David Mirvish Will Save a Portion of the Iconic HONEST ED’s Sign and Move it to the Exterior of the Ed Mirvish Theatre
On December 31, 2016, Toronto lost one of its brightest and most quintessential attractions, the much loved Honest Ed’s World Famous Bargain Shopping Centre. An element of the property that has long been representative of the city in postcards, photographs, t-shirts, posters and other materials is the famous 23,000-bulb exterior sign – which is actually a collection of more than a dozen different signs.
Since the store closed, there has been considerable interest from the public to save at least one of these signs as a record of an important era in Toronto’s history.
But saving a sign is not an easy task. The current signs, which are the latest in a long line of signage at the store (which evolved and grew in size from its modest beginnings in 1948), were erected in 1984 when the store was doubled in size, stretching west to east from Markham to Bathurst streets and almost a block south on Bathurst Street.
David Mirvish, with the cooperation and support of the new owners of the property, Westbank Corporation, has spent many months investigating and exploring a possible future for these signs. David and his team have finally found a way to preserve the most iconic of the signs — the one in the style of early Las Vegas.
“I’m delighted to announce that we have found a way to move the 30-foot-tall by 60-foot-wide Honest Ed’s sign from the corner of Markham and Bloor streets to the Ed Mirvish Theatre in the Yonge/Dundas neighbourhood,” says David Mirvish.
After the sign has been carefully dismantled and removed, it will be shipped to a warehouse large enough to accommodate it, where it will be refurbished. A new steel structure will then have to be attached to the Ed Mirvish Theatre to hold such a large sign.
The Ed Mirvish Theatre was named after the beloved founder of Honest Ed's and Toronto legend in December 2011. Formerly called the Canon Theatre (and before that, in backwards chronological order, stretching from 1999 to 1920, Pantages, Imperial Six, Imperial and Pantages), the building has entrances on both Yonge Street and Victoria Street. The Honest Ed’s sign will be installed on the Victoria Street frontage in a location that has always had signage.
Explains David Mirvish: “As well as Honest Ed’s, my father’s legacy is the theatre business he founded when he bought and saved from demolition the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1963. From that sole venue, our family's chain of live theatres has grown to four venues in Toronto and participation in productions and presentations of hundreds of shows around the world.
"It is fitting that a sign from the original store that made it possible for my father to become involved in theatre will now grace the venue that is named for him.
"I’m sure he would be delighted to see two of his great passions — Honest Ed’s, which in many ways was a theatrical setting for a grand parade of humanity, and the theatre world, which he loved — finally be joined together.”
The installation of the Honest Ed’s sign at the Ed Mirvish Theatre still has to be approved by Toronto City Hall. After that, a timeline will be announced for its erection and unveiling.
“I’d especially like to thank Ian Gillespie and everyone at Westbank for their foresight, collaboration and support of this project,” adds David Mirvish.