Honest Ed's was a landmark discount store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was named for its proprietor, Ed Mirvish, who opened the store in 1948 and oversaw its operations for almost 60 years until his death in 2007. The store continued to operate until it permanently closed on December 31, 2016.
|Fate||Lost foothold to online retailers|
|Defunct||December 31, 2016|
|Headquarters||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
Honest Ed's was located at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets, extended the full length of the block west to Markham Street. The exterior was covered with huge red and yellow signs advertising the store's name, lit up like a theatre marquee. The store sign used 23,000 light bulbs. The outside facade was covered with puns and slogans such as "Come in and get lost!" and "Only the floors are crooked!"
The store consisted of two buildings connected by a walkway that links up the west building on Markham Street and the east building on Bathurst Street. The interior was modest, with simple displays of low-priced merchandise from vacuum cleaners and winter coats to kitchenware, toys and grocery items. Much of the store's decor consisted of posters and photos from old films and stage productions from Mirvish's theatres in Toronto and London, England, and of actors and musicians who performed in them (many inscribed to Ed Mirvish). Every piece of store signage was hand-painted.
The new owners have demolished the structure as of March 2018 and intend to redevelop the 1.8 hectares (4.4 acres) of land; which also includes Mirvish Village and a stretch of retail buildings south of the Honest Ed building on Bathurst Street running down to Lennox Street, which were rented out by the Mirvishes to local businesses.
Ed and Anne Mirvish opened "The Sport's Bar", a women's clothing store, near Bloor and Bathurst Streets in 1943 renting a property that was five metres wide. The store proved popular. In 1946, the Mirvishes expanded after acquiring several buildings along Bloor, renaming the store "Anne & Eddie's". After a further expansion, Mirvish re-established the store as "Honest Ed's Bargain House" in 1948, adding general household goods to the inventory. In 1952, the Mirvishes acquired their first property on Markham Street, behind the store and eventually acquired several more homes on the street with the intent of building a parking lot. Instead, this evolved into the Mirvish Village neighbourhood in the 1960s after the city turned down the store's application to raze the buildings and Anne Mirvish persuaded her husband to rent the houses out to artists. In 1958, "Honest Ed's" expanded west to Markham Street to encompass 6,000 square feet and in 1984, the Honest Ed's annex building was completed expanding the store east to Bathurst Street.
The main building was at 581 Bloor Street West and the annex at 760 Bloor Street West with the two connected by a walkway crossing Honest Ed Alley.
Honest Ed's gained fame for its marketing stunts, including loss leader specials. By 1968 the store was grossing $14 million annually. Mirvish's annual turkey giveaway before Christmas always received media attention; this annual event continued even after his death, until the Christmas season of 2015. Mirvish also threw birthday parties for himself from 1988 until his death, continued since then as anniversary parties for the store itself. At the street parties, there were free cakes, meals, hot dogs, candy, and giveaways. Crowds of Torontonians turned up with their children, and stood in long lines to receive these handouts. The event was accompanied by live bands and balloons.
Sale of property, closure, and redevelopment
Until 1990, the store's business had grown, but then started to decline about four years before Walmart entered Canada in 1994. Besides big-box stores, other impacts on Honest Ed's business were internet shopping, the gentrification of downtown and the dispersion of the working and immigrant class to the inner suburbs of Toronto. Although the store never had a loss, its staff dwindled from 400 to 75 over the years.
Another factor in the store's closure was David Mirvish did not have his father's enthusiasm for the store, preferring the family theatre business. David Mirvish said: Retail "wasn’t where my heart was. In the end, I would have had to decide that’s where we should have put our resources and grow. And I had other opportunities in fields I understood better."
