Honest Ed’s, Toronto’s iconic discount store, closes its doors after 68 years

Honest Ed’s closes doors after 68 years of business
WATCH ABOVE: Honest Ed’s closes doors after 68 years of business

An iconic chapter of Toronto’s history — albeit a bit of a gaudy one — is coming to a close after 68 years.

Honest Ed’s, the kitschy Toronto retail shop that paved the way for bargain-basement deals in the city, will close its doors for the last time Saturday.

Opened by retail renegade and theatre magnate “Honest” Ed Mirvish in 1948, the discount store best known for its rock-bottom prices, glaring neon signs and one-of-a-kind catchphrases added a tacky charm to The Annex neighbourhood, later growing into a well-known Toronto landmark.

READ MORE: Honest Ed’s holds final turkey giveaway

“I don’t think my father planned ahead, I think he was more concerned with — would he be able to pay for the dresses he had just bought?” David Mirvish told Global News ahead of the store’s closure Saturday.

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“His goal was just to not be a burden on anybody and to be able to feed his family.”

But Ed became more than just a breadwinner, he became a local celebrity.

Mirvish started an annual turkey giveaway in 1988 that quickly became stuff of legend in Toronto — giving away thousands of free meals to the city’s less fortunate over the years and more than 1,300 turkeys last December alone.

WATCH: A Toronto institution, Honest Ed’s, is no more

A Toronto institution, Honest Ed’s, is no more
A Toronto institution, Honest Ed’s, is no more

“The store has so many fond memories for me … We helped raise the value of the land in this neighbourhood,” David Mirvish said.

“But then we came to a plateau where were no longer lifting the neighbourhood and it required real thought and real attention to go to its next step.”

The building was sold to developer Westbank in 2013 and is set to be transformed into a 29-storey residential and commercial complex with galleries, shops and an outdoor market.

David Mirvish says his most cherished memories of the store are from his childhood hiding under the store’s countertop displays.

READ MORE: Development plan to replace Honest Ed’s called a ‘game-changer’

“As a six-year-old — you’re supposed to keep the merchandise underneath — but there usually would be enough room for me to squeeze and pull a box in front of me and see how long it would take my parents to find me,” he said.

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Hundreds lined up to take home a piece of Mirvish memorabilia in the months leading up to its closure, with some hand-painted signs selling at auction for hundreds of dollars.

“Everything in the store turned over every two weeks, so every item needed a sign and we needed a sign painter to do it,” Mirvish said of the iconic displays.

“But I kept the one, it’s around the corner, of Dick the night watchman. We used to have a big picture of him at the entrance like this and it would say, ‘Honest Ed welcomes you!’ and people used to think that was my father.”

READ MORE: What is the city’s most iconic building, Toronto?

Mirvish said that despite the fact Honest Ed’s is no more, he hopes his and others’ memories of the one-of-a-kind Toronto monument will live on.

“The store has great meaning for me and I think that memory exists for many, many people from many different countries,” he said.

“It gave me opportunity. So it’s a bond we all share and those memories are good memories.”

With files from Liem Vu