I was saddened to hear that “Honest” Ed Mirvish had passed away earlier today. But at age 92, this hardly unexpected, and we can expect to commemorate a full life well lived.
There is no doubt that the City of Toronto owes a lot to Ed. He was a household name through my childhood, even though it was a bit of a joke or an epithet for young students to claim that another student’s parents shopped at “Honest Ed’s”. Ed played off of that kitsch, never taking himself too seriously. His store remains a landmark at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, full of bright flashing lights and signs that take this self-deprecating style to the max, including “Ed is an honest man! People look at him and say, ‘honest, is this a man?’”.
Through his life and career, he has shown a passionate love of his adopted home town. He has never shown any intention of moving his Bathurst-Bloor store to the spacious suburbs. He has faced down competition from Walmart and other big box stores and, belying his discount store chic, he has helped stimulate an artistic renaissance in the City of Toronto. Mirvish Village, on Markham Street beside his landmark store, was spruced up thanks to him and now features a number of stylish restaurants and art venues.
Then there was the decision to step in and save the Royal Alexandria Theatre on King Street. The fact that Toronto has an entertainment district, much less the fact that it’s on King Street rather than Yonge Street, is entirely due to the Mirvish family, as they restored the venerable old theatre and added a new one (the Princess of Wales theatre) beside it. With the Old Vic in London, England, the Mirvish family are now theatre production barons as well as discount store operators (quite an eclectic mix), launching or hosting blockbuster productions and bringing us to the world’s attention.
In my opinion, the contributions Ed Mirvish has made to the City of Toronto rank as high as that of the well-known entrepreneurs of a century before, and a decent tribute to the Mirvish family’s contributions in general and Ed’s in particular would be to rename a street in his honour — possibly Markham Street itself in Mirvish Village. It would go well with the street that should be named in Jane Jacob’s honour in that area, in my view.
As expected, the accolades roll in:
News from the ‘Oh Really?’ Department
Hat tip to the Calgary Grit for this eyebrows up moment from Alberta premier Ed Stelmach when apparently he showed up at the Calgary Stampede and welcome everyone to “the Alberta Stampede”.
Now, I know that a lot of people outside of Alberta identify the Calgary Stampede as a quintessential Albertan event, and I can understand why perhaps some Albertans would feel that the rest of Alberta should share in Calgary’s glory. I mean, if Edmonton ran a similar stampede, what would be the chances that it would get a fraction of Calgary’s press? Perhaps it would be better just to piggyback onto Calgary’s efforts and promote the whole province to the tourists.
But given that Ed Stelmach has been pegged as against urban Albertan interests in general and Calgary interests in particular, this little slip of the tongue has to be considered a gaffe. Whoopsie!