Toronto for Everyone celebrates Honest Ed’s
By Geremy Bordonaro
For 68 years, Honest Ed’s welcomed all those who came to its doors. While the store made its last sale on the final day of 2016, it will play host to a grand wake before it closes its doors one last time. And organizers hope the celebration will be a tribute to the spirit of inclusivity that they say was a hallmark of the discount emporium.
Running for four days, An Honest Farewell will include a cocktail party, a community hub, an immersive art maze (clearly a reflection of just how easy it was to get lost in the labyrinthian store), a bargain bash, and, of course, shopping.
“The Honest Ed’s farewell, also the launch of Toronto for Everyone, is an event that is meant to bring together everyone to honour and respect the legacy of the building,” explained Stefan Hostetter, a community director with Toronto for Everyone.
An initiative of the Centre of Social Innovation, Toronto for Everyone is a collaborative team of city-builders, marketers, artistic directors, event planners, and community organizers who are working together to foster inclusivity and a sense of wonder.
“There are some aspirational goals to take Toronto, which is statistically the most diverse city in the world, to a place that is a handy and inclusive example for the world,” continued Hostetter, who saw Honest Ed’s as a bastion of inclusivity in the Annex. When researching how best to send off the store he found that there were many who shared his opinion.
“We found that there was a ton of people speaking of Honest Ed’s as [the] first place where they felt welcomed and accepted in the city,” he said. “With Honest Ed’s they felt like they were actually welcomed and brought into the space.”
It’s a sentiment that rang true for Timna Ben-Ari, a member of Toronto for Everyone’s inclusivity committee. When she arrived in Toronto eight years ago, she experienced first-hand how Honest Ed’s was “an example of what makes Toronto as amazing as it is”.
Ben-Ari believes the closing will bring changes, and that it’s important to mark the occasion with a large-scale event.
“It has had a huge impact. That’s a big part of why this event is not just a celebration, but a recognition of what Honest Ed’s was and what it means that it is closing,” Ben-Ari said. “A lot of this event is around ensuring that there is space for all of those feelings. There will be grieving and that’s understandable.”
While Honest Ed’s may be the key focus, Hostetter wants to honour the local shops and businesses that will also be taking their leave.
“It’s not just Ed’s. It is the entire Mirvish Village…. This is not just the local grocery/everything else store. It’s your local pub, favourite place to eat, art gallery, and dentist. It’s your entire neighbourhood of services that is leaving. To expect that to not be massively destructive would be foolish.”
Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) has fond memories of what Honest Ed’s was like in the past.
“I grew up in the Annex. As a kid I used to go and play tag and hide and seek in there,” Cressy said. “This is part of the lure of Honest Ed’s. We all had a connection to it. Whether it was as a shopper, as a kid playing, or somebody in the neighbourhood who would take photos in front of it. It was a fixture.”
Such connections will make it hard for people to move on from the store but ultimately Cressy thinks that the city moving forward is good as long as events like An Honest Farewell keep us reminded of the past.
“The birth and rebirth of cities and neighbourhoods is part of what allows us to continue to grow and mature,” he said. “There is a loss with an end of an era but ultimately if we do our job right by honouring the history and reflecting on it then we will have done well by Honest Ed’s.”
CHATTER: Bird was the word for giving (January 2017)
ARTS: Capturing the Ward (October 2015)