Tim Horton's brings a mild brand to the wild Big Apple

First it was Canadian bacon. Then came Celine Dion. Then it was Jim Carrey and Pamela Anderson. And Canada's invasion of the U.S. has reached full tilt with coffee and doughnuts. Tim Hortons Inc. (THI), unsatisfied with holding 70 percent of the Canadian coffee market, has now breached New York.

Fourteen percent of Tim Hortons stores are south of the Canadian border, but this weekend the chain began opening its 12 shops in the Big Apple. Nine opened Monday in Manhattan, including stores on Broadway, in Penn Station and in Times Square. Two stores will open in Brooklyn, and three more will open next month. Judging from the New York Times's five (!) articles in recent days, New Yorkers are excited (or at least New York Times editors, at any rate).
It's no wonder that when Tim Horton, an NHL hall-of-famer who helped win four Stanley Cups for the Toronto Maple Leafs, found success when he opened his first doughnut and coffee shop in 1964. Nearly 3,500 stores bear his name today. Clearly, the company views invading the New York market with its very mild baked goods, very mild sandwiches, very mild soups, and very mild coffee as an important score.

But will savvy New Yorkers go for it? Timmies, as Canucks affectionately nicknamed it, caters to mild-mannered inhabitants of a mild-mannered country. While it faces competition from Starbucks (SBUX) and Dunkin Donuts, its new stores are located in high-traffic tourist areas. And with coffee and donuts a cheap thrill, New York may become the front lines for the latest skirmish brewing in the coffee wars.

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