"Honest Ed" Mirvish
Toronto needs more people like Ed Mirvish. He turned a discount store into a landmark. He revitalized a historic Toronto building. He transformed a slum into one of the city's cultural hotspots. He brought glory to Toronto theatre. The man known as "Honest Ed" has died at the age of 92.
Everyone in the city has heard of Ed Mirvish. He made sure of it. His name is literally up in lights at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. His birthday parties drew crowds to his store for free food and entertainment. He handed out free turkeys at Christmas. People from every neighbourhood in Toronto can name his cheesy slogans ("Honest Ed's is for the birds: his prices are cheap, cheap, cheap!") But Ed Mirvish's contributions to the city of Toronto go far beyond his famous discount store.
In 1962 Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street. The theatre was opened in 1907, but had fallen upon hard times, unable to compete with movies and television. The area surrounding the theatre had become a mess of warehouses and railway yards. This was not the neighbourhood you wanted to spend a Saturday night in. Ed Mirvish changed all that. He saved the theatre from demolition, renovated it, and reopened it in 1963. He also went on to purchase the surrounding properties, creating numerous restaurants (all named after himself, of course.) The theatre and the restaurants rejuvenated King Street West, creating the lively, culture-filled area we know today.
In 1993 Ed, along with his son David, opened the Princess of Wales Theatre down the street from Royal Alex, providing even more life to the Entertainment District he was a pioneer in creating. But Ed wasn't done yet. His reach stretched all the way to London, England, where he purchased the Old Vic Theatre, saving another historic theatre from destruction.
Though Ed Mirvish became rich and famous through his discount store and his involvement in theatre, it was his eclectic style that made him well loved. It may have started as a marketing campaign, but who else handed out free food to families at Christmas? Who else can be credited for not only saving and restoring a historic Toronto structure, but reinstating glory to an entire area of the city? Who else but "Honest Ed" Mirvish?
The city of Toronto will only ever have one Ed Mirvish, but we could use a few more people with his ability to blend business, enjoyment, excitement, and history.
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