Dead Brands: Honest Ed’s 1948 to 2016

It’s not often that a single location retailer becomes a well known, landmark brand. But that is exactly what happened to Honest Ed’s in Toronto between 1948 and 2016.

Whether you needed a holiday turkey or tube socks, Honest Ed’s was the place to go in Toronto for decades. With an astounding 1.8 hectare land mass in the heart of Toronto, there was no mistaking the footprint or impact that the bargain retailer played in the city.

As a brand, Honest Ed’s was built on its unique character, inspired by founder Ed Mirvish, with their iconic hand painted signage, silly puns, birthday parties, and active inclusion of all Torontonians. The Honest Ed’s brand community spanned generations in the nearly 70 years that it was open.

The mix of charm, loyalty to their community, and accessibility made for a near perfect storm for the bargain brand. By making themselves a destination for all shoppers, without a barrier of entry based on pricing, Honest Ed’s doors were open to anyone and everyone. And while shoppers knew not to walk through the doors if they were in the market for high end merchandise, they also knew that they could always walk through the doors and leave with something useful or unique without breaking the bank.

Through the years Honest Ed’s became synonymous with Toronto and Bloor Street West, appearing in movies, books, music videos and other pop culture presentations. And it’s bright shining sign (with all 23,000 light bulbs) was a major part of the city’s landscape.

With the doors to the legendary bargain house now closed, plans will move forward to redevelop the space into an anticipated residential/commercial mixed space.

However, 30 by 60 foot Honest Ed’s sign will live on, with plans for it to be mounted on the Ed Mirvish Theatre after refurbishment. The brand may be dead, but the memories for Torontonians will live on.

Blade Brain Trust

Blade Brain Trust

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