25 Pieces Of Wisdom From Honest Ed Mirvish

Honest Ed’s, the historic Toronto landmark, tourist attraction, and point of curiosity is closing its doors after 68 years. The mammoth discount store with its hand painted store signage, theater memorabilia  and its iconic store sign made up of 23, 000 light bulbs was a colorful part of the city’s heritage, and a bargain store that sold affordable groceries, and clothing for working families.

The store’s owner, Honest Ed Mirvish, was a classic self-made businessman, an immigrant who transformed his first small businesses into an empire. The philanthropist and patron of the arts also established a thriving downtown theater district. The Mirvish family operates four downtown theaters, the Princess of Wales, Royal Alexandra, the Panasonic, and the Ed Mirvish Theatre.

Honest Ed’s was famous for its door-crasher specials that would have people lined up around the block for nickel bread, and “Bring Back the Prices of the 30s” sales. Early publicity stunts included a triplet’s fashion show, and in 1959 the store hosted a seventy-two –hour dance marathon.  After Honest Ed’s 75th birthday the store threw yearly birthday parties with free food and family entertainment. Honest Ed was best known for handing out free turkeys and fruit cake on Christmas. A local business has agreed to carry on that tradition.

While Toronto is losing a part of its history with the closing of the store, the historical theaters will live on. Honest Ed Mirvish was a successful entrepreneur, beloved impresario, and iconic Canadian legend. There are many lessons we can learn from the man and his many successes. Here are twenty-five pieces of wisdom from Honest Ed Mirvish.


If you think you’re so terrific, let someone else boast about it. No one wants to hear it from you.

To sell your beliefs with true conviction, you must truly believe what you say.

If you make the rules, they had better make sense. And if you can’t enforce them, don’t make them.

Before you jump into anything big always check the details first.

Listen to your instincts and follow your convictions.

All the experts in the world can’t beat good common sense.

Traditional methods aren’t always the best. Improvisation often pays off.

If something doesn’t work, you drop it fast and forget it. Then try something new.

Dreams alone don’t run a business.

There is always a polite way to make a point.

If you can’t do it yourself, don’t knock it.

Always make sure your brain is engaged before putting your mouth in gear.

We own nothing! We are all just custodians and caretakers.

To be of service is to be happy. What else brings greater satisfaction?

Experiment! If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on!

If you think you’re right, fight!

When someone tells you something, listen.

In art, everything’s relative.

A clever compromise is often better than a rash decision.

When the times change, you not only move with them – you try to precede them.

No matter how rich the rewards might be, you don’t leave what you do know to jump on an ice floe.

Appeal to the individual, not the mass!

You don’t grow old if you persist in staying young.

If you wait to be given something in life, you’re in for a lifelong wait.

Every morning it’s important to have a reason for getting up.


Author: Tara Collum

Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the co-creator of a forthcoming web serial about twins in a small town. She believes it is never too late to be the person you are meant to be. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun


  • Wikipedia
  • Mirvish.com
  • How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate or 121 Lessons I Never Learned in School by Honest Ed Mirvish. Key Porter Books Limited, 1997
  • image via creative commons