“There’s no Place like this Place, Anyplace!” reads one of the many quirky signs for Toronto’s famous discount store, Honest Ed’s. Opened in 1948 by the late Ed Mirvish, Honest Ed’s has been a Toronto landmark for over 65 years. The ostentatious exterior cannot go unnoticed at the intersection of Bloor and Bathurst streets. Inside, the massive emporium carries groceries, housewares, clothing, and many other necessities.
In the 1960s, Ed Mirvish bought the Victorian homes surrounding Honest Ed’s and leased them to artists and business owners. For over 40 years the eclectic hub has been home to a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants, each with their own unique character. Today, this neighbourhood is known as Mirvish Village and is, unfortunately, one of Toronto’s planned business improvement areas.
Like many Torontonians, I was shocked to hear that it was for sale. David Mirvish, Ed Mirvish’s son and the current owner of the property, revealed in an interview with the Toronto Star that Honest Ed’s is just part of the 1.8 hectares of land up for sale. This means that in addition to the iconic discount store, other unique, interesting businesses in the Mirvish Village are also for sale.
Many of the people living and working around the area are upset about the proposed changes. Mike Anderson, an employee at Hollywood Canteen for over 15 years, claims that the store recently moved to Mirvish Village for the location and atmosphere. He was saddened at the possibility of having to move out, as it would mean losing the foot traffic that comes from being downtown.
Next to the Hollywood Canteen is a jewellery and clothing store called Chokka Jewellery. The artisan studio features clothing made with natural fibers in addition to items produced by both local and international artists. Having only just opened earlier this year, owner Katarina Loizou finds the sale upsetting. “I looked for five years to find the perfect spot; it’s such a pity a beautiful cultural landmark is for sale,” she explained.
However, not everyone in the area believes that the sale of Honest Ed’s means shoppers should worry about changes to Mirvish Village anytime soon. The owner of a shop called The Rock Store was optimistic, noting that the plan to sell property in Mirvish Village along with Honest Ed’s is not a new development and that if any change does happen, it will not be for another three years at least.
Next, I stop in the Coal Miner’s Daughter, a boutique store which carries contemporary as well as vintage fashion. I am greeted by co-owner Krysten Caddy, a jewellery designer, who opened the store four and a half years ago with clothing designer Janine Cockburn-Haller. She points out that although tenants have come and gone, the area has become an established place for local artists, and views the sale of Honest Ed’s as: “a sad reality that everything is being developed. A lot of charm and history is being bulldozed.”
Finally, I head into The Beguiling Books & Art, a comic book store which has been open since the early 1990s. The current owner, Peter Birkemoe, summarizes Mirvish Village as an “arts-focused shopping district,” and says he would hate to see it go. Considering the property value in the area, Birkemoe explained that the store has benefitted from the generous rent rate offered by the Mirvish family. Immediately after he heard about the sale of Honest Ed’s and parts of Mirvish Village, he was struck with a feeling of uncertainty. Birkemoe questions the intent of whoever decides to buy the property, and is concerned it might affect his business and the atmosphere of the neighbourhood. As I leave the store, a man enters and announces with surprise that there’s “so much to look at.”
Leaving Mirvish Village, I cannot help but imagine how the street would look without some of these businesses. At the intersection I watch as a busker plays the guitar, something that is becoming harder to find in the developing parts of the city; I wonder if in a couple of years, this place will still welcome him.
Andrea Themistokleous is a third-year student double-majoring in criminology and political science.