The site's redevelopment is expected to affect a number of businesses that lease space within the Honest Ed's building, and a number of standalone businesses on Bathurst Street adjoining the Honest Ed's building running south to Lennox, south of Honest Ed's, and in Mirvish Village which are under the same property ownership. The property's sale to Vancouver-based Westbank Properties, a luxury developer of hotels, residences and office space, was announced in October 2013, but David Mirvish announced he would rent the property from Westbank for two to three years, during which time Honest Ed's and the Mirvish Village businesses would continue to operate until the developer decided what to do with the 1.8 hectare parcel of land.
On September 13, 2014, The Globe & Mail reported the formation of a redevelopment team for the property that includes the design lead Gregory Henriquez of Vancouver's Henriquez Partners Architects, supported by DSA Architects, ERA Heritage Architects, Janet Rosenberg + Studio, Reshape Strategies, and Urban Strategies Planning The redeveloped property is to be subdivided into zones with residential rental towers, retail storefronts, new pedestrian lanes, and a woonerf on Markham Street. According to Urban Toronto, the iconic Honest Ed's sign will not be part of the site redevelopment. The proposed redevelopment includes 1,000 rental apartments, a permanent public market; and retail space largely divided into small units that mimic the scale of storefronts on Bloor Street.
The Honest Ed's retail store closed on December 31, 2016 and the remaining stores in Mirvish Village (Markham Street) and on properties formerly owned by Mirivish on Bathurst Street south of Honest Ed's closed by January 31, 2017.
The iconic Honest Ed's sign was dismantled and removed from the building on May 23, 2017 and is to be restored and installed above the Victoria Street entrance of the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
The store has appeared in several films and television shows shot in Toronto. For example, Honest Ed's was featured in the film The Long Kiss Goodnight, and can be seen in several background scenes in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World when Scott and his friends are dining at Pizza Pizza across the street from the store.
One of the fight sequences in the third volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim comic book series takes place at Honest Ed's, with the characters suffering sensory overload due to the incredible amounts of merchandise. The store implodes after Scott's rival Todd breaks an agreement not to use his psychic powers.
From February to March 2009, the store hosted "Honest Threads", an interactive artwork by installation artist Iris Häussler, curated by Mona Filip of the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Häussler installed a boutique of clothes lent by Torontonians, each associated with a personal story. Visitors were able to borrow the garments for a few days and wear them, experiencing both literally and psychologically what it is like to "walk in someone else’s shoes." This synthesis of conceptual art and commercial space was well received and reviewed widely on a national and local level and in numerous blogs. In November 2013, the Koffler Centre of the Arts produced 'Honesty', a site-specific play by playwright/director Jordan Tannahill in which performer Virgilia Griffith embodied seven real employees of the store.
Honest Ed's was referenced by the character Zazu in the Toronto stage production of The Lion King, where a brightly coloured, patterned stage curtain is described by the character as "a shower curtain from Honest Ed's".
Honest Ed's was featured as the setting for the music video "Wide Open" by Toronto singer Jenny Mayhem. In the video Jenny plays a daydreaming Honest Ed's employee, who fantasizes about being a star. The video was directed by Ace Billet and was shot in Honest Ed's and in other locations around Mirvish Village.
Honest Ed's is featured prominently in an episode of the Viceland series Nirvanna the Band the Show, where the main characters Matt and Jay look for a Christmas tree to decorate their Christmas float with.
Ed and Anne Mirvish Parkette, within the streetcar loop at Bathurst subway station, has a plaque erected in 2008 to honour the founders of Honest Ed's mentioning the two popular annual store events: Ed's birthday party and the turkey giveaway.
On November 1, 2016, the Toronto Transit Commission created a temporary display at Bathurst Station as a tribute to Honest Ed's. The display included hand-painted signs in the Honest Ed style including the corny puns. At the concourse level, there were photos and store memorabilia. On the subway platform walls there were signs providing facts about Honest Ed’s. The commemorative display was removed after the final closing of Honest Ed's on December 31, 2016.
The TTC later installed a permanent tribute to Honest Ed's on the concourse level of Bathurst Station consisting of five vertical panels with images memorabilia associated with the former department store.
