Beloved Toronto landmark to be redeveloped in 2017

Honest Ed’s in the winter is a spectacular sight. Unfortunately, this is the last winter that Toronto will be able to glimpse the glory of Honest Ed’s brightly lit signs and thousands of tiny, flashing bulbs. Located on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor, the beloved store will be closing its doors on December 31. Known for its endlessly winding floors and passageways, Honest Ed’s holds a plethora of discounts and bargain items. I’ve personally spent many days in Honest Ed’s as a child and teenager, scouring the various bins for cheap items. I will miss this iconic landmark, and I’m sure many other Torontonians will as well.

Honest Ed’s was opened in 1948 by Ed Mirvish, after deciding to close the ladies wear outlet he ran with his wife, Anne, and instead sell large amounts of bulk merchandise. A truly unique establishment, walking through the halls of Honest Ed’s feels like being in a funhouse. Since its inception, Honest Ed’s has lured in immigrants who were attracted to the store’s cheap prices.

Mirvish, the son of Jewish immigrants, was always in the giving spirit. Every morning, he gave away gifts to the first few customers in the door, as well as money and turkeys before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Sadly, Mirvish passed away in 2007, and operations were taken over by his son, David Mirvish. August 12 is “Ed Mirvish Day” in Toronto, and hopefully, Ed will be remembered for his enormous contribution to this city.

In 2014, plans were announced for the redevelopment of the 1.8-hectare space that Honest Ed’s and the buildings in the surrounding area occupy. According to an article by Alex Bozikovic in The Globe and Mail, the plans include “1,000 rental apartments, many of them family-sized, and no condominiums for sale; a permanent public market; and retail space largely divided into small units that mimic the scale of existing storefronts on Bloor Street.” The hope is that the site of Honest Ed’s will become a hub for multiple vendors and will thus continue in the spirit of being a community landmark. The proposed design is meant to serve the purpose of being a new take on urbanism and sustainable living, which would be a first for Toronto’s housing and sales market.

In order to make 1,000 rental apartments available, three towers of 29, 22, and 21 stories will be built. Behind these buildings, a Mirvish Village Market will be constructed, paying homage to Ed Mirvish’s legacy. These buildings are meant to be sites of affordable housing, which could benefit those looking to live in the downtown Annex area.

Other agreements that have been made include a daycare, a public art display provided by the Art Gallery of Ontario, and an ecological agenda. These plans are meant to invest in the future of Toronto as an already developing hub for urban living and community spaces. It will be exciting to see what comes of these plans in the future, even though it will be many years before Torontonians see the results. Even the TTC is feeling nostalgic about the closing of Honest Ed’s. On November 1, Bathurst Station was transformed into an installation of hand-painted ad signs and Ed’s famous puns. There are signs both at street level and on the subway platform. On the concourse level, there is a permanent tribute to Ed Mirvish’s legacy that includes photos and store memorabilia. The November Metropass also pays tribute with a printed image of the Honest Ed’s sign.

On a personal note, I would like to thank the Mirvish family for the contributions they’ve made to Toronto. As with many other landmarks of this great city, Honest Ed’s is a place that I hold dear to my heart. It’s sad to see the things we love change, but hopefully, this new chapter for Mirvish Village will be just as great as its predecessor. Thank you, Honest Ed’s.

Image courtesy of Tristan Fraser