(Feb. 8/19) It is with great sorrow that Restaurants Canada and the foodservice industry say goodbye to Ron Joyce, a legendary Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, who died on Jan. 31 at the age of 88, peacefully in his home in Burlington, Ont., with his loved ones by his side.
Joyce was born in Tatamagouche, N.S. in 1930. His father was killed in a road accident when he was only three years old and while his mother was still pregnant with a third child. Widowed at the age of 23, she raised Joyce and his two siblings in a three-room house with no running water, electricity or insulation. At the age of 15, Joyce boarded a train to Hamilton, Ont. with $35 in his pocket in search of employment. He worked several industrial odd jobs through the late 1940s, then completed a five-year tour as a wireless operator with the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1956 he returned to Hamilton and joined the police force. But his $5,000 annual police salary was not enough and he was always on the hunt for secondary jobs.
Then a friend who had a Dairy Queen franchise suggested he get into the business. And so, in 1963, Joyce purchased his own franchise in Hamilton. But when Dairy Queen turned down his request to open a second location — he was undercapitalized — he set his sights on a new local coffee and doughnut store owned by Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Tim Horton. With a $10,000 loan from a credit union, Joyce quit his policing job and teamed up with the hockey player.
He eventually became a full business partner, and after the coffee chain’s namesake died in a car crash in 1974, Joyce took full control of the business, overseeing its growth from the first Tim Hortons location in Hamilton to an empire of 1,000 franchises by the mid-1990s. There are now more than 4,500 Tim Hortons locations worldwide, including 3,600 in Canada.
Joyce dedicated much of his life to philanthropy. Following the death of his business partner, he started the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation in 1975 to send children from low-income families to summer camp in his honour — a legacy that still continues. One day a year, 100 per cent of proceeds from coffee sold at Tim Hortons locations goes to funding the foundation’s seven camps, which include one in the United States and one in Joyce’s hometown.
Joyce was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1992 for his work with youth. He also formed the Joyce Family Foundation, which aims to make education more accessible through scholarships and bursaries.
Joyce will be remembered as the force that transformed coffee and doughnuts from a hockey player’s small Hamilton shop into an iconic everyday staple of Canadian diets. He will also be remembered for his notable philanthropic contributions to health care, education and community betterment.
“We have lost a foodservice icon. Joyce’s was a Canadian success story like no other. He loved what he did, believed in working hard, and had a vision that made its way into the hearts and minds of Canadians everywhere. Whether I’m ordering a double-double, or participating in one of the many philanthropic initiatives that he started, I will always remember how Joyce believed in serving communities and investing in youth. His generous spirit has had an impact that will continue to nurture the future of foodservice and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.”
President and CEO, Restaurants Canada