Standing in line on a Monday morning outside Honest Ed’s, I noticed two construction workers smoking from the balcony of the B.streets condos, currently under construction at Bloor and Bathurst. They were laughing, looking incredulously upon the massive line — stretching from the Bloor Street entrance to Honest Ed’s.
To the disgruntled fist-shaking of hipsters and old people alike, Honest Ed’s is closing its doors on December 31, 2016, and the block that was once home to the Toronto landmark will be developed, likely into more condos.
Ahead of its closure, Honest Ed’s will be holding “special ‘looking back’ and nostalgic events,” according to a press release announcing the show card sign sale that took place on March 10. Over 1,000 of the landmark’s hand-painted signs were sold to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The signs began at only 50 cents — a modest price for what many consider a piece of Toronto’s history, but fitting given Honest Ed’s promise of unbeatable prices, which are prominently displayed on much of its signage.
Honest Ed’s signs are hand-painted by Wayne Reuben and Douglas Kerr, who work full-time for the store creating the signs. The show-card signs are written in almost entirely capital letters, and are usually painted in bright, primary colours. The most coveted signs contain Ed’s renowned puns (“Honest Ed’s a nut, look at the cashew save!”). Honest Ed’s has employed full-time sign painters since the store was founded in 1948.
Each sign sold on Monday was given a stamp of authenticity, and many were signed by the artists. Proceeds for the event went towards Victims Sources Toronto.
The event was advertised for children; taking place during the beginning of March Break and included an opportunity for kids to make their own signs with the show card artists. The line, however, consisted mostly of older people and young adults who grew up shopping at Honest Ed’s.
Many have expressed frustration with the sale of Honest Ed’s, which is perceived as a sign of the impending gentrification of the area.
Like Honest Ed’s, the signs are divisive — while some find them nostalgic, others consider them an eyesore. The mass turnout to the sign sale testifies to the former sentiment, as Torontonians flocked to Mirvish Village to get a small, charmingly obnoxious artifact of Honest Ed’s to hang on their own condo walls — from “Ed’s Bargain! Tampax Multipax Tampons $9.99,” to “Rugs — Ed’s price will ‘floor you’ $14.99.”
My father used to talk about how he would watch a line wrap around the block with my grandfather as Torontonians gathered at Honest Ed’s to collect their free turkeys for Christmas. Watching the line curve around the corner at Bathurst and Bloor, I wondered if it looked anything like this back then — perhaps with fewer coffee cups and camera-equipped bloggers: chilly Torontonians waiting patiently in the queue to enter the crazy, circus-like depths of the department store and abide by the slogan below the dancing lights of the marquee: “come in and get lost!”
Why do you want a sign from Honest Ed’s?
Christine | Arrived at 7:45 am, eighth in line
“I grew up with Honest Ed’s. It’s part of Canadian history.”
Aida | Arrived at 10:00 am
“I want a piece of Honest Ed’s before it closes.”
Coco | Arrived at 10:15 am
“I like the puns and it’s like a piece of history.”
Patrick | Arrived at 10:30 am
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. It’s a good piece of nostalgia.”
Calvin | Arrived at 4:00 pm
“I don’t know I’m just here”
Zach | Arrived at 2:30 pm
“It’s a cool place…something to remember it by”