Anyone who’s lived in Toronto for some time knows about Honest Ed’s. For decades of Toronto’s history, the big, tacky store at Bathurst and Bloor was THE destination for cheap housewares, gaudy colour schemes and corny puns on hand-painted signs. (“Welcome, don’t faint at our low prices, there’s no place to lie down” and “Only the floors are crooked!” are just a couple of examples.)
In a recent post, Judith Cohen, an ethnomusicologist, folk musician and longtime member of the Uma Nota community (she’s also the mother of performing artist Tamar Ilana), remembers some of the things she’d find at her “corner store” of 33 years.
“Everything” included… VHS tapes (back in the day)! The lowest pharmacy fees. Toothpaste. Photo albums at a fraction of camera store prices. Batteries. Coffee mugs. Kettles. Shower curtains. Socks. Kitchen clocks. Boots. Tinned sardines. Italian and Portuguese cooking oil. Light bulbs. Toys. When my daughter was little, I could outfit her for a summer for $20.
Non-stick (sort of) frying pans. Bath towels, and beach towels with improbable designs. Blue jeans with only a few loose threads. Sturdy fall jackets. Dubious Birkenstock sandal imitations. Plastic lawn chairs. Bookshelves. Picture frames. Knitting wool. Clothes drying racks. Garish skirts and blouses labeled, with insouciant mendaciousness, “Fashion.” Hanukkah candles and chocolate coins, and for Passover, kosher matzah, grape juice and candied fruit.
The store’s fame owed much to the late Ed Mirvish himself, an outgoing and jovial character whose giant retail operation paved the way for the Mirvish theatre production empire and the beloved Mirvish Village area on Markham St. beside the store. The theatre productions will continue, but the village will meet its end when the store, long since sold off, is demolished, turned into condos and retail units by its new owners. (The famous giant illuminated sign is being relocated to the Mirvish Theatre in the Entertainment District, The Globe and Mail reports.)
While the “the longest goodbye in retail history,” which included sales of all those hand-painted signs and the last of many clearance items, finished up on Dec. 31, 2016, there’s a final series of events taking place in the giant old building in the Annex, and we invite you to participate.
It’s all happening as part of a four-day sendoff called An Honest Farewell, organized as part of the Toronto For Everyone “co-creating our city” initiative by The Centre for Social Innovation.
“We believe that Toronto can be the global model for inclusivity, community and social innovation,” the Toronto For Everyone website explains. “Honest Ed’s may be closing its doors, but Ed’s legacy is his unique ability to foster community can carry on. For years, Ed opened his doors to immigrant families, hosted street parties and gave away free turkeys. Now it’s time for us to carry the torch through all of our city and community building initiatives, starting with TO4E this February 23-26, 2017.”
Honest Ed’s get-down finale is called Bargain Bash (tickets here), happening on Saturday, February 25 starting at 9 p.m.
“Join us as we bring together some of the hottest dance parties in Toronto, all under one roof, for one truly epic Saturday night farewell extravaganza,” T4EO invites. “Explore the newly empty rooms transformed, bask in palpable nostalgia and find yourself on one of three dance floors, participating in a night made for the history books.”
- Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic. Live Afro-Brazilian drumming performance by Maracatu Mar Aberto (presented by Uma Nota).
- Electro Swing TO, Toronto’s original speakeasy dance party, featuring resident DJs Medicineman & The Great Grantsby.
- Hip hop, dancehall, soca, reggae, afrobeats and good music brought to you by Dre Ngozi and DJ Bambii.
This is a special one-off jam for the Bargain Bash festivities.
Our groove affair goes down in the former Bad Boy space on Bathurst, and features the deep dance floor vinyl selections of Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic with the polyrhythmic release of an Uma Nota live show, represented here with powerful Afro-Brazilian Maracatu rhythms and songs.
At Bargain Bash, we present Maracatu Mar Aberto, whose thundering bass drums and rich, layered percussion hold the rhythm for beautiful Afro-Brazilian songs. Performing as a special guest with the maracatu drummers is Brazilian vocalist and past Uma Nota featured artist Flávia Nascimento, an award-winning singer/songwriter living in Quebec and recording original Brazilian-Canadian music.
Meanwhile, with a shared belief that you can’t know your future until you know your past, Footprints DJs Jason Palma and General Eclectic showcase their unique all-inclusive approach to DJing and crate-digging at the monthly, vinyl-heavy open format dance party. Steadily packed with soulful dancers for the past 14+ years, Footprints is where Palma and G.E. connect the dots between wide varieties of music, from Funk, Soul, Disco, Afrobeat, Latin and Brazilian to Dub, Reggae, Electro, House and Hip Hop.
What else can you expect? How about custom visual projections by Pleasurecraft Studio, an opening drum and horn parade into the space to honour the local community and history, and other surprises.
Stay current on party updates with our Facebook event page and join us for Bargain Bash on February 25, along with Electroswing TO and Manifesto’s High Power crew, and celebrate the official farewell party for Honest Ed’s.