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Soldiers at Fort Knox line up for coffee at Tim Hortons.
Soldiers at Fort Knox line up for coffee at Tim Hortons.

Retail

Tims breaks into Fort Knox Add to ...

It's home to 147.3 million ounces of gold and once stored the Magna Carta, the United States Constitution and three volumes of the Gutenberg Bible. Now Fort Knox can claim another holding - Tim Hortons.

Building on its ambitious expansion in the U.S., the Canadian coffee giant opened a restaurant at Fort Knox, or at least on the military base adjacent to the famed bullion depository since no visitors are allowed inside the massive vault in southern Kentucky.

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"It's kind of an interesting one," said Dave Clanachan, the company's chief operations officer for the U.S. and abroad. "Fort Knox is an iconic military base in the United States."

The Fort Knox coffee shop is the first for Tim Hortons on a U.S. military base.

Mr. Clanachan said the company spent about six months working with Army and Air Force Exchange Services, or AAFES, a Dallas-based agency that supplies U.S. military facilities around the world. "Their people had seen us in Kandahar," he said, referring to the Tim Hortons restaurant on the Canadian base in Afghanistan.

Tim Hortons now has more than 500 stores in the United States.

The company made a splashy foray into the hotly competitive New York City market this summer.

The military base outlets fit with Tim Hortons' strategy of expanding into more non-traditional locations such as hotels, grocery stores, universities and sports stadiums. The Tim Hortons brand isn't nearly as well known outside Canada as it is here, so the company is hoping the alignment with other venues will win over new customers.

Tim Hortons recently struck deals with the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association and Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.

It is also opening self-serve kiosks in about 300 Spar convenience stores in Britain and Ireland.

Opening a shop at the U.S. military base is "a great way to put our brand in front of people," Mr. Clanachan said.

Aside from being next to one of the world's biggest gold depositories, the Fort Knox base has about 30,000 personnel and is a main centre for tank and armoured vehicle training. It's also home to a museum dedicated to General George Patton.

Mr. Clanachan said the company hopes this will lead to further work with the U.S. military.

"The opportunities are there, it's just how they pop up and when they come up," he said.

AAFES has more than $10-billion (U.S.) in annual revenue and is responsible for providing a range of merchandise and services to U.S. military stations.

It operates nearly 200 stores and oversees 1,300 fast-food restaurants, including several Taco Bell and Burger King franchises.

Mr. Clanachan said he's been to Fort Knox to see the restaurant in operation.

But he didn't get to the gold bullion depository. It opened in 1937 and has been used to store gold and other precious artifacts such as the Magna Carta, which was kept in the vault during the Second World War.

"They don't really point it out," Mr. Clanachan said. They don't have a "big finger or arrow that says 'This way to all our gold.'"

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