Garish but iconic, Toronto's Honest Ed's discount store closes
'This place allowed them to get things that they couldn't afford otherwise,' says son of immigrants
By its own admission on a sign on its pulsing, lit-up facade, "there's no place" like Honest Ed's, "anyplace." Now, after 68 years in business, the Toronto discount store that boasted about price-cutting, decades before Walmart, is closing.
Today is the last chance for customers to hunt for bargains at Honest Ed's, which has long sold everything from white socks to canned tuna, and has maintained a timeless presence as Canada's biggest city has evolved in countless ways around it.
"You could certainly go so far as to say that this is an iconic Canadian business," says Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet.
Like many Torontonians, Stephens' first experience in the store was as a child. "I remember it being some sort of fantastical emporium," he says.
Stephens attributes its lasting success to the Mirvish family's involvement in the business as well as their sense of community, giving out free turkeys every Christmas to lineups of customers. "They had a really clear sense of who they were," he says.
In its final 24 hours, the store's display tables are piled high with bits of its own history, as shoppers line up to purchase — or simply photograph — a piece of Honest Ed's. A big draw was the store's hand-painted sales signs advertising "Ed's bargains" such as ladies' "fashion tops" for a reasonable $2.99.
Now sifting through old store signs with his own young family, Dwayne Batchelor recalls how the store's commitment to bargains had a real impact on his childhood.
"My parents were immigrants. They came from Jamaica, so this place allowed them to get things that they couldn't afford otherwise," he says.
"It's kind of sad to see it being torn down, to be honest with you."
To others, it was the glowing exterior of the building that has left its biggest mark.
"People are so used to it being bright, and when you're driving from afar you know you're near Honest Ed's because it brightens up the corner," says Daiva Kryzanauskas.
Having shopped at the store since she was a child in the 1960s, Kryzanauskas says she hopes the new development maintains some of the community feeling the store built in the neighbourhood.