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Renegades recognize Schibler for doing more than his bit

By Craig Westcott/March 3, 2023

Eric Schibler looked like a hockey player as he pulled the blue, white and red jersey over his shoulders Saturday night in a ritual that made him the ninth person to be named an honourary member of the Assante CBR Junior Renegades.

Shave off a few pounds and darken up some of that gray at the temples and it would be easy enough to imagine the owner of the Tim Horton’s franchises in CBS and Holyrood as a hulking defenceman about to lay some heat on the first opposing forward daring to met him at the blueline.

And sure enough, defence was the position Schibler played growing up in North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

“I wore a few over the years,” Schibler said, laughing, when it was suggested he looked comfortable in a hockey jersey. “But I was a lot lighter then, I wasn’t carrying the weight I am now.”

The father of two – he has a son Ian at Dalhousie University and a daughter Ava at Holy Spirit –  only stopped playing hockey a few years ago.

“I used to get a few skates in a week, two or three,” he said. “I tore my groin. That’s what stopped me, and it took about two years to get over it. But I enjoyed it and I probably miss the dressing room more than I do the hockey. It’s a great sport, I love it.”

But it’s not like Schibler doesn’t have anything else to occupy his time. As the owner of three Tim Horton’s restaurants in CBS, the one in Holyrood and another in St. John’s, the big blueliner has a busy business enterprise to manage, made even busier by his many involvements in community organizations and events. But then, getting into the Tim Horton’s business, Schibler knew he would be busy.

He went to work for Tim Horton’s right out of college. Schibler had been eyeing the Tim Horton’s organization for some time.

“I ended up getting an interview with corporate, and I didn’t have any real food experience, so they told me to go get some,” Schibler recalled.

Fortunately his dad, also named Eric, who is an accountant, had helped the owner of a Tim Horton’s franchise on Cape Breton get started. So, it wasn’t too difficult for the young Schibler to get an interview.

“I basically said I’d work for free if he allowed me to learn the business, and he handed me a broom and said sweep the lot. So, I swept the lot, and I started that night baking,” Schibler said.

He spent almost a year at the store, and was paid, despite his offer to work for free.

“It was awfully nice of him to bring me through, and train me in all aspects of the business,” said Schibler, who did everything from baking donuts to decorating cakes and working the drive-thru. 

“So, I kind of learned the business from the ground up,” Schibler said. “Every time I learned something new, I’d write corporate that I now knew how to do ‘this,’ and I now knew how to do ‘that,’ and every few weeks they’d get a letter from me. I bugged them enough and they gave me a job as a district manager about a year later.”

Schibler said he was so persistent because he liked the Tim Horton’s business model and the way franchisees were so involved in their communities.

“I was interested in business,” he said. “I told my father I’d give it one year and see what happens. My plan initially was to go to law school. The one year turned into what will be 30 this July.”

As a district manager at the age of 22 or 23, Schibler got to meet all the franchisees around Atlantic Canada, which he said was invaluable, because he got to see how each of them operated. “The good stuff, you learned, but you also learned what not to do,” he said. “So, it was a good experience. I wouldn’t have traded anything for it.”

After three years with Tim’s, Schibler was head hunted by the supermarket chain IGA and accepted a position there.

“I felt that going elsewhere and then coming back in might be a good opportunity,” he said.

Schibler spent about two years in the grocery business. “But I still really wanted to come back into Tim Horton’s.”

So, he started applying for franchises.

“And we were fortunate enough to get our foot in the door and move to Newfoundland, which wasn’t a big stretch coming from North Sydney to CBS,” said Schibler.

Schibler and his wife, Kirsten, also a Tim Horton’s alumna – the pair met when they were both working for Tim’s in Nova Scotia – took over the Kenmount Road and Manuels stores on February 1, 1999.

Since moving here, Schibler and his Tim Horton’s stores are arguably the biggest corporate sponsors in the area. The company gets calls, if not daily, at least weekly, from groups looking for donations and sponsorships. With such a demand, the business has to pick its spots.

“We really try to focus on the youth in our area,” Schibler said. “You can’t do everything, but if youth are involved, we try to do our best.”

Among the higher profile sponsorships is the Tim Bit’s hockey league that is part of CBR minor Hockey, and Tim Bits Soccer, which Schibler brought to CBS 25 years ago.

“We had 80 Tim Bit players our first year and I believe there about 1,100 now,” he reckoned.

Schibler’s company supplies jerseys for all the players.

Other events that Schibler and his stores have contributed to and helped build up over the years include Pirate Day at Topsail Beach, the Soiree 8 km Road Race and the CBS Three Hour Challenge Community Cleanup. 

“The very first year we moved here, we did the free skate (at the arena) to ring in the New Year in the Town of CBS and we’ve been doing it ever since, so this will be 25 years doing that,” Schibler noted.

“I’ve got to say about Conception Bay South, of all the communities I’ve been around, the community spirit is absolutely fantastic and was the reason why I agreed to take on the chair of the (Newfoundland and Labrador) Summer Games in 2016,” he said. “You can’t get any better than the people here, so you want to give back.”

Which is the other thing about Schibler – he doesn’t only donate money and Tim Horton’s products, he also contributes his time. 

Besides the Summer Games, Schibler has been knees deep in the efforts to attract and host the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling in CBS, he is co-chair of Canada’s Great Kitchen Party, volunteers with Rotary, and Tennis NL and is a supporter of the Manuels River Centre. His induction brings him into the ranks of fellow Honourary Renegades Ford Metcalfe, Glad Duff, Mel Strong, Scott Parsons, Marg Noftle, Sandra Baggs, Bob Cole and hockey phenomenon Sarah Davis, who presented Schibler with his jersey at a ceremony last Saturday at CBS Arena ahead of a St. John’s Junior Hockey League game between the Renegades and the St. John’s Caps.

“It was nice of them to think of me,” said Schibler. “When your name is there with a number of people who have spent their lifetimes in Conception Bay South giving back to the community, it’s nice to be recognized among the other eight individuals… And I just love the sport. I played it all my life.”

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