The newly opened Tim Hortons is quickly becoming a popular pit stop along Hwy. 16 in Houston, for travellers.
The coffee franchise was opened next to A&W, on Dec. 19 by the Close family who owns the coffee house’s Smithers franchise.
“We had a very exciting, busy opening. It was hectic but it was good. People were really excited and I think they have been really understanding that it is a new location and there is a lot to learn, and they have been really patient with us,” said Tim Close, the manager and part owner of the Houston franchise.
The Houston location opened in December as promised by the Close family and the first customer was in the form of a surprise visit from Santa. Opening the Houston store had been a long-standing dream for Dan Close, Tim’s father and it has finally come true.
“I worked in our store in Smithers for 23 years and it has been a thing that they had been trying to do for a long time; it has been a thing that guests and the community of Houston have asked for a long time, so now that it has finally come, it is awesome; we are very excited and very grateful that in a year that has been very challenging for a lot of people, we have been fortunate to be where we are,” he said.
Despite the difficult year with the pandemic, while opening the store had its road bumps and learning curves, it has also been much easier for him, according to Close.
“When my parents opened the one in Smithers, I was 11 years old, my dad had no previous experience in the industry, so when I opened this one, I had 22 years of managing people, baking, serving coffee, doing sandwich counter, coaching people and interacting in the community that I bring with me; so that helps and there is always a lot of unknowns when you get into something like this but you know, you take them as they come and keep on going,” he said.
According to Close, the family has hired around 20 to 30 employees, all local to Houston. While the location and store of that size requires at least 25 people, Close said this has been a difficult season.
“We are in the slowest season possible so it makes it more challenging; you don’t need as much staff but at the same time, because we are a new location, we need to keep training and we can only do that with more staff. So it’s kind of a very tricky situation to manage because we have to make sure everybody is getting their hours and stuff like that,” he said.
The Houston Tim Hortons has not just become a welcome change for the residents and travellers but has also become popular for nearby communities, according to Close, and the coffee house already has several regulars.
“It’s been really interesting to see how many people come here from Burns Lake and of course, there is people that go from Smithers to Houston for work or vice versa, but because I was so typically far from Burns Lake, it never showed up on my radar. But for sure we have regulars that come in every morning and they have their breakfast or donuts or whatever for their crew in Burns Lake. I have had at least five people ask me when we are going to have a Tim Hortons in Burns Lake, but for now we will just focus on this one,” he said.
Close, who moved to Houston from Smithers to manage the franchise for his family, is enjoying the hospitality and proximity to everything of the small town.
“It has been awesome. I really enjoy the community and it has made me realize how much I love small towns. I love that the bank is right there and I can walk to it in less than five minutes, I live very close to where I work and if I need to go get something from home, I live very close; I really like it,” he said.
When asked about what the Houston’s Tim Hortons has in store for customers this coming year, Close said that while pre-COVID they typically had a few events one of which was for the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation, which happens on the first Wednesday of every June, he wasn’t sure when that would be this year. They also do a Smile Cookie Program in fall that raises funds for local charities, through the purchase of chocolate chunk Smile cookies. However, Close said that currently there aren’t any events planned for the location.
“Right now we are just trying to improve on our accuracy and speed of service and our guest experience and just meeting all the standards of everything. Me and my parents are very excited that we have finally opened this location and we are taking this one day at a time, and we are working to see what the future holds,” concluded Close.