Ed Mirvish

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Ed Mirvish
Ed Mirvish in 2006 crop.jpg
Ed Mirvish, 2006
Yehuda Edwin Mirvish

(1914-07-24)July 24, 1914
DiedJuly 11, 2007(2007-07-11) (aged 92)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
OccupationFounder, chair and CEO of Honest Ed's
Children David Mirvish, two others [1]

Edwin "Honest Ed" Mirvish, OC CBE OOnt (July 24, 1914 – July 11, 2007) [2] was an American-Canadian businessman, philanthropist and theatrical impresario who lived in Toronto, Ontario. He is known for his flagship business, Honest Ed's, a landmark discount store in downtown Toronto, and as a patron of the arts, instrumental in revitalizing the theatre scene in Toronto.

Order of Canada Canadian national order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of the order.

Order of Ontario order

The Order of Ontario is the most prestigious official honour in the Canadian province of Ontario. Instituted in 1986 by Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander, on the advice of the Cabinet under Premier David Peterson, the civilian order is administered by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council and is intended to honour current or former Ontario residents for conspicuous achievements in any field.



Born in Colonial Beach, Virginia, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania (his father, David) and Austria (his mother, Anna). His parents gave him the Hebrew name, Yehuda, but at the urging of a cousin, they added a more American name, Edwin. [3] Mirvish often told the tale of his bris; there was no mohel in Colonial Beach, so the family hired one in nearby Washington, D.C., to come down to perform the ceremony. The mohel chosen was Rabbi Moshe Reuben Yoelson, the father of Al Jolson. Mirvish credited this as his introduction to show business. [4]

Colonial Beach, Virginia Town in Virginia, United States

Colonial Beach, Virginia (CBVA) is a river and beach town located in the northwestern part of Westmoreland County on Virginia's Northern Neck peninsula. It is bounded by the Potomac River, Monroe Bay and Monroe Creek and home to the second-largest beachfront in the state. It is located 65 mi (105 km) from Washington, D.C.; 70 mi (110 km) from the state capital of Richmond; and 35 nautical miles from the Chesapeake Bay.

Lithuania Republic in Northeastern Europe

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. The country is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a land-locked country in Central Europe composed of nine federated states (Bundesländer), one of which is Vienna, Austria's capital and its largest city. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi) and has a population of nearly 9 million people. It is bordered by Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. While German is the country's official language, many Austrians communicate informally in a variety of Bavarian dialects.

The family later moved to Washington, D.C., where Mirvish's father opened a grocery store. The grocery store went bankrupt in 1923, and David Mirvish moved his family to Toronto where he worked as a door-to-door salesman – peddling, among other things, Fuller Brushes and the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry – until he opened a grocery in the Toronto Jewish community, on Dundas Street. The family lived above the store, sharing their tiny apartment with a Hebrew school. Mirvish would often joke that it was his dream in those days to someday have a bathroom he did not have to share with 50 others.

Mirvish lost his father at the age of 15. He dropped out of school to manage the store, becoming the sole support of his mother, his younger brother, Robert (who became a successful novelist and short-story writer) and sister, Lorraine. The grocery business did not do well, and Mirvish closed shop to reopen as a dry-cleaner, in partnership with his childhood friend, Yale Simpson. The shop was known as Simpson's. When the well-known downtown Toronto department store Simpson's attempted to force him to change the name of his business, Mirvish pointed to Simpson and said, "Here's my Mr. Simpson. Where's yours?" The dry-cleaning business did no better than the grocery, however, and Mirvish soon abandoned it to take a regular job working as a produce manager and buyer for Toronto grocery store entrepreneur Leon Weinstein. Now financially stable, Mirvish bought a Ford Model T and began to court a radio singer from Hamilton, Ontario, Anne Macklin, whom he married in 1941. In 1945, their son, David, was born.

Ford Model T American car

The Ford Model T is an automobile produced by Ford Motor Company from October 1, 1908, to May 26, 1927. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American; some of this was because of Ford's efficient fabrication, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting.

