Honest Ed’s, Toronto’s doomed compendium of kitsch

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Honest Ed’s, Toronto's doomed compendium of kitsch
The party was never going to last … Honest Ed’s in Toronto // © Kurt Budiarto

Once dubbed ‘the world’s biggest discount shop’, Ed Mirvish’s extraordinary retail creation played a key role in Toronto’s development – but that won’t save it from demolition next year

A bowtie. A Barack Obama commemorative plastic sack. Nine pairs of tube socks at $2.99 per 3-pak (sic). A dustpan. A free turkey. A pair of $20 dress shoes bought for a wedding as the cab waited outside. Shabbat candles. A toy Titanic that transforms into a robot. Many, many gold Elvis busts.

Ask Torontonians to name their favourite purchase from the Honest Ed’s department store, and you rapidly compile a compendium of kitsch to fascinate any anthropologist from the future. The most prized artefact, of course, should be the store itself – a garish, ramshackle funhouse that for decades held the world record for most electric lights on a building – were it not for the fact that Honest Ed’s is slated for demolition on New Years’ Eve, 2016.

When the dust settles at the start of 2017, Toronto will be one more mixed-use residential-retail complex richer. Gone, however, will be a store that didn’t just sell cheap formalwear and ironic birthday gifts to hipsters, but was central to Toronto’s proud history as one of the great immigrant cities. []