Honest Ed’s: Store Sells Everything from Wine to Twine

1948

581 Bloor St. W.

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“Come in and get lost!” is the cheeky invitation on the storefront of Honest Ed’s World Famous Bargain Centre. The store covers an entire city block and its exterior, lit up at night like an old-time theatre marquee, features hand painted signs with slogans and puns that begin the entertaining experience of shopping there.

Businessman "Honest" Ed Mirvish in front of his Toronto discount store, c 2001 (photo by Peter Jones, courtesy Reuters).

The founder, Ed Mirvish, had humble beginnings. He and his wife Anne Maklin opened a tiny store on Bloor Street, selling women’s clothing. Gradually they bought all the stores along the block and Honest Ed’s began, as Mirvish often declared, by cashing in Anne’s $212 insurance policy.

Honest Ed’s opened on a Saturday in 1948, with a sign instructing customers to “Name your own price! No reasonable offer refused!” The theatrics worked; the opening was a mob scene. The store’s door crasher specials and everyday low prices continue to entice bargain hunters who are welcomed warmly but warned, “Don’t faint at our low prices—there’s no place to lie down.”

Beginning in the 1960s, Ed and Anne Mirvish applied their retail success to new roles as patrons of the arts and theatre impresarios. The Mirvishes resurrected Toronto’s stunning Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1963, saving it from demolition and giving birth to Toronto’s now famous Entertainment District. The Mirvish family has continued to build a theatre empire in this city, including the Princess of Wales Theatre, opened in 1993.

By Laura Neilson Bonikowsky

Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on Toronto.

Honest Ed's, c 1960s (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 465). View the image gallery