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Olivia Chow for Mayor

Toronto can do better. This is how.

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cityscape

Honest Ed’s Building Has Been Sold, But His “Storeys” Live On

A look back at the Bloor and Bathurst retail landmark's colourful, pun-filled history.

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Our Building is a dump!
Our Service is rotten!
Our Fixtures are orange crates!
But!!!
Our Prices are the lowest in town!
Serve yourself and save a lot of money!

With that enticing bit of advertising, Ed Mirvish welcomed shoppers to his bargain house at Bloor and Markham Streets when it opened 65 years ago. Thousands of corny jokes later, the curtain is likely coming down on Honest Ed’s, with the announcement that the ramshackle collection of buildings cobbled together from houses and storefronts has been sold to a Vancouver-based developer.

Honest Ed’s lineage can be traced to Sport Bar, a women’s sportswear shop Mirvish and his wife Anne opened in a 15-foot-wide space on Bloor near Markham soon after they married in 1940. The shop slowly took over neighbouring storefronts, changing its name to Anne and Eddie’s within a few years. Mirvish soon tired of selling ladieswear and bought the entire leftover stock from a burned-out Woolworth’s in Hamilton. In 1948 he converted the store into what quickly became a busy discount retailer.

In part because of crazy marketing gimmicks and cheesy advertising, Honest Ed’s became a community icon. It was a store that catered to those on tight budgets. It welcomed immigrants, even offering a consultant to help newcomers. Its daily opening doorcrashers provided a social outing for diehard bargain seekers. To this day, its walls are a gallery of publicity shots of entertainers ranging from icons to the long forgotten.

Who couldn’t use a one-stop shop for groceries, housewares, clothing, and Elvis busts?

Honest Ed’s might be going! But its history is anything but boring! Take a look at our gallery of archival images, you lucky people.

Additional material from Honest Ed’s Story by Jack Batten (Toronto: Doubleday, 1972), How To Build An Empire On An Orange Crate or 121 Lessons I Never Learned In School by Ed Mirvish (Toronto: Key Porter, 1993), the February 20, 1958, February 21, 1958, June 19, 1962, October 10, 1984, and July 14, 2007 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the February 22, 1984 edition of the Toronto Star.


UPDATE, OCTOBER 27, 2013: We first published this article when Honest Ed’s went on the market; today the Globe confirmed that it had been sold, and we’ve updated the headline above to reflect that.

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