David Mirvish, is a Canadian art collector, art dealer, theatre producer, real estate developer and son of the late Toronto discount department store owner "Honest" Ed Mirvish and artist Anne Lazar Macklin.

Honest Ed's discount store HonestEdsTorontoBathurstandBloor.jpg
Honest Ed's discount store

In 1943, during World War II, Ed and Anne Mirvish opened a dress shop known as The Sport Bar on Bloor Street near Bathurst. [4] In 1946, the business expanded and was renamed Anne & Eddie's. In 1948, Mirvish cashed in his wife's insurance policy to open a new business, a bargain basement known as "Honest Ed's", stocked with all kinds of odd merchandise purchased at bankruptcy and fire sales, and displayed on orange crates. This unique no-credit, no-service, no-frills business model was an immediate success. Mirvish claimed to have invented the "loss-leader", below-cost discounts on selected items designed to lure buyers into the store. "Honest Ed's" gradually expanded to fill an entire city block. Billing itself as "the world's biggest discount department store", it was soon bringing in millions of dollars a year. The store expanded and, in the late 1950s, Mirvish started buying up houses on Markham Street running south from Bloor. When his application to tear down the Victorian structures to build a parking lot was rejected by the city Mirvish, at the urging of his wife, rented them out at low rates to local artists and the street soon became a community of artists studios, galleries, boutiques and niche shops known today as Mirvish Village. [5]

Honest Eds

Honest Ed's was a landmark discount store in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was named for its proprietor, Ed Mirvish, who opened the store in 1948 and oversaw its operations for almost 60 years until his death in 2007. The store continued to operate until it permanently closed on December 31, 2016.

In June 2006, Ed and Anne Mirvish [6] marked their 65th wedding anniversary with a party at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The mayor of Toronto, the chief of police and other public figures delivered congratulatory speeches, followed by a program of vocal music by some of Toronto's opera and theater stars. [7] In July 2006, Mirvish celebrated his 92nd birthday with a lavish party at Honest Ed's. In honor of this occasion, many items in the store were on sale for 92 cents. [8]

On July 11, 2007, the Mirvish family released a statement to announce the death of Ed Mirvish after midnight at St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto. The funeral service was held at the Beth Tzedek Synagogue in Toronto. [9] Mirvish was buried at Pardes Shalom Cemetery in Maple, Ontario. His store was closed and its lights were dimmed, as staff bid farewell to the former owner. A similar gesture was made by theatres on Broadway, which dimmed their lights for one minute at 8 pm on July 13. Toronto Police provided ceremonial and mounted units (including the horse Honest Ed) for his funeral. Flags at Toronto's civic centres were lowered to half mast. [9]

On August 12, 2007, the City of Toronto had granted a closure of Bloor Street between Bathurst and Markham Streets to accommodate a celebration in honour of Ed Mirvish. Ceremonies began with Mayor David Miller, who proclaimed August 12 "Ed Mirvish Day" in the City of Toronto.

In response to his death, Jones Cane Sugar Soda issued bottles of their soda with a picture of Honest Ed on them, with "Honest Ed Mirvish 1914–2007" placed where normally a photo credit lies.

Publicity stunts

Mirvish was renowned for his publicity stunts, doing everything from riding elephants, to hiring protesters to picket his own restaurant over its dress code. Every Christmas, Mirvish gave away ten thousand pounds of free turkeys in his store to shoppers who stood in line for hours. The giveaway continued each Christmas until 2015. [10] [11] A tradition since his 75th birthday has been the annual birthday bash outside the store, with free food, entertainment and children's rides. In 2003, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman proclaimed Mirvish's birthday "Ed Mirvish Day". [12]

At one time, a sign in the store read: "When Ed dies, he would like a catered funeral with accordion players and a buffet table, with a replica of Honest Ed on it made of potato salad." [13]

Theatres and restaurants

The Royal Alexandra Theatre Royal Alex Theatre, Toronto.jpg
The Royal Alexandra Theatre

In addition to Honest Ed's, Mirvish was known in Toronto for his theatres and restaurants. [9] His first purchase was the Royal Alexandra Theatre, an Edwardian landmark building potentially slated for demolition. Mirvish purchased the building in 1963 and refurbished it, revitalizing the Toronto theatre scene. [14] [15]

