Honest Eds

Only the floors are crooked!

I had moved to Toronto to attend College. I was a student, working my way through and living hand to mouth. Someone told me about this place where I could stretch my money.

In 2017, they tore it down. Please join me and my special guest, D.G. Kaye, a fellow blogger, writer and Torontonian, while we take a look at what was, and the creature it has become! First a bit of history.

D.G. Kaye – Honest Eds was an iconic landmark to the people of Toronto. It was one of our first bargain basement type structures that sold a lot of low-end stuff with everything from food to vacuums. It was pre, our Dollar Store days, even pre, Bi-way (what was known as a bargain franchise that came along after). Honest Eds was erected in 1948 and was torn down for yet, more condo buildings in 2017.

1950’s – uncredited

The store took up two blocks, facing one of our famous streets, Bloor St., as well as the side street, Markham St. where Mirvish bought up homes to expand the store.  Originally, Honest Eds had the front door of the business on the Markham St. side because the taxes were cheaper than having the entrance on the front of Bloor St. Through the years of buying up surrounding properties, Ed Mirvish eventually extended Honest Eds two blocks long to the corner of Bathurst and Bloor streets, complete with a walkway, known as the Honest Ed Alley.

Resa – I adored walking down Honest Ed Alley, pictured above. I always found street art on my way there. Below, Honest Ed Alley today.

D.G Kaye – Besides the iconic structure, the people who shopped there, and its vast size that grew through the decades, Eds was also known for its great signage, just one of many, ““Welcome, don’t faint at our low prices, there’s no place to lie down”,  full of cleverly written puns as advertising lure, and vast lighting that made one feel like they were entering a carnival – or Christmas.

Resa –  I’ll never forget the first time I saw Honest Eds. It was like a midway without rides. My heart pounded, as my eyes widened. Debby, do you remember the first time you saw Honest Eds? How did you react?

D.G. Kaye – Do I remember? In some of my books I write about my childhood, having to spend every weekend at my grandparents’ house. When I became observant by the age six, I remember passing that corner when my Jewish-Orthodox grandmother (we were not) would take me and my two younger brothers at the time, for a Saturday afternoon longgg walk from her house, just west of Spadina, near Casa Loma, where we’d walk to Bathurst St. and pass Honest Eds as we walked down to see my grandfather at the family business, further south from Bloor.

D.G. Kaye -My grandmother wouldn’t use anything electrical on the Sabbath, so it was a long walk, lol. But my eyes lit up at the glitz and the feeling of amusement park, many Saturdays, it was always a busy corner. I always wanted to go in, but no shopping or money used by her on Sabbath, lol. Only after I moved away from home at 18, did I venture into Ed’s bargain basement prices, a place of everything and anything. Those were golden days.

Above- the way it was just after closing. Below – The way it is now.

Resa – How did you react when you saw the new Honest Eds corner above?

D.G.Kaye – It’s sad to look there when you knew what was there for your whole life. A lot of what’s become of our city makes me sad. It doesn’t have the same anything anymore. Like many other things in life that seem to be fading from our city, it’s another end of an era, the golden days of past. So I’m happy to be reminiscing about it here today with you.

Resa –  Likewise! You mentioned  the funny signage on the building. It sure made me laugh. My fave was “Don’t just stand there buy something!”

D.G. Kaye – I loved their marketing. I didn’t think about the marketing aspect of it when I was younger. But looking back at those hand-made signs, I have to admit how clever the advertising was for back then using puns in their marketing. Very clever and entertaining.

Resa – Markham Street was like a throwback from hippy daze. It was lined with cool cafes, handicraft shops and of course, Mirvish Books, one of Canada’s oldest and most popular independent bookstores.

D.G. Kaye – Exactly. It’s those little nook and cranny places that we knew about and visited that were part of the interest that our city had with its diversity. Places where people could meet other people with similar interests. Now it’s condo mania and people attached to their cell phones. The social aspect has diminished in so many ways.

 Sometimes it’s best not to look back just because of things like this, the big teardown of an era.

Resa – Gate 3 is Markham Street now. There is a house with art on it, but I couldn’t get in. Looks like there are still a few houses left, and looks like they are being torn down.

Resa – It was a crazy up and down labyrinth inside. I always got lost, and I always had fun.  Debby, I feel sad. I have a sense of loss, and not just loss. I have a feeling of impending doom about the future. Am I over reacting? Do I make any sense?

