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20 Comments

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.

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.

Comments

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    +1 brilliant headline.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      “Ed”-line, surely.

  • OgtheDim

    The guy leaning against the poll while the fire is gong on about 60 feet away.

    That is sooo Toronto.

    • dsmithhfx

      He’s waiting for a bus.

      “On June 18, 1962, up to 20 sticks of dynamite were set off by a bomber at the rear of the store. Police believed it was connected to similar explosions at apartment buildings around Metro Toronto.” WTF? What was that about?

  • anonanon

    if you would like support designating honest ed’s as a heritage building please sign the petition here ! http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/save-honest-ed-s

    • HotDang

      The sign is apparently too damaged to save. You’ll have to focus your efforts on saving another eyesore.

      • anonanon

        well hot diggity dog i read that article as well but regardless of its fragile state we feel that it is so beloved that it could be restored and preserved if the city was behind it. sorry that it makes your eyes sore but it actually has the opposite effect on most torontonians – it makes our eyes feel GREAT !

        • HotDang

          Then your eyes are idiots.

          • M. Arthur Douglas Daley

            because a glass tower with a winners in the bottom would be soooo much more pleasing of course….

          • HotDang

            No, it would be exactly the same.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      The building isn’t worth keeping, it’s a mess, but I’d support saving one of the marquee signs.

      • anonanon

        agreed that the interior is probably not salvagable … but those lights are a priceless landmark that belong on that corner!

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          Unfortunately the petition specifies the building rather than the sign/lights.

      • M. Arthur Douglas Daley

        i think the surrounding neighbourhood is what’s most important…

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          I’m not sure I get your meaning. Keeping Ed’s there won’t stop the condos from coming to the Annex

          • M. Arthur Douglas Daley

            it’s not just ed’s that’s on the chopping block, but the whole of mirvish village. even though it’s a bit faded and could use a new coat of paint, just selling everything off is a waste and will destroy the character of the neighbourhood. great stores and restaurants will get pushed out for more chain store garbage and further turn this city into an urban version of Brampton.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Ah, the immediate surrounding neighbourhood.

  • anonanon

    this is not adam vaughn’s riding, its mike laytons

  • mjennings

    Thanks for telling us how to feel about a local institution in our city, and where did you say you are from?