tim hortons bloordale

Is Tim Hortons Brockton Triangle's Starbucks?

Torontonians will remember the infamous scrawl "Drake you ho this is all your fault" spray-painted on the newly arrived Starbucks near the Drake Hotel in 2005, highlighting the coffee franchise's gentrifying image. Pictured above, similar sentiment was recently expressed on the wall of Tim Hortons in Bloordale Village.

Tim Hortons is making its Queen West debut, and not far from the above depicted Bloordale location, a new franchise has opened in Brockton Triangle. Sporting a "Now Open" sign in its shiny storefront window, this new Tim Hortons enters a working class neighbourhood dominated by Coffee Times and Portuguese coffee shops.

Is this Tim Hortons to Brockton Triangle as Starbucks was to West Queen West?

Located on College Street, where the east-west College and Dundas St. almost intersect at Lansdowne Avenue, it is far from a Starbucks-worthy site.

The new Tim Hortons' immediate neighbours are a car wash across the street, a Domino's Pizza and a 24-hour convenience store next door.

Hortons is not known to attract the gentry who frequent Starbucks. Timmies markets itself to the "everyman" with a wholesome Canadiana, not trendy, image. It is better known for its "double-double" and "Timbits" than double, soy latte and almond, chocolate biscotti.

Yet, as local resident Shawn Whitney wrote on his RedBedHead blog, the corporation with 3,238 stores across North America is a step up as far as coffee franchises go in the area. Tucked nearby behind parking spots is a dingy, almost empty Coffee Time, whose once white stucco facade has seen better days. A few blocks away at Bloor and Lansdowne is another Coffee Time well known to local police.

Usually found in corners of low income neighbourhoods, Coffee Time is riddled, fairly or not, with lore of drug dealers and sex workers. Whitney puts it more bluntly when he says "[Coffee Time] are to cafes what crack houses are to wine bars."

The franchise's reputation was further marked as sketchy in 2007 when a CBC investigative report shed light on the high number of Coffee Time franchises on probation for health violations.

"Looked at in light of all this," says Whitney, "the arrival of Tim Hortons to our neighbourhood is a sign of things changing."

Other residents agree Brockton Triangle is a community in transition.

Though the neighbourhood remains raw and unpretentious, qualities that attracted Jose Ortega to live and open the Latin and jazz club Lula Lounge in Brockton, he says the area has changed more this year than in the last eight. Mechanic shops and men's sports bars share a strip with newly arrived art galleries and specialty stores. Condos are soon to be built close to community housing.

Young families and artists are moving into this once Portuguese and Brazilian dominated neighbourhood in larger numbers. Increasingly elusive affordable property and rent in downtown Toronto still exists here, said Sylvia Draper Fernandez, chair of the two-year-old Dundas West BIA.

A few blocks away from the Tim Hortons, Angelina Oliveira, owner of the family-run Brazil Bakery, a fixture on Dundas Street for 35 years, is a place where the old and new residents meet. Oliveira says her previously Portuguese clientele is diversifying but doesn't know if the Tim Hortons that opened about a month ago will change that.

"I see a lot of customers there but I don't know if those customers are our newer customers or not. It is hard to say at this point," said Oliveira.

In an Eye Weekly feature about the Bloordale Village area called The hipsters are coming!, the author asks if gentrification is inevitable or if diversity can survive among the art. I feel compelled to ask the same question about the changes in Brockton.

Written by guest contributor Debbie Pacheco.

Photo of vandalized Tim Hortons wall in Bloordale Village by Chow Dogger, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.

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