D.G. Kaye – It was like a funhouse lol. I’m 100% with your feeling. It does feel sad because it was a symbol and part of the times, our times. We lived in such a great time, and the city was much different back then. I found the city much more interesting back then. I loved Bloor/Bathurst area through my twenties. They had great authentic international restaurants, especially, a few great Hungarian restaurants I frequented often. It feels like the little great hotspots we both knew in our heydays have been taken over by condo buildings everywhere and big businesses, with now traffic laden streets and crime.

Resa – Debby, I found this art of Honest Ed (dated 2017) in an alley near by.

D.G. Kaye – This is such a great likeness in caricature of Ed.

Resa – Honest Ed began the practice of giving away 1,ooo turkeys every Christmas, in 1989. As a veggie, I was somewhat freaked out. However, the people that lined up were not well heeled. Were you aware that Honest Ed gave away 1,ooo turkeys every Christmas? Now Westbank, the corporation redeveloping the site where Honest Ed’s once stood, is keeping the tradition alive.

D.G. Kaye – I didn’t know that for a long time, and honestly, I think you’ve just reminded me for a second time. I’m glad to hear that he was that charitable. I’m also glad to hear the new corporation is going to keep up that tradition.

Resa – Does that make you feel any better about the redevelopment?

D.G. Kaye – I think it’s a great gesture, but no. I don’t feel that iconic corner should look like more building towers. It was a historic landmark – just like what they did with Maple Leaf Gardens. Don’t get me started. 

Resa – Debby, I found this in the same alley as the Honest Ed art. For those who don’t know, the Annex is the area of Toronto which we have been talking about, where Honest Eds was located.

Resa – Debby, I can’t thank you enough for being here today. I’m not sure if what Honest Ed’s has been replaced with is progress, or a Tower of Babel. I do know that I think it is ugly, unfriendly and that I could not have done this post without you.

D.G. Kaye – Lol Resa, you make me smile. I love your forthrightness. You remind me of me. And it sounds like we both wear our hearts on our sleeves. I think that’s an artist thing. I’m with you – a Tower of Babel. I love your honesty, and your giving me the freedom to write here like you – brutally honest. This was so much fun sharing this experience with you. I’m always in awe of the artwork you’re always discovering. It was my pleasure collaborating with you here at your blog. 🧡

DGKAYE

D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, writing from her life experiences and self-medicating with a daily dose of humour. Live Laugh Love and Don’t Forget to Breathe! {click on her pic and go to her blog!}

Pics taken by Resa – 2017 & 2022 (save the old b&w – uncredited)

Toronto, Canada

The Artists:

A friend gave me a gift from one of the handmade signs inside Honest Eds. Everything was sold. These signs sold for $2.00.  A few months later I saw them framed and for sale at a curio place. $125.00. They sold in a week.

 

177 thoughts on “Honest Eds

  1. I think everyone remembers an Honest Ed’s in their town, but this emporium was something else! A huge corner store that became a city landmark, I love it. Alas, the bargain palaces with the local flavor are losing out to the big boxed corporate stores, sadly.

    Outstanding look back, ladies.

    1. Thank you Marc!
      I miss Eds. There was LOTS of art around and in behind it. Now… not. It’s so cold feeling there, where once it was warm.
      High rise condos are filing cabinets for people.
      They (probably the developer) bought up even more properties next to Eds. This is a mega project. Could take 2 more years to finish. I think Mervish Village is misnamed. I’m thinking more along the lines of Mervish Moon Units.
      xoxo

      1. It was a grand looking structure with a larger than life personality. You don’t just replace that kind of feeling.

        I HAVE to remember that one! Filing cabinets for people. Jesus that’s great!

        Haha! You are my people, because you understand the funny and how to deliver it so beautifully.

        MUAH!

  2. What a great conversation about an iconic building and how sad to see it transform to this… how very sad.
    Unfortunately I’m with you on a grim future ahead. Thank you both!
    Love and many hugs!
    😘❤️😘🤗❤️🤗

    1. Dahling Marina,
      From a colourful past, to a grey grim future seems in the cards.
      So glad you got to read this. I need to go do something beautiful!
      Art Gowns here I come!
      xoxoxo😘❤️😘🤗❤️🤗xoxoxo

  3. Nice post, seems that in many, should say every town, iconic citymarks make way to new development, sometimes it is good, but more than often it is not, the charm is lost to please short sighted development.

  4. Wonderful, nostalgic, sad post and conversation! Such a shame that so many quirky things are gone, replaced by cookie-cutter “progress” (regress). Love the now-gone store’s clever, funny marketing!

    1. Thanks Dave! Debby and I were quite passionate about doing this post. Once we started, it was a self fuelled fire.
      Cookie-cutter regress is right.
      Sure miss the slogans!
      Hey, here’s one for you:
      Honest Dave’s
      A Freak!
      “He has books
      Coming out of
      His ears!”

