Ed Mirvish will always be known as Honest Ed

Torstar news service file photo


Ed Mirvish is credited with putting Toronto on the theatre map in North America but to many he’s better known for his bargain store.

He began by showing us where to find a bargain, but wound up giving us much that was priceless.

Edwin Mirvish, known universally as “Honest Ed,” first came into the public eye as the merchant king whose giant Bloor Street discount store, with its thousands of blinking lightbulbs, is still thriving after nearly 60 years. But Mirvish also will be remembered as the man who created the most successful theatrical empire in Canadian history.

Ed Mirvish — known for his warm smile, quick wit and open-hearted generosity to individuals and charitable causes — was born on July 24, 1914, in Colonial Beach, Va., to David and Annie (née Kornhauser) Mirvish. He was given the name Yehuda, but his cousin Frances persuaded the family to change it to “Edwin.”

In 1923 David and Annie moved to Toronto. David Mirvish died in 1930 at 42. Ed was 15 at the time and quit school to take charge of the family business.

Romance entered Ed’s life when he fell in love with Anne Maklin, a sculptor from Hamilton. They married in 1940 when she was 21.

He and Anne took some of wedding-present money, cashed in Anne’s insurance policy, got a bank loan and put $600 into a store they called The Sport Bar. The location on Bloor Street, just west of Bathurst, was to prove central to Ed’s career. By 1946, he had bought all the stores between Bathurst and Markham streets. And in 1948, “Honest Ed’s” was born.

The year before, Ed bought the once grand but crumbling Royal Alexandra Theatre and spent more than twice the cost of the building to restore it to its former glory.

He also built The Princess Of Wales Theatre for $22 million. It opened in 1993.

simon hayter/torstar news service file photo

Ed Mirvish was always game for action, like throwing out the first pitch from his wheelchair at a Jays game in 2005, above.

Michael stuparyk/torstar news service file photo

Mirvish and wife at his 90th birthday.

Tony Bock/Torstar news service file photo

People line up early at Honest Ed’s store for free turkey and fruit cake, distributed by Ed Mirvish himself, below.

Michael stuparyk/torstar news service file photo

Lucas Oleinuk/Torstar News Service file photo

Pre-show meal

  • At one point, Mirvish also operated six restaurants near theatres and the dinner he offered of prime rib, mashed potatoes and peas constituted the perfect pre-show meal. But economic realities caused Ed to close them one by one, until the last survivor shut its doors in 2000.

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