Honest Ed's

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Honest Ed's
Industry Discount retail
Founded 1948
Founder Ed Mirvish
Headquarters 581 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6G 1K3
Key people
David Mirvish
Products Department store
Website honesteds.sites.toronto.com

Honest Ed's is a landmark discount store located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is 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 is slated to permanently close on December 31, 2016.


Honest Ed's is on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets, running the length of the block. The exterior is covered with huge red and yellow signs advertising the name of the store, lit up like a theatre marquee. The store sign uses 23,000 light bulbs.[1] The outside facade is covered with puns and slogans such as "Come in and get lost!" and "Only the floors are crooked!"

The store consists 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 is modest, with simple displays of low-priced merchandise, ranging from vacuum cleaners and winter coats to kitchenware, toys and grocery items. Much of the store's decor consists 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 of these inscribed to Ed Mirvish himself). Every piece of store signage is hand-painted.


Ed Mirvish opened "Honest Ed's Bargain House" in 1948.[2] The store proved popular and eventually expanded. The main building is at 581 Bloor Street West and the extension at 760 Bloor Street West is connected by a walkway crossing Honest Ed Alley. It gained fame for its marketing stunts, including loss leader specials and free turkey giveaways before Christmas and Thanksgiving Day holidays. Mirvish also gained fame in Toronto for the birthday parties he threw for himself from 1988 until his death, continued since then as anniversary parties for the store itself. At the street parties, there are free cakes, meals, hot dogs, candy, and giveaways. Crowds of Torontonians turn up with their children, and stand in long lines to receive these handouts. The happening is accompanied by live bands and balloons.

Sale of property, impending closure, and redevelopment[edit]

On 16 July 2013, it was announced that the site of Honest Ed's was for sale for $100 million, and that the store was likely to be closed and replaced with a retail and residential building.[3][4] It was suggested that due to competition from a proposed Walmart at Dundas and Bathurst, the store would no longer be viable.[5]

The redevelopment of the site is expected to affect a number of businesses that lease space within the Honest Ed's building, and a number of standalone businesses on neighbouring streets 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 that 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.[6]

On September 13, 2014, The Globe & Mail newspaper reported the formation of a redevelopment team for the property that includes Henriquez Partners Architects, ERA Architects, Janet Rosenberg + Studio, Reshape Strategies, and Urban Strategies Inc.[7] 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.[8]

The Honest Ed's retail store is scheduled to permanently close on December 31, 2016.

Cultural impact[edit]

Sale items at Honest Ed's

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 that were lent by Torontonians, each associated with a personal story.[9] 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."[9] This synthesis of conceptual art and commercial space was well received and reviewed widely on a national[10][full citation needed] and local level[11] 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.[12]

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".

Tribute to Honest Ed's at Bathurst subway station.

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.

On November 1, 2016, the Toronto Transit Commission created a temporary display at Bathurst Station as a tribute to Honest Ed's. The display includes hand-painted signs in the Honest Ed style including the corny puns. At the concourse level, there are photos and store memorabilia. On the subway platform walls there are signs providing facts about Honest Ed’s. The commorative display will last until the final closing of Honest Ed's at the end of December 2016.[13]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°39′53.5″N 79°24′41.2″W / 43.664861°N 79.411444°W / 43.664861; -79.411444