    1. Liz,
      He was a total character & loved the arts. He owned several major theatres, brought in many hits and produced Canadian shows. He also owned restaurants. I had lunch with him and my father-in-law once. Memorable!

    1. I miss it Tim. I passed by it on many of my art walks. Now, I avoid the corner. No art there, anymore. OH, I found 1 pseudo thing. Took 1 pic for posterity. Nothing worth sharing. xx

  5. Thanks again Resa for inviting me over to share our thoughts and memories together on this historical site, and giant loss to our city. We are left with remnants and iconic artwork. Hugs ❤ xxx

    1. Debby, thank you for collaborating on this post with me!
      You got the ball rolling when you asked if I lived in Toronto & told me that you did. I asked if you remembered Honest Eds, and I got a big fat YES, back. That’s when I knew what I’d saved all those pics from 2017 for.
      It was great working with you. You have such wonderful memories of seeing Eds when you were a child. What kind of memories are being set in children who walk by the corner today?
      “remnants and iconic artwork” .. yeah…
      They sure paved paradise with this one! Hugs!!!! xoxoxo 🌹

      1. This was so much fun Resa. I honored you invited me over to collaborate with you. We’ve given the people a glimpse of our golden times in our city to show that it wasn’t always about buildings and skyscrapers. Once upon a time. ❤ xxx

  6. What a wonderful stroll with you two through a memory of Toronto’s Ed’s. I can totally see how the place felt like an amusement park, and it’s sad to know that it’s been replaced by steel boxes. When I was growing up, we had a “Kamin’s Dept Store” that sounded very similar. It had Everything, including all kinds of junky little items that kid’s could get as a treat. It’s amazing how vividly we remember those places. A wonderful post. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Diana!
      It was a fab stroll with Debby. In some virtual way, we were transported to the past and walked by Eds together.
      I’m so happy we did this.
      “Kamin’s Dept Store” sounds like sweet memories! xo

    2. Thanks so much for visiting Diana. We’re happy to give you a taste of our once golden days before big enterprise came along and took away just one of the many iconic structures of our once beautiful city. Brings me back to my motto – don’t look back, it hurts. Just savor the memories. ❤

  7. What a great conversation about this Toronto landmark that once was. I can see why both of you were captivated by it. It’s too bad that someone didn’t take it over instead of tearing it down to make yet more condos. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and photos!

    1. Agree! However, the city would not be happy. As an historic, cultural or low rise commercial venue, taxes would be controlled. Now, the city is raking in the taxes. Every unit is paying taxes. Talk about a boon. And what about all the condo fees the developers will be raking in?
      It was a fab travel back and forth in time with Debby! Glad you enjoyed it, Merril!

      I just watched the news conference announcing NY states civil suit against trump, and that in course of the investigation, much federal crime was uncovered. All that has been turned over to federal entities, including the IRS!

        1. Yeah! He’s going to have a difficult time finding decent lawyers who’ll go to jail for him!
          So, this civil suit found criminality, which they sent off to other investigations and the IRS!

  8. Thanks for the memories of this iconic Toronto landmark. Love the kooky signs! 😀 As a suburbanite, we saw it featured on TV and drove by a few times, but didn’t have occasion to visit. How sad that it’s been replaced by condos, just like everywhere else! Sigh…

  9. Nice one, Resa. From your photos, I can’t really say I am too struck with what they have done with the place now…

    ▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪
    ▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫

    1. It’s ugly. I hate it. I’m sure it does not solve the need for affordable housing. Oh, but that would involve charitable thoughts…. like one floor dedicated to affordable housing.
      Too much money to be made here.

  10. Honest Ed doesn’t sound honest enough to me!

    But this was actually rather fascinating, thank you for some Torontonian insights on shopping in Toronto. I feel this store should still exist.

            1. A Sponge…. the sponge!!!
              You’re cracking me up!
              I’m raising a sponge.
              Right now 🧽 is #2, 💋 is #1, 🐂 is #3.
              I’ve warned you about the sponge. It soaks up from behind! It’s Marina’s fault.
              I had to get all these sponges to mop up Hera’s kisses.
              You don’t have a chance!

                1. Alright, just for that – 💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽💋🧽🐂💋🧽 -Ox is # 3 over here. Must be #1 in your emojis.

                    1. Okay… I play fair.
                      Besides, that was an E-mogee rocket sling shooter 5463425 that I used. New on the market.
                      Let’s get back to a full deck!
                      Time out!
                      Re-group!
                      What other launchers you got?

                    2. I have an old 🐂 slinger. Sad thing it’s single shot and would be no match for the E-mogee rocket sling shooter. I need to get on line with the ACME group and see what else is available.