To liven up the neighborhood and provide patrons with a place to go before and after performances, Mirvish bought and renovated a nearby warehouse building, which he turned into a restaurant. To cut costs, "Ed's Warehouse" at King Street West and Duncan Street served a set meal: prime rib, mashed potatoes and peas. [5] Along the same street, Mirvish later opened Ed's Seafood, Ed's Folly, Ed's Chinese, Ed's Italian Restaurant and Old Ed's, which attracted local residents to the previously neglected King Street area and served 6,000 meals a night. As the neighbourhood became revitalized, many other restaurants opened nearby, often serving a wider range of foods than Ed's restaurants and achieving greater popularity; consequently, one by one, Ed's restaurants closed down. The last was Ed's Warehouse, which shut its doors in 2000. [5]

In 1993 the Mirvishes built the Princess of Wales Theatre, the largest new theatre – and first privately financed theatre – in North America in the span of thirty years. In 2001, Mirvish Enterprises signed a management contract to run the Pantages Theatre, renamed the Canon Theatre, for Clear Channel Entertainment (now Live Nation), which had bought up the assets of the bankrupt theatre company, Livent. [5] The first show under the Mirvish banner was a touring production of Saturday Night Fever .

He and his son David operated Mirvish Productions, which staged major touring theatre productions from Broadway and London and which produced and/or co-produced the Canadian stagings of such recent hits as The Lion King , Mamma Mia! , The Producers and Hairspray . In 1982 Ed and David Mirvish bought London's Old Vic for GB£550,000 (C$1.23 million) [16] and spent four million dollars renovating it. Under their management, The Old Vic was celebrated for winning more awards for its productions than any other single theatre in Britain; It never made money, however, and they sold it to its present owners, a theatre trust, in 1998. Ed Mirvish was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for saving the Old Vic.

On December 6, 2011 the Canon Theatre was renamed Ed Mirvish Theatre in his honour.

Honours and awards

Published works

See also

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  1. "Rising son". Toronto Life: 50–58. May 1993 via CBCA Complete.
  2. "Honest Ed Mirvish dies at 92". National Post. July 11, 2007. Archived from the original on August 29, 2008. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  3. Richard Ouzounian (July 11, 2007). "Ed Mirvish, 92: 'Honest Ed'". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on September 11, 2007. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  4. 1 2 CanWest News Service (July 11, 2007). "Entrepreneur and theatre impresario Mirvish dead at 92". Canada.com. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Richard Ouzounian (July 12, 2007). "Ed Mirvish, 92: Toronto's Greatest Bargain". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  6. "Anne Mirvish, wife of 'Honest' Ed Mirvish, dies at 94". CBS News. The Canadian Press. September 20, 2013. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013.
  7. "'Honest Ed' Mirvish celebrating 92nd birthday". CTV. July 23, 2006. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  8. "Honest Ed Mirvish Celebrates His 92nd Birthday". CityNews. July 23, 2006. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 "Emotional Crowds Say Goodbye To Ed Mirvish With Tears And Cheers". CityNews. July 13, 2007. Archived from the original on August 20, 2007. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  10. Goffin, Peter. "Last call for Honest Ed's annual turkey giveaway". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  11. Robertson, Ian (December 4, 2006). "Ed's turkeys theirs for the gobbling". Toronto Sun . Archived from the original on January 28, 2007. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  12. City of Toronto: City Proclamations
  13. Obituary: Ed Mirvish
  14. "Honest Ed Gets Royal Alex – "Not Looking for a Profit"". Toronto Daily Star . February 16, 1963. p. 1.
  15. John Goddard (July 12, 2007). "Honest tears shed for well-loved retailer". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  16. "Honest Ed buys Old Vic theatre". The Globe and Mail . June 24, 1982.
  17. City of Toronto, By-law No.956-2008, To rename part of the public highway Duncan Street between King Street West and Pearl Street as "Ed Mirvish Way".
  18. Staff report for action on the renaming of Bathurst Subway Parkette