Remembering Ed Mirvish: July 11: Snapshots in History

July 11, 2017 | John P.

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On December 31, 2016, a Toronto landmark and legendary bargain store, Honest Ed’s, closed its doors for the last time to pave the way for the revitalization of Mirvish Village. This week, however, take a moment to remember the man behind Honest Ed’s, Yehuda Edwin “Honest Ed” Mirvish (Born: July 24, 1914 in Colonial Beach, Virginia, United States; Died: July 11, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario, aged 92 years, 352 days). Ed Mirvish’s entrepreneurial spirit was well known and previous setbacks did not stop him from expanding a dress shop and changing its name from The Sports Bar to Anne and Eddie’s in 1946. In 1948, Ed Mirvish cashed in his wife Anne’s insurance policy to launch Honest Ed’s, which became a Toronto icon for 68 years and was known for a no-credit, no-frills approach.

Ed Mirvish was also a patron of the arts and instrumental in saving and refurbishing the Royal Alexandra Theatre (which re-opened in 1963 after having been closed for one year). Mirvish helped to revitalize the King Street West area by launching several restaurants to attract the theatre-going public, beginning with Ed’s Warehouse and later adding Ed’s Seafood, Ed’s Folly, Ed’s Chinese, Ed’s Italian Restaurant, and Old Ed’s. Facing competition from other restaurants, Ed Mirvish’s restaurants closed down, one by one over time, until the first and last of his restaurants, Ed’s Warehouse, closed down in 2000.

Ed Mirvish and his sons privately financed and built the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1993, the largest new theatre in North America over a thirty year period. In 2001, their company Mirvish Enterprises entered a contract to operate the Pantages Theatre, which was renamed the Canon Theatre (later renamed the Ed Mirvish Theatre, in 2011). Prior to these initiatives, Ed and his son David Mirvish bought the Old Vic Theatre in London, England in 1982 and spent several million dollars to renovate it. Under the tutelage of the Mirvish family, the Old Vic won more theatrical awards for its productions than any other theatre in the United Kingdom. However, the Old Vic did not see a profit and a theatre trust purchased the Old Vic from the Mirvish family in 1998. Great Britain made Ed Mirvish a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for saving the Old Vic. Mirvish was also honoured at home with the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

There's No Business Like Show Business But I Wouldn't Quit My Day Job

Book, 1997


Honest Ed Mirvish How to build an Empire on an orange crate or 121 lessons I never learned in school

Book, 1993. 

For PRINT DISABLED patrons, please borrow the CD Talking Book version.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre a celebration of 100 years

Book, 2007.

 The Old Vic the story of a great theatre from Kean to Olivier to Spacey

Book, 2014


Royal Alexandra Theatre  King St. W.  n. side  e. of Duncan St. pictures-r-4963

Royal Alexandra Theatre, King St. W., n. side, e. of Duncan St.

Salmon, James Victor (Canadian, 1911-1958)

Picture, 1955, English

(Credit: Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Collection – Call Number/Accession Number: S 1-2864)

Please visit the following blog post on the Local History and Genealogy Blog:

Farewell to Honest Ed’s, 1948 to 2016