                    3. An 🐂 single slinger! Oh man, those went out with the 80’s.
                      Okay, check in with ACME, see what you can get?
                      I’ll refrain from nuking you until your new device arrives.
                      OR, we could play moats and goats for 🐂s, 💋’s & 🧽’s.
                      I’m sure you have a moat. I just need to get a goat. xxoo

                    4. I think a good game of goats and moats would be a fun thing. I need to shop for a goat. You are right I have the moat, drawbridge, catapult and boiling oil.Once I get the goat how is the game played? I’m willing to wager 🐂💋 but have no 🧽’s.

  11. Hello Resa and DGKaye, here in my hometown there was a “bargain basement” store named Mad Harry’s where most of it’s products were sold at 50 cents or $1 at most. It was a pocket money (allowance) burner for me! Each week I’d go in during shopping trips with my mom and gaze at all the toys and trinkets I never knew I needed to buy. But back then there was character in marketing and business as the owners of these stores were over the top characters themselves.
    Even military surplus stores used humour to sell stuff, here is an advert I recall seeing in my local shop window, “World War Two vintage parachutes HALF Price….no strings attached”.
    Oh how I miss old school retail!

    1. Hi Tyeth. Thanks for chiming in with a story of your own. I love that ad, seriously it sounds like one that Eds would have had, lol. Yes, you can’t recreate the past. 🙂

  12. I LOVED this post, Resa and Debby. You make an awesome team so I hope that you will make a return engagement. The follow-up discussion was brilliant. Your conversation reminded me how buildings and locations become part of our memories – individual and collective. Progress is inevitable – think of Troy and its many cities built on top of each other. I recognized that cities will continue to expand, with more skyscrapers being built as more people look employment and career prospects in urban areas. But my hope is that we continue to build compassionate communities. Thank you Resa and Debby for creating spaces that welcome us to participate and connect.

    1. Hi Rebecca. Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your thoughts with us. I’m so glad you enjoyed our little collaboration. It’s fun to share insights about our cultural things with others, knowing well, we all have our own places and memories of things that no longer stand. We thought it was a wonderful way to share a bit of our iconic culture and commune with others. So glad you enjoyed. Hugs ❤

    2. Working with Debby was a hoot! She lives in Toronto and was the one who realized we both did.
      Suddenly I knew what to do with all those pics I’d hoarded since 2017.
      I understand what you are saying about expanding cities, however, this project does not seem to be adding up to be a compassionate community. I’ll reserve FINAL judgement until it is completely finished. Although for it to be a compassionate community, they’ll have to pull off a miracle.

      Always adore your thoughtful, educated comments, Rebecca! I’m so happy you are part of our shared blogging community. {{hugs}}

  13. Although I never went in, I remember seeing this store on one of our trips to Toronto when we lived in Cleveland. I really enjoyed the post and the story, although I too regret how so many place are disappearing. Thanks for an excellent read.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that you did see this place as a tourist. Sorry you never had a chance to enter, but at least now you have a little history about this iconic structure. 🙂

    2. Ahh, Janet! So glad you at least got to see Eds corner.
      We need to be more active in ensuring a wonderful community experience, for the future as we develop.
      That’s not happening.
      Glad you came along for the nostalgia!

  14. This is a fantastic interaction, thank you for taking us to Toronto’s not so distant past and the changes it has undergone particularly this beloved landmark. I think most who grew up in a metropolitan city can share the dismay and sad nostalgia as we watch our landmarks change and disappear. You’re illustrations are beautiful and definitely put us right there living this along with you two. Thank you D.J. Kaye , I so enjoyed your reminisce with Resa. Hats off you too ( to Ed as well!). xoxoxo

    1. Dear Holly,
      I’m thrilled you got to see this post. It was a long time coming.
      I know things change, but in the spirit Rebecca has noted, for the future, “build compassionate communities”.
      This one looks like a failure.
      Debby and I did the best we could to bring the old flavour, and the new flavour to the readers.
      I adore the CSNY song you posted today. It sends a message that is exactly what you say “something to think about”!
      Seems like there’s a whole lot of doing going on, and not a lot of thinking.
      xoxoxo
      (🍷👯‍♀️🍷 – 4 Sasha!)

