Nov 29, 2020
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Ed Mirvish, dies at 92

TORONTO (CP) _ Ed Mirvish was no stranger to strange places, whether it was riding down city streets on the back of an elephant, doling out free frozen turkeys at Christmas or strolling through the classical antique section of his sprawling discount variety store.

An eccentric, canny businessman, master promoter and self-made theatre impresario, the man known to most Toronto residents simply as Honest Ed died Tuesday at the age of 92.

To some, Mirvish was the P.T. Barnum of thrift store owners, a larger-than-life pitchman who understood the economics of big-box retailing long before the world heard of Wal-Mart. To others, he was a generous philanthropist and the father of Canadian musical theatre.

Honest Ed’s, his vast retail empire on Bloor Street just west of downtown Toronto, opened in 1948 and quickly earned a reputation for selling everything under the sun _ from barbecues and winter socks to a life-sized Elvis bust or a six-metre-tall cuckoo clock.

Mirvish’s foray into the theatre business 16 years later seemed equally out of the blue. At the time, he admitted he knew nothing about acting.

All the same, he purchased the stately Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto in 1962, saving it from demolition. He also bought and restored the Old Vic in London, England, and with his son, David Mirvish, built the award-winning Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1993.

His theatres introduced Toronto audiences to blockbusters like "The Lion King," "Mamma Mia" and "Miss Saigon."

In a statement released Wednesday, Toronto Mayor David Miller described Mirvish as a local hero who would be sorely missed.

"The lights may have dimmed on Ed’s life, but his spirit and legacy have been indelibly burned into the fabric of Toronto," Miller said.

Mirvish was born July 24, 1914, in Colonial Beach, Va.. He came to Toronto in 1923 where he and his family lived above their downtown Dundas Street grocery. He was 15 when his father died and he dropped out of school to support his family.

Over the years, Mirvish picked up a handful of honorary degrees and awards, including the Order of Canada and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

His death is being felt particularly strongly in Canada’s theatre community. Mirvish was among the first businessmen to support local, home-grown theatre productions, said actor R.H. Thomson.

"It’s (his) generation of theatrical pioneers of all different kinds who took on the problem that the only theatre in Canada was what we shipped in from outside," he said.

Thomson, who worked on a Mirvish production of the Tom Stoppard play "The Real Thing" in the 1980s, said Mirvish "always had his feet on the ground" and never showed any pretension despite his wealth and social status.

"He’s what I’d call a quintessentially Canadian mogul . . . because he has deep roots and loyalty to the community, and not just the theatre community, but to the community of ordinary Canadians. That’s what makes him peculiar."

Mirvish opened his store in the heart Toronto’s immigrant district. His first newspaper ad read: "Our building is a dump! Our service is rotten! . . . But. . .!!! Our prices are the lowest in town!"

He once said he named his store Honest Ed’s because "it was so ridiculous. As soon as you claim to be honest, everybody gets suspicious."

By the 1950s, the store, which boasted a massive marquee comprised of 23,000 light bulbs and took up an entire city block, had become so successful that neighbours were complaining about noise and traffic. The neighbourhood is now known as Mirvish Village.

By the time he bought the Royal Alex, Mirvish had become so successful he spent $500,000 restoring the 1907 theatre to its former glory.

Soon after, he added restaurateur to his expanding list of accomplishments with the opening of Ed’s Warehouse on King, a 180-seat restaurant that only served roast beef. Eventually, his restaurant empire included 10 dining rooms.

In 2003, one of Mirvish’s restaurants, Old Ed’s, was transformed into the Toronto Antique Market.

Mirvish, and his only son David, who together formed Mirvish Productions, later took the family’s Midas touch to London, buying the Old Vic theatre for $1.23 million in 1982.

At first, Mirvish appeared a garish puzzle to many Britons.

"We do not have characters like that in Britain," wrote Guardian drama critic Michael Billington. "He is a salesman _ a fascinating, buccaneering tycoon."

Mirvish, who was distinguished by his flamboyance and shrewd business acumen, was also well-known for his generosity.

During the SARS outbreaks in Toronto in the spring, Mirvish and his son were instrumental in assembling a deep-discount package meant to revive the city’s lagging tourism and economy. All 120,000 of the $125- or $85-packages sold out in 10 days.

At his annual birthday bash, to which everyone was welcome, there were free hot dogs, rides and cake. And each Christmas, people would line up overnight outside Honest Ed’s _ often for as long as 24 hours in the freezing cold _ for a free turkey and fruit cake.

Despite his wealth and fame, Mirvish always considered himself a shopkeeper, said Russell Lazar, Mirvish’s assistant and manager of Honest Ed’s for 45 years.

