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11 Very Canadian Facts About Tim Hortons

The 50-year-old coffee-and-doughnut chain is now an international business, but it’s still Canadian at heart.

1. BEFORE DOUGHNUTS, TIM HORTON SOLD BURGERS.

It was Jim Charade, a man often forgotten in the history of Canada’s favorite fast casual chain, who first convinced four-time Stanley Cup-winning hockey star Tim Horton to get into the restaurant business. Charade had been trying to open a successful coffee and doughnut shop for years with no luck, but he thought that a celebrity name might be just the boost the business needed. Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs star was more interested in burgers than doughnuts. So they formed Timandjim Ltd. and opened a burger and hot dog joint in North Bay, Ontario.

2. THE ORIGINAL DOUGHNUT SHOP MENU WAS SUPER SIMPLE.

Hamburgers didn’t sell as well as Horton had hoped, so in April 1964, he and Charade opened the first of the Tim Hortons that we know today on the site of an old Esso gas station in Hamilton, Ontario. They sold 69-cent doughnuts and 10-cent cups of coffee, and there were only two different doughnut flavors to choose from: Apple Fritter and Dutchie.

3. THE REAL TIM HORTON DIED 10 YEARS INTO THE CHAIN’S EXISTENCE.

Very early in the morning on February 21, 1974, 44-year-old Horton died in a single-vehicle crash, just hours after playing a losing hockey game. Charade had already been replaced in the doughnut chain—which by then was the third largest chain in Canada—by a man named Ron Joyce. The year after Horton’s death, Joyce paid Horton's family $1 million for their share of the company.

4. THE MISSING APOSTROPHE IS PART OF CANADIAN CULTURE.

Tim Hortons was originally Tim Horton’s—as it seemingly should be. After all, the name refers to a doughnut and coffee shop owned (at least formerly) by Tim Horton and not a gathering of many Tim Hortons. But in 1977, after years of tense and sometimes violent demonstrations by pro-French Quebecers, the newly powerful Parti Québecois passed La charte de la langue française, or Bill 101, which made French the sole official language in Quebec. It became illegal for businesses to advertise English names at the risk of facing large fines; the apostrophe in Tim Horton’s is an exclusively English punctuation mark. So rather than adopt separate branding—on everything from signage to napkins—the company changed their name, worldwide, to Tim Hortons.

5. THE CLASSIC ORDER IS NOW IN THE DICTIONARY.

At Tim Hortons, you’re supposed to order a “double-double”—coffee with two creams and two sugars. Although foreigners don’t always get it right (when she visited Canada in 2006, local news outlets noted that then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered her coffee black with sweetener), the specific order has been enshrined in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. In 2004, “double-double” was among 5000 new words added to the COD.

"We had to determine if it was used only in Tim Hortons doughnut shops or more widely," Katherine Barber, the book's editor-in-chief, said in a statement at the time. "We found evidence in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and the book Men with Brooms, based on the curling movie." The dictionary's researchers also eavesdropped on patrons in the coffee shops to see if they used the term when ordering.

6. TIM HORTONS DOMINATES THE COFFEE, PASTRY, AND FAST FOOD MARKET IN CANADA.

It’s easy to see why Tim Hortons is considered such a staple of Canadian culture—the chain represents 76 percent of the baked goods and coffee market in the country and almost a quarter of all fast food.

7. TIM HORTONS HAS PARTNERED WITH WENDY’S, COLD STONE, AND BURGER KING.

For a company that is quintessentially Canadian, Tim Hortons has had a number of high-profile American mergers. In 1995, Wendy’s purchased Tim Hortons for $425 million, with Tim Hortons CEO Joyce actually becoming the majority shareholder in Wendy’s during the two companies' time together. But 11 years later, Tim Hortons went public and eventually spun off on its own again. In 2009, Tim Hortons partnered with Cold Stone to develop a number of “co-branded” stores that would take advantage of the two chains’ opposing schedules and seasons in order to share operations and real estate costs. But in 2014, Tim Hortons announced that would it begin rolling back relations with Cold Stone; later that year, news broke of another major American merger when Burger King announced its intent to purchase Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion. Although critics have complained that Burger King is motivated by tax breaks and Canadians are concerned that the American burger behemoth will compromise their favorite brand, the deal has since moved forward.