            1. About to send you the Alumni article. They chose Velvet Tango to open with (your Art Gown). I HATE the pic they chose of me. I sent them different ones of me in the gown, but the switched w/o telling me! xoxoxo

              1. I’m so happy to see this recognition of your talents and motivation to preserve our planet. You’re are awesome! You know I will always love Velvet Tango best. Choosing an opening gown must have been a very difficult for them. They are all breathtaking!
                I love the pic they used if you but how could they go wrong? You are beautiful inside and out. xoxoxo

                1. I’m thrilled they picked Velvet Tango. It is not just beautiful, but it’s a massive feat of fabric engineering. I challenge anyone to out do what I did. LOL! I doubt anyone would even think of it!
                  Well, vanity has its own ego… & IMHO there are better pics. Thank you for saying that! ADORE you!!! xoxoxo

  15. You know, it makes no sense this love/hate thing between Montreal and Toronto. I hardly know Toronto at all besides having gone when I was younger (CN Tower anyone?) and to catch a Broadway play a la Lion King. I read about so many interesting places that I have been putting on my to-visit list. Honestly, it really is shameful that I’ve not gone. What’s a five-hour car drive and a way-too-expensive hotel room?

    So. Sorry about my blah-de-blah… I think my point was I should have known about Honest Ed’s. It reminds me of when I drove back from BC through the northern States on my first honeymoon. The signs start miles and miles before you reach “Wall Drug” (in South Dakota) which looks surprisingly similar to Ed’s. Same tongue-in-cheek signage. Why do I know this one and not Ed’s? All wrong.

    And all wrong to replace these iconic gathering places for high rises. Aren’t there enough in Toronto already? Honestly! I LOVE your term “filing cabinets for people”. It is perfect.

    Beautiful collaboration, ladies! (Sorry for my tardiness; I am no longer sure what day it is!)

    1. Is there a love/hate thing? I suppose, but I don’t get it either.
      It goes back to the French/English thing in Europe. Nothing sticks longer and better than hate, not even Gorilla Glue.
      Happy you like this post dear Thunder!
      I don’t know what day it is either. OMG! It’s Friday. Sigh I gotta make a call since 2 weeks ago! Better go do it!
      Sent another mail… about an article about me! Eeeeee!

      1. Yeah, there is.
        Here, the French conveniently forget they lost to Wolfe and were allowed to keep their culture and language…
        Hate is so adhesive.
        I do like it!
        And yeah, that’s what I said OMG, it’s Friday. I have the weekend, then Monday then back to work on Tuesday. I was so loving not going to work…

      1. You are sweet. I love Montreal. Most of my friends are so done with the construction, they don’t want to cross the bridge! I, however, do not mind and try to do so regularly (I’m on the south shore). And thank you 🙂

  16. HI Resa and Debby, this really is a great post. I enjoyed learning about Honest Eds and how your city has changed [not necessarily for the better]. It is like this everywhere. I visited the town of George where I lived for two years as a girl. My grandparents lived and died there. Everything I knew as changed and I couldn’t even get in to the graveyard to see their graves as the graveyard has been enclosed by a high fence and locked gate. I couldn’t get the key as the church reception was closed at the time. It was most upsetting.

    1. Thank you for checking out our post, Roberta! I’m so behind blogging. Hahaha, it’s now bogging. 😂
      Sorry to hear about the graveyard incident. What a drag!
      Why do we need to lock up graveyards? I don’t get it!
      As you say, [not necessarily for the better].
      Part of the problem is overpopulation. We have gone forth and multiplied.
      Have a great weekend. I’ll stop by soon!

      1. Haha, that is funny! It was a disappointment not to be able to see my grandmother’s grave. We travelled 14 hours to get to that part of the world, but such is life. I hope to visit another time in the future. I hope your weekend is also good. I spend most of the day making a circus tent cake.

    2. Hi Robbie. Thanks for visiting and reading. Yes, isn’t it sad with all these rules and regulations and tear downs, and just about everything else in this world making things difficult? We are happy to share a slice of history with you. ❤

  17. What a store that must have been to create such fond memories from young and old alike!
    Thank you Resa and DG for sharing valuable pieces wonderful history not to mention the great photos too! They put the whole story right in front of us. happy new moon, Eddie

  18. A wonderful post Resa and Debby and I do wish I had know about Ed’s place when we visited Toronto in the early 2000’s. What a fantastic place and I am sure millions over the almost 70 years had good reason to be grateful for his amazing prices and deals. It is very sad to return to the places of our youth and find that they are so different, but thankfully a place like this had so many photographs taken that the memories will never fade. ♥

    1. It was such a landmark. I think no one expected what has been erected there now.
      Yes, it was well photographed and documented over the years.
      Thank you for your visit Sally!!!! xo

  19. Hi Sal. Thanks so much for finding us here and sharing your thoughts. Definitely the end of an era, and too bad you never got the chance to visit it. Our ace phtographer Resa here, had some great shots and memorabilia. Hugs xxx

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