Bye Honest Ed’s

As a new resident to Toronto in 2013 it was impossible to ignore the bright lights of Honest Ed’s the first time I passed by the corner of Bloor & Bathurst, in the north-west of the downtown core.

Opened in 1948 by entrepreneur Ed Mirvish, it rose to prominence as the destination in town for no-frills bargains. Met with some resistance in its founding years, it ultimately carved a place in Toronto culture thanks its huge storefront display featuring tens of thousands of flashing light bulbs and pun-laden slogans (Honest Ed’s a nut! But look at the ‘cashew’ save!). You might compare its notoriety with something like Harrods in London – on the complete other end of the price & elegance scale, mind you – but a one-of-a-kind store that locals flock to & tourists read about in all their guidebooks. It became pretty clear to me that this place was an institution.

Unfortunately in mid-2014 it was announced Honest Ed’s would close on December 31st, 2016 to make way for a new residential & commercial development. With less than a week to go, I decided to drop by one final time today with my camera to snap a few shots of this lovable Toronto landmark before it’s gone forever.


One of the many glorious Honest Ed’s storefront signs


Busy pedestrian corner at Bloor & Bathurst


The first time I walked through the store I was awestruck at how full it was with all kinds of trinkets, clothes, appliances, groceries & housewares. I recall my bemusement at the randomness of some of the merchandise on offer, in particular some $2.99 water bottles with a choice of either a Jamaican flag or a Newfoundland & Labrador flag printed on it, of all things. This is exactly the kinda weird stuff that gave Honest Ed’s its charm! Only a few minutes later in the clothing section upstairs I found a pair of jeans on sale for $2 – less than the price of the bloody Jamaica water bottle. Thanks to Ed Mirvish’s contribution to the Toronto performing arts scene, my eyes were drawn to the scores of theatrical posters & props lining the walls of the two buildings, alongside hand-painted shop signs from years gone by. It was certainly a colourful & eccentric shop to spend time in.


Jamaica or Newfoundland & Labrador?

One of the many strange props adoring the walls


I wish I’d taken more pics of the place back then because the interior today was a shadow of its former self. The previously-packed rooms were now almost empty, with not much left to purchase aside from a few impractical bits & pieces which were clearly struggling to move off the shelves.

There was a whole section cordoned off for Honest Ed-related memorabilia though, where bins full of their iconic hand-painted signs were on offer as souvenirs. Most of today’s shoppers, including myself, could be found in this area trying to get their hands on a piece of Toronto signwriting history.


I got told off for attempting to take a pic of the memorabilia section, but there were hundreds of hand-painted signs similar to this posters one starting from $9, up to $100+ for a full-sized sign


A view of the rainy laneway from the overpass connecting the two buildings


What was left of the kitchenware department: a few tables with some unappealing mugs, plates and glasses


Along the Markham St entrance


Honest Ed Alley


“Only the floors are crooked” – along Bathurst St


Looking out at the sign from the Green Beanery Cafe across the road


This place looks awesome at night, I’ll miss these lights, even if half of them are blown


Last month the TTC subway station at Bathurst paid tribute to Honest Ed’s by installing signs & slogans in the spirit of the retailer. I’ve heard there are plans to turn it into a permanent feature of the station – here’s hoping this is true.


The Honest Ed’s-style entrance to Bathurst Station


Love a good TTC pun


There was another one that said Bacon & Eglinton, $3.25 … ha!


That Honest Ed’s typeface


Honest Ed’s facts plastered over the Bathurst platform


Thanks Honest Ed’s. It was a pleasure to have shopped in you over the past three years.


Bye Honest Ed’s


Oh and one final thing: I now have my very own authenticated piece of Honest Ed’s on display in my bathroom 🙂

1 Comment

Leave a Reply