Thursday, May 6, 2010

A history of good old Honest Ed

I've decided that Day 4 calls for a brief look into the life and times of Honest Ed himself, Ed Mirvish. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the info)

Edwin Mirvish, born Yehuda Mirvish, was born in Virginia in 1914. His family moved to Toronto in 1923, where his dad worked as a door to door salesman and grocery store owner. Their apartment was shared with a Hebrew school. Ed later joked that his childhood dream was to have a bathroom he didn't have to share with 50 people. When Ed was 15, his father died and he quit school to take over the grocery store to support his mother and two siblings. A couple of jobs later, he met his future wife, Anne Macklin, a radio singer from Hamilton. They married in 1941 and their son, David, was born in 1945.

Shortly after WWII ended, Ed and Anne opened a bargain basement, known as Honest Ed's. Its unique no-credit, no-service, no-frills business model was an instant success. It soon grew to fill an entire city block. "The world's biggest discount department store" was soon bringing in millions of dollars a year. The community became known as "Mirvish Village". Ed was known for getting free publicity. He would even hire protesters to picket his own restaurant over its dress code. His biggest stunt was handing out ten thousand pounds of free turkeys to customers every Christmas. Since his 75th birthday, there has been an annual birthday bash outside the store.

Ed was also known for his love of theatre. He revitalized the Toronto theatre scene when he purchased The Royal Alexandra Theatre. He opened a series of different restaurants on the same street to give theatre goers a place to eat before the show and to liven up the community. These restaurants included Ed's Warehouse, Ed's Seafood, Ed's Folly, Ed's Chinese, Ed's Italian Restaurant, and Old Ed's. All of these restaurants have since closed down. He also purchased the Princess of Wales Theatre and the Canon Theatre. Ed and his son, David, opened Mirvish Productions, which staged major touring productions of shows from New York and London. Mirvish Productions produced and/or co-produced The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, the Producers, and Hairspray.

On his 92nd birthday in 2006, there was a lavish party at the store with many items selling for 92 cents. On July 11, 2007, Ed passed away. He claimed that when he died, he wanted his ashes to be placed in an hour glass that would be in Honest Ed's. He wanted somebody to turn the hour glass over every hour so people would look at it and say "There's Ed. He's still running." I don't know whether or not this was actually done, but I will do my best to find out on my trip to the store tomorrow!

Fun facts:
- August 12th is now known at Ed Mirvish Day!!
- In response to his death, Jones Cane Sugar Soda issued bottles of their soda with a picture of Honest Ed on them, with "Honest Ed Mirvish 1914–2007" placed where normally a photo credit lies.

Knowing how great of a man Ed was makes me like the store more. He brought culture to Toronto and was quite the character.

I'll leave you with some Honest Ed's commercials:

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