It was an iconic space for an iconic brand. The former trading floor and offices of the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) gave the building at 130 King St. W. in Toronto its name: Exchange Tower.
But with the trading floor long closed and the TSX moving its operations elsewhere in Toronto’s financial district, Exchange Tower landlord Brookfield Properties put the TSX’s 65,000 square feet on the market in the spring of 2018. That was just as Tim Hortons Inc. was in the midst of planning to move its headquarters to downtown Toronto from suburban Oakville.
The confluence of interests brought landlord Brookfield Properties and Tim Hortons together like coffee and crullers. Tims signed a lease last April and launched an aggressive timetable to put its own brand on the space.
“We wanted to be closer to the downtown talent pool and closer to the fast-changing customer base. People are relating to food differently and we wanted to be in the middle of where trends are set,” explains Alex Macedo, president of Tim Hortons, the café giant launched in 1964 by the professional hockey player of the same name.
Another attraction was easy access: It’s near the subway and a few minutes’ walk from Union Station, Toronto’s hub of commuter and local transit travel.
The timeline was a big challenge. To minimize the disruption, the move was set to happen during the Christmas holidays. That meant less than eight months from the start of design work to “it’s time for Tims.”
The carpeting and drop ceilings had been stripped out, but the space was like a step back in time with its formal offices and the big trading area that had a raised floor for all the cabling needed for computers and display panels around the room, says Steven Burgos, Miami-based senior interior designer for Gensler. He was the designer and director of the collaboration between the Miami and Toronto offices of the international architecture and planning firm.
One of the few features that was kept from the TSX layout was a staircase connecting the trading floor in the podium of the building to additional office space in the tower above. The TSX became the largest stock exchange in North America to shift to an electronic, virtual trading environment. The trading floor closed in 1997, but its head office remained in the Brookfield Properties-managed space in the Exchange Tower until it moved to Oxford Properties’ EY Tower at 100 Adelaide St. W. in February of 2018, explains Catherine Kee, manager of corporate communications for TMX Group, which owns the Toronto, Montreal and other stock exchanges.
The long rectangular shape of the open former trading floor was reminiscent of a hockey rink and that inspired a plan to put office areas at each end and turn what would be the neutral zone into open collaboration space, Mr. Macedo says. At the equivalent of the centre-ice faceoff circle is a test kitchen to develop potential new products, tweak recipes and test new equipment. “Putting that in the centre makes it very visible and links the team to the product they’re selling.”
The designers consulted with the Tims branding team about features to incorporate in the décor. Given the industrial feel of the open ceiling and piping, walls were warmed with a palette of red, bronze and wood tones and maple or brick trim elements. Canadian maple tables and wood seating and mission statements are prominent. “It’s a strong connection to the brand and it serves as a showcase for visitors and vendors to emphasize that we stand behind our product,” Mr. Macedo says.
“We wanted to pay homage to Tim Horton, and in the waiting area there’s a wall with a history of him as a player, as well as a No. 7 game jersey from his days as a Toronto Maple Leaf,” he adds.
There are 21 coffee stations around the office, some featuring the menu boards that are familiar to any fan of Timbits and double doubles. On the wall of the centre café, the large letters that spell out the motto Always Fresh are filled with coffee beans. A number of private rooms for phone conversations and conference areas are named for items on a Tims menu, such as Timbits, Apple Fritter and Boston Cream.
In the kitchen, the counters are covered with every piece of equipment found in the restaurants as well as potential new models being tested. There’s a team of 15 pastry and beverage chefs who test new processes and recipes. One of their recent innovations was a coating, with no artificial ingredients or flavouring, for the chicken strips that were recently added to the menu.
The team is always testing something new, baking small batches for the staff and professional tasters to sample, Mr. Macedo says. A popular flavour disappears in a hurry – and that could mean the red velvet doughnuts baking in the innovation kitchen ovens today may be coming soon to stores.
The office spaces are all open-concept, with executives sitting at desks that are similar to all the others in the marketing area. “It’s nothing fancy, but it’s very productive,” Mr. Macedo says. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Tims mugs on desks. But there are no “Roll up the rim to win” cups, because the company is working to scale back the amount of paper used in the office, he adds.
Building the test kitchen posed multiple challenges, not the least of which was inserting a big exhaust hood. It didn’t fit in any elevator in the building, so it had to be hoisted up three storeys from the outside and through a window, Mr. Burgos says. Another feat was routing the vent ductwork out of the building. “The raised floor of the old trading floor worked to our advantage, because the ducts could be run beneath the floor rather than having to run them across the ceiling.”
In the construction process, landlord Brookfield helped to schedule work. Noise would be an issue during work hours in the building that has many other tenants, so a lot of the heavy construction had to be done after office hours, early mornings and on weekends. “We set up a planning process where all the products we were installing were preapproved, so there would be no last-minute changes,” Mr. Burgos says.
All the construction had to be done and the space ready to move into in 10 weeks, which is extremely aggressive for a buildout of this size, he adds. “It’s almost unheard of, but with careful scheduling and co-ordination with contractors it landed on schedule in November and – for the most part – on budget.”
Year the first Tim Hortons opened in Hamilton.
Price of a coffee in 1964.
Approximate number of Tims restaurants worldwide, including Canada, United States, Mexico, the Philippines, the Middle East and, as of last week, China.
Cups of coffee sold every year.
More than 75,000
Number of cups of coffee tasted by coffee masters every year.
1 in 6
Odds of winning a food or beverage prize in the annual “Roll up the Rim to Win” contest.
More than 40 million
Number of prizes in the 2019 “Roll up the Rim to Win” contest.