8. HOCKEY IS STILL A BIG PART OF TIM HORTONS.

Unfortunately, Tim Horton himself didn’t live to see how big his namesake restaurant would grow to be—that is, well over 4000 locations—but hockey is still a huge part of the brand. When the company celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, former Horton teammates Johnny Bower and Ron Ellis, as well as retired players Darcy Tucker and Wendel Clark, were on hand for the festivities. And current NHL stars like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon appear in Tim Hortons promotions.

9. TIM HORTONS ONCE MADE RYAN GOSLING HIS OWN PERSONALIZED MUG.

While promoting Gangster Squad in 2013, everyone's favorite Canadian said that he’d always sort of longed for a movie tie-in similar to Burger King's Dick Tracy soda cups. The interviewer at Tribute.ca suggested (presciently) that Tim Hortons might be a suitable substitute. And so, Tim Hortons went and made Gosling his own mug

But—despite oodles of requests from fans of coffee and boyishly handsome actors—the mug was a one-off.

10. THERE’S A TIM HORTONS MUSEUM.

As part of the chain’s 50th anniversary, the original Tim Hortons location in Hamilton opened a commemorative museum dedicated to the company’s history, featuring retro memorabilia.

11. CANADA CONSIDERS TIM HORTONS TO BE CENTRAL TO ITS NATIONAL IDENTITY.

Plenty has been written about how Tim Hortons has influenced Canadian culture. There’s a book called Timbit Nation, and also a disparaging thinkpiece that adds a question mark to that phrase. There’s a 2014 thesis entitled "Canadian Patriotism and the Timbit: A Rhetorical Analysis of Tim Horton's Inc.'s Canadian Connection through the Application of Semiotics" and two books about how the doughnut is quintessentially Canadian (even though the doughy dessert didn’t originate there) that chalk it all up to Tim Hortons. When Tim Hortons went public in 2006, Adrian Mastracci, president of KCM Wealth Management in Vancouver, described the desire to invest as “a show of patriotism.”

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers
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For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $9.1 billion this year on spooky goods, including a record $3.4 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, CEO of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a costume doesn’t always work.

1. SOME COSTUMES ARE JUST TOO OUTRAGEOUS FOR RETAIL

A woman models a scary nun costume for Halloween
iStock

For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … BUT THERE ARE SOME LINES THEY WON’T CROSS.

Homeowners are scared by trick-or-treaters on Halloween
iStock

Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta, a business that broke into the industry on the strength of their fake dreadlock wig in 1992. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. THEY CAN DESIGN AND PRODUCE A COSTUME IN A MATTER OF DAYS.

A man models a costume in front of a mirror
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. BEYONCE CAN HELP MOVE STALE INVENTORY.

A screen shot from Formation, a music video featuring Beyonce
beyonceVEVO, YouTube

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “Last year, we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. WOMEN DON’T USUALLY WEAR MASKS.

A man tries on a Joker mask at a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage last year.

6. FOOD COSTUMES ARE ALWAYS A HIT.

A dog wears a hot dog costume for Halloween
iStock

At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.” Demand for these faux-edible costumes can occasionally get ugly: Rasta is currently suing Sears and Kmart for selling a banana costume that they allege infringes on Rasta’s copyrighted version, which has blackened ends and a vertical stripe.

7. ADDING ”SEXY” TO EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

A packaged Halloween costume hangs on a store rack
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. PEOPLE ASK FOR SOME WEIRD STUFF.

A person appears in a skull costume with glowing eyes for Halloween
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. THEY HAVE WORKAROUNDS FOR BIG PROPERTIES.

Go out to a party this year and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. PEOPLE LOVE SHARKS.

Singer Katy Perry appears on stage with two dancing sharks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. DEAD CELEBRITIES MEAN SALES.

A portrait of Hugh Hefner hangs in the Playboy Mansion
Hector Mata/Getty Images

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

12. THEY PROFIT FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING AT THE LAST MINUTE.

A man shops for Halloween costumes in a retail store
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A SEASONAL BUSINESS.

A woman shops for costumes in a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.” Weeks says he'll begin planning in May 2018—for Halloween 2019.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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