A portion of the iconic Honest Ed's sign is to be restored and moved to the Ed Mirvish Theatre at Yonge and Dundas.
A four day long goodbye party was held in the building from February 22 to 27, 2017 as a fundraiser for the Centre for Social Innovation. The celebrations included dance performances, music, installations, film, live sign painting by the original Honest Ed’s sign painter, Douglas Kerr, speakers and panel discussions on the cultural and social signifiance of Honest Ed's, and an art maze.
- City TV News "Think You Know Mirvish? Some Honest Ed Facts That May Surprise You" 11 July 2007 (Accessed 15 September 2007)
- "Redevelopment of Honest Ed's in Toronto holds several surprises". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- Simcoe, Luke (30 December 2016). "A timeline of Honest Ed's, a Toronto landmark since 1943". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "A timeline of Honest Ed's, a Toronto landmark since 1943 - Toronto Star". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-08-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "David Mirvish looks back at all those Honest Ed’s memories". Toronto Star, Francine Kopun, Dec. 10, 2016
- Goffin, Peter. "Last call for Honest Ed's annual turkey giveaway". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Barbara Myrvold (28 December 2017). "Farewell to Honest Ed's, 1948 to 2016". Toronto Public Library. Toronto Public Library. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
free hot dogs, cake and candy at the annual public birthday parties
- John Allemang, "Toronto's Honest Ed's gets tossed into the bargain bin of history", The Globe and Mail, 16 July 2013.
- Mariana Ionova (July 21, 2013). "Honest Ed's marks 65th year with bargains and nostalgia". Toronto Star.
- Eric Andrew-Gee (December 30, 2016). "Honest Ed's (1948-2016)". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
- "Honest Ed's site sold to Vancouver developer". Toronto Star. October 27, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
- "Westbank Proposes Fully Rethought Mirvish Village Redevelopment". Urban Toronto, March 4, 2015 by Craig White
- Beeston, Laura (December 30, 2016). "Honest Ed's last day is Saturday — 'We just came to say goodbye'". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- "Honest Ed's sign to get a new home over Mirvish theatre | The Star". thestar.com.
- Koffler Gallery page on the "Honest Threads" project Archived 2009-02-14 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 12 April 2009
- The National Post: Second Hand stories, 24 January 2009
- The Torontoist: Honest Ed Was No Artist, but He Sure Can Draw a Crowd, 10 March 2009
- Koffler Centre of the Art's Programs & Events Page - Honest, accessed 15 January 2014
- "Ed and Anne Mirvish Parkette". TorontoHistory.Org. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
- "TTC's Bathurst Station pays tribute to Honest Ed's". Toronto Transit Commission. November 1, 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
- Brad Ross (TTC) (November 1, 2016). "TTC honours Honest Ed's with iconic sign installation at Bathurst Station". CityNews & Twitter. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
[From a tweet:] Brad Ross @bradTTC: For all those asking about making this tribute permanent, an installation at Bathurst Stn. is being developed! #HonestEds #TTC
- "Honest Ed tribute at Bathurst Station". February 6, 2017.
[Question to AskTTC@ttc.ca:] After the removal of the temporary display in tribute to Honest Ed's at Bathurst Station, I noticed that five panels from the tribute are still displayed on the mezzanine level in a passage leading to the streetcar/bus platforms. Are these five panels now a permanent tribute to Honest Ed's? [Answer from AskTTC@ttc.ca:] Yes, they are a permanent tribute. Thanks for asking.Missing or empty
- Wilson, Codi (8 February 2017). "Honest Ed's sign will be moved to Ed Mirvish Theatre". CTV News.
- "Here's how Toronto said farewell to Honest Ed's - Toronto Star". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "Farewell bash at Honest Ed's a party for everyone - Toronto Star". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Honest Ed's.|
- Mirvish Village BIA
- Jenny Mayhem "Wide Open" music video
- Luke Simcoe (December 30, 2016). "A timeline of Honest Ed's, a Toronto landmark since 1943". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2016-12-30.