its existing businesses.
To get a better perspective, South Grey News went to Dundalk and Durham to talk with business owners about their own experience when Tim Hortons franchises popped up in their respective communities.
Dundalk is a small town whose numbers haven’t changed much over the last 10 years. Like Markdale, its downtown has seen better days as a few empty stores and buildings dot the main street. Today, slightly more than 2,000 people call Dundalk home and, like Markdale, it is poised for a population boom with proposed housing developments adding 700 to 800 new families to the area over the next 10 years. A revitalization plan is also in the works.
While nobody with whom we spoke holds any ill will towards the coffee shop giant, and they certainly don’t connect Dundalk’s hard times with Timmies' arrival, some small business owners haven’t really seen an up-tick in sales or pedestrian traffic following their 2016 opening. “Sometimes people stop in to ask where Tim Hortons is,” said one store owner. “But once I tell them, they’re on their way again.” That’s an indication that while Tim Hortons may have attracted more people to town, they haven’t been moved to spend their money elsewhere.
Tim Hortons is located on the outskirts of town strategically placed to catch the traffic going up and down Highway 10. Coffee-loving travellers along this route would have to consciously make the westward turn onto Main Street to explore many of Dundalk’s finest, a behaviour that has yet to be effectively encouraged. Photo: Google.
At least one business casualty was remembered. Prior to the franchise’s appearance on the corner of Highway 10 and Main Street, Big Daddy’s Restaurant had satisfied the coffee, breakfast and light lunch crowds just a short distance away but closed its doors a few weeks later, an event that did not go unnoticed by the locals, a common sentiment being that a small business just can’t compete with a big chain.
Traffic at the corner has since increased significantly and parking has become an issue, especially on summer weekends. Anecdotally, it was also noted that accidents at the corner have occurred where vehicles turn into the Tim Hortons and Esso lot. As anyone who has driven past the popular corner can attest, congestion at the lights, as well as lineups at the gas pumps and in the drive-thru are fairly common.
Local businesses also compete with the new Tim’s for employees. In the current economic climate, that has made it harder for smaller shops to find enough staff to stay open longer. On the other side of that coin, workers have had more employment opportunities. As the new store was gearing up for its grand opening, the franchise owners were flooded with job applications.
Also on the plus side of the equation, a Dundalk business owner mentioned the corporation’s outstanding record of community involvement and appreciated the local franchise’s sponsorships of children’s sports and activities.
While many lessons can be drawn from Dundalk’s experience, Durham’s Tim Hortons might actually have more in common with Markdale’s new development. Located at the south end of town, the iconic coffee and donut shop is situated on a well travelled highway and entices people to stop in as they forge their way straight through Durham’s retail business section.
When South Grey News took to Durham's streets to poll business owners about the Tim Hortons effect, we got mostly positive reactions mixed with some cautionary tales.
While some were quick to point out that Timmie’s brought much appreciated jobs to town and commended the owners for their high level of community involvement, the issue of high volume traffic snares during peak times and an increased number of fender benders on the road in front of the restaurant were often discussed.
Along Garafraxa Street, a single lane flows in each direction in front of Tim Hortons, vacant of any turn lanes or traffic lights that might alleviate back ups and discourage accidents. Photo: Google.
When asked if the arrival of Tim Horton’s had a negative effect on local business, the answer was “no”. In fact, the two most notable coffee shops in and around town remain in business some six years after Tim’s took up residence and another one has sprung up since, each offering a different, more unique product to set themselves apart.
One longtime business owner complained and was confirmed by a nearby customer, that the garbage created by discarded cups was littering roadsides, as well as clogging up their own cans and adding to their waste removal costs. “Fifty percent of the waste in our cans is Tim Hortons cups," he said. One of his customers, a volunteer at roadside cleanups, added that there are five Tim Hortons cups for every beer can picked up at events.
Despite the trepidation expressed in Grey Highlands surrounding the new Tim Hortons development in Markdale, most of the concerns expressed by local businesses in both Dundalk and Durham about similar Timmies disruptions were about Tim's customers' behaviour and not about the business itself.
Littering, garbage removal and traffic problems topped their lists. Little or no negative effect on the economy was felt by those with whom we spoke.
We reached out to the owners of the new Tim Hortons franchise in Markdale but at the time of publication we had not received a reply.
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