Honest Ed’s officially closed its doors as we rang in 2017. That was the last time you could go into the store as we all knew it over the past 68 years and purchase something, but if you missed out, you had one last chance to pay your respect to the place where so many of us bought our socks and soaps, thanks to Toronto for Everyone.
The team created a last hurrah style weekend of partying to say goodbye to the legendary Toronto staple in style. From a dizzying maze to a Bunz style trading market and a Bargain Bash party complete with drinks and dancing, it was the absolute best way to give this institution its due.
Opening the weekend was the Ed Lives! Gala, which I was more than happy to attend. The spendy ticket price was used to help cover costs for the more affordable Saturday night goodbye party. With an open bar and entertainment from live bands to roller derby girls and Toronto’s finest dressed to the nines, it was a memorable night.
Walking into Honest Ed’s for the first time in a couple years, it was instantly shocking to see the store emptied out of its dollar store items, even if it was replaced with bars serving up some of my favourite drinks, art displays paying tribute to their very affordable underwear section among other staples, and hors d’oeuvres from some of the finest chefs in town.
The night was retro themed, with the bartenders dressed up to match the 1948 (Honest Ed’s opening year) themed cocktails such as the Sparkle Spectacle (Jones Soda, Sprite, and vodka), Old Fashioned, and the modern addition of craft beers from Collective Arts Brewing. Adding to the ambiance, A Little Rambunctious quartet walked around playing old-timey tunes throughout the evening.
Also fun was the live sign painting from Douglas Kerr, one of the painters of Honest Ed’s iconic signs. It was fascinating to see how fast he can create such beautiful lettering right in front of our eyes. I still regret missing out on purchasing one of the signs during the final days of the store.
The initial part of the evening was contained to the area where checkouts used to happen, but at a certain point, it expanded into another room, where stations offered up food from Patois, Jackpot Chicken, Smoke Signals, Ceili Cottage, Fidel Gastro and Roselle. Oysters, cinnamon buns and fine chocolates were some of the only items I was able to try due to the long lineups for the main course style dishes, but what I did taste did not disappoint.
The vibe throughout the evening was celebratory, though a muted feeling of mourning was also present. A goodbye party like this is a funeral of sorts, and while everyone was in good spirits (an open bar will do that), there was a noticeable feeling of sadness in saying goodbye to something that has been such a staple in our history as Torontonians.
I remember my first time in Honest Ed’s. I had passed by it many, many times in my early years in Toronto in awe of its opulently gaudy architecture – but never stepped inside until a friend from out of town was visiting. It seemed like one of those things people who aren’t from Toronto just had to experience as it was this one oddity that only Toronto could offer, so we went in and immediately got lost in its many levels of mirrored floors. In the years that followed I would continue to stop in only when friends from out of town were visiting, as it screamed of a different time, capturing our city’s history within one street corner.
And I guess that is why it is no longer. My generation didn’t seem to take it seriously as a place to shop, but as a destination to admire for its history. It is unfortunate that future generations will not get to experience this history, but thankfully, tales of what it meant to Toronto will remain as the years tick on.
What is your favourite memory from Honest Ed’s? Let Vv Magazine know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.