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Headline, Industry News

Ed Mirvish, dies at 92

TORONTO (CP) _ Ed Mirvish was no stranger to strange places, whether it was riding down city streets on the back of an elephant, doling out free frozen turkeys at Christmas or strolling through the classical antique section of his sprawling discount variety store.

An eccentric, canny businessman, master promoter and self-made theatre impresario, the man known to most Toronto residents simply as Honest Ed died Tuesday at the age of 92.

To some, Mirvish was the P.T. Barnum of thrift store owners, a larger-than-life pitchman who understood the economics of big-box retailing long before the world heard of Wal-Mart. To others, he was a generous philanthropist and the father of Canadian musical theatre.

Honest Ed’s, his vast retail empire on Bloor Street just west of downtown Toronto, opened in 1948 and quickly earned a reputation for selling everything under the sun _ from barbecues and winter socks to a life-sized Elvis bust or a six-metre-tall cuckoo clock.

Mirvish’s foray into the theatre business 16 years later seemed equally out of the blue. At the time, he admitted he knew nothing about acting.

All the same, he purchased the stately Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto in 1962, saving it from demolition. He also bought and restored the Old Vic in London, England, and with his son, David Mirvish, built the award-winning Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1993.

His theatres introduced Toronto audiences to blockbusters like "The Lion King," "Mamma Mia" and "Miss Saigon."

In a statement released Wednesday, Toronto Mayor David Miller described Mirvish as a local hero who would be sorely missed.

"The lights may have dimmed on Ed’s life, but his spirit and legacy have been indelibly burned into the fabric of Toronto," Miller said.

Mirvish was born July 24, 1914, in Colonial Beach, Va.. He came to Toronto in 1923 where he and his family lived above their downtown Dundas Street grocery. He was 15 when his father died and he dropped out of school to support his family.

Over the years, Mirvish picked up a handful of honorary degrees and awards, including the Order of Canada and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

His death is being felt particularly strongly in Canada’s theatre community. Mirvish was among the first businessmen to support local, home-grown theatre productions, said actor R.H. Thomson.

"It’s (his) generation of theatrical pioneers of all different kinds who took on the problem that the only theatre in Canada was what we shipped in from outside," he said.

Thomson, who worked on a Mirvish production of the Tom Stoppard play "The Real Thing" in the 1980s, said Mirvish "always had his feet on the ground" and never showed any pretension despite his wealth and social status.

"He’s what I’d call a quintessentially Canadian mogul . . . because he has deep roots and loyalty to the community, and not just the theatre community, but to the community of ordinary Canadians. That’s what makes him peculiar."

Mirvish opened his store in the heart Toronto’s immigrant district. His first newspaper ad read: "Our building is a dump! Our service is rotten! . . . But. . .!!! Our prices are the lowest in town!"

He once said he named his store Honest Ed’s because "it was so ridiculous. As soon as you claim to be honest, everybody gets suspicious."

By the 1950s, the store, which boasted a massive marquee comprised of 23,000 light bulbs and took up an entire city block, had become so successful that neighbours were complaining about noise and traffic. The neighbourhood is now known as Mirvish Village.

By the time he bought the Royal Alex, Mirvish had become so successful he spent $500,000 restoring the 1907 theatre to its former glory.

Soon after, he added restaurateur to his expanding list of accomplishments with the opening of Ed’s Warehouse on King, a 180-seat restaurant that only served roast beef. Eventually, his restaurant empire included 10 dining rooms.

In 2003, one of Mirvish’s restaurants, Old Ed’s, was transformed into the Toronto Antique Market.

Mirvish, and his only son David, who together formed Mirvish Productions, later took the family’s Midas touch to London, buying the Old Vic theatre for $1.23 million in 1982.

At first, Mirvish appeared a garish puzzle to many Britons.

"We do not have characters like that in Britain," wrote Guardian drama critic Michael Billington. "He is a salesman _ a fascinating, buccaneering tycoon."

Mirvish, who was distinguished by his flamboyance and shrewd business acumen, was also well-known for his generosity.

During the SARS outbreaks in Toronto in the spring, Mirvish and his son were instrumental in assembling a deep-discount package meant to revive the city’s lagging tourism and economy. All 120,000 of the $125- or $85-packages sold out in 10 days.

At his annual birthday bash, to which everyone was welcome, there were free hot dogs, rides and cake. And each Christmas, people would line up overnight outside Honest Ed’s _ often for as long as 24 hours in the freezing cold _ for a free turkey and fruit cake.

