Wednesday, July 11, 2007

RIP Honest Ed Mirvish

Honest Ed died this morning at 92. He was one of Toronto's most famous characters, a showman and a retailer. He's on the left in this photo.

honest ed and mr. t, originally uploaded by mdintoronto.

He was the founder and proprietor of the famed Honest Ed's Bargain Emporium at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor in the annex.

The store is huge and intentionally gaudy and silly. It has huge signs and many lights. Many people think it's an eyesore. I think it's kind of cool.

Honest Ed's, originally uploaded by

Honest Ed grew up in a retail family. He started out in a grocery store on Dundas Street, then had a business selling women's dresses. But women's dresses were kind of a pain to sell. If you don't stock exactly the right styles and sizes you will have merchandise left over, and it's time intensive to wait on customers. So Ed decided to get into the closeout business. It's much easier to just open a box of stuff and have people serve themselves than it is to sell clothing. Though now Honest Ed's sells clothing too.

Pants , belts & a beautiful handcarved chinese mirror, originally uploaded by gin-star.

The Chinese Antiques are from a Chinese restaurant he used to own. I love that you can buy cheap clothing in bins and amazing antiques in the same room.

He also owns many theatres, and theatrical photos and memorabilia lavishly decorate his store. He owned Honest Ed's before he owned the theatres. He never actually set out to be a theatrical magnate - he bought his first theatre, the Princess of Wales, because it was such a bargain he couldn't pass it up.

Honest Ed's is the sort of place where you never know what you will find. It's a good place to buy Toronto souvenirs, dishes, seasonal items, kitchen stuff, small appliances, hardware and tacky home decor items like gilded busts of Elvis.

Elvis... in good humour, originally uploaded by iamterris.

Honest Ed threw a birthday party for himself each year. He would have been 93 in just a few weeks.

I learned all this about Honest Ed by reading his biography

How to build an Empire in an Orange Crate, or 121 Lessons I Never Learned in School. It seems to be out of print, I had checked it out of the Toronto Public Library.

You can find out more about him at Honest Ed's Web Page

Honest Ed's Obituary

Good bye Honest Ed, you made Toronto a little more fun.

honest-eds-23.jpg, originally uploaded by Monstro Wolfhard.

honest-eds-24.jpg, originally uploaded by Monstro Wolfhard.

1 comment:

Marcella said...

Your pictures make me feel nostalgic for the best city I ever lived in. I met Ed Mirvish, and one of his sons who owned an art gallery back in the late sixties and early seventies. I have so many happy memories of Toronto, my old studio on Spadina Avenue, all the neat people, and of course, the very colorful "Honest Ed's."