Despite his wealth and fame, Mirvish always considered himself a shopkeeper, said Russell Lazar, Mirvish’s assistant and manager of Honest Ed’s for 45 years.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Headline, Industry News

Ed Mirvish, dies at 92

TORONTO (CP) _ Ed Mirvish was no stranger to strange places, whether it was riding down city streets on the back of an elephant, doling out free frozen turkeys at Christmas or strolling through the classical antique section of his sprawling discount variety store.

An eccentric, canny businessman, master promoter and self-made theatre impresario, the man known to most Toronto residents simply as Honest Ed died Tuesday at the age of 92.

To some, Mirvish was the P.T. Barnum of thrift store owners, a larger-than-life pitchman who understood the economics of big-box retailing long before the world heard of Wal-Mart. To others, he was a generous philanthropist and the father of Canadian musical theatre.

Honest Ed’s, his vast retail empire on Bloor Street just west of downtown Toronto, opened in 1948 and quickly earned a reputation for selling everything under the sun _ from barbecues and winter socks to a life-sized Elvis bust or a six-metre-tall cuckoo clock.

Mirvish’s foray into the theatre business 16 years later seemed equally out of the blue. At the time, he admitted he knew nothing about acting.

All the same, he purchased the stately Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto in 1962, saving it from demolition. He also bought and restored the Old Vic in London, England, and with his son, David Mirvish, built the award-winning Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1993.

His theatres introduced Toronto audiences to blockbusters like "The Lion King," "Mamma Mia" and "Miss Saigon."

In a statement released Wednesday, Toronto Mayor David Miller described Mirvish as a local hero who would be sorely missed.

"The lights may have dimmed on Ed’s life, but his spirit and legacy have been indelibly burned into the fabric of Toronto," Miller said.

Mirvish was born July 24, 1914, in Colonial Beach, Va.. He came to Toronto in 1923 where he and his family lived above their downtown Dundas Street grocery. He was 15 when his father died and he dropped out of school to support his family.

Over the years, Mirvish picked up a handful of honorary degrees and awards, including the Order of Canada and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

His death is being felt particularly strongly in Canada’s theatre community. Mirvish was among the first businessmen to support local, home-grown theatre productions, said actor R.H. Thomson.

"It’s (his) generation of theatrical pioneers of all different kinds who took on the problem that the only theatre in Canada was what we shipped in from outside," he said.

Thomson, who worked on a Mirvish production of the Tom Stoppard play "The Real Thing" in the 1980s, said Mirvish "always had his feet on the ground" and never showed any pretension despite his wealth and social status.

"He’s what I’d call a quintessentially Canadian mogul . . . because he has deep roots and loyalty to the community, and not just the theatre community, but to the community of ordinary Canadians. That’s what makes him peculiar."

Mirvish opened his store in the heart Toronto’s immigrant district. His first newspaper ad read: "Our building is a dump! Our service is rotten! . . . But. . .!!! Our prices are the lowest in town!"

He once said he named his store Honest Ed’s because "it was so ridiculous. As soon as you claim to be honest, everybody gets suspicious."

By the 1950s, the store, which boasted a massive marquee comprised of 23,000 light bulbs and took up an entire city block, had become so successful that neighbours were complaining about noise and traffic. The neighbourhood is now known as Mirvish Village.

By the time he bought the Royal Alex, Mirvish had become so successful he spent $500,000 restoring the 1907 theatre to its former glory.

Soon after, he added restaurateur to his expanding list of accomplishments with the opening of Ed’s Warehouse on King, a 180-seat restaurant that only served roast beef. Eventually, his restaurant empire included 10 dining rooms.

In 2003, one of Mirvish’s restaurants, Old Ed’s, was transformed into the Toronto Antique Market.

Mirvish, and his only son David, who together formed Mirvish Productions, later took the family’s Midas touch to London, buying the Old Vic theatre for $1.23 million in 1982.

At first, Mirvish appeared a garish puzzle to many Britons.

"We do not have characters like that in Britain," wrote Guardian drama critic Michael Billington. "He is a salesman _ a fascinating, buccaneering tycoon."

Mirvish, who was distinguished by his flamboyance and shrewd business acumen, was also well-known for his generosity.

During the SARS outbreaks in Toronto in the spring, Mirvish and his son were instrumental in assembling a deep-discount package meant to revive the city’s lagging tourism and economy. All 120,000 of the $125- or $85-packages sold out in 10 days.

At his annual birthday bash, to which everyone was welcome, there were free hot dogs, rides and cake. And each Christmas, people would line up overnight outside Honest Ed’s _ often for as long as 24 hours in the freezing cold _ for a free turkey and fruit cake.

Despite his wealth and fame, Mirvish always considered himself a shopkeeper, said Russell Lazar, Mirvish’s assistant and manager of Honest Ed’s for 45 years.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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