Memoirs of Honest Ed’s

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I wrote about this back in April 2014, but now the iconic Toronto store is close to shutting it’s doors for the final time on New Year’s Eve. Over the past year Honest Ed’s has been selling it’s locally famous hand painted signs and this last weekend was supposedly the ‘final sign sale’ so I opted to go down and check it out for myself.

In case you were wondering about my history with Honest Ed’s I’ve written about it before but I’ll reiterate. As a kid born to immigrants Honest Ed’s was known as the place to find cheap deals and there were always interesting characters from the shoppers to the employees to the Mirvishes themselves. Whenever, we went to see family in Parkdale usually Honest Ed’s along with Dufferin Mall and Queen West were on our to-do list whether I liked it or not.

Christmas season we would trek there to look for bargains on gifts while Boney M Christmas was blaring through the store on repeat. My mom was smart though she would bribe me with a beef patty from Bathurst station for my patience.

While, in the store today random conversations were happening between total strangers talking about their experiences here with their parents or with their kids. It was like a Toronto living history lesson. One man said his dad would shop at the original store and other people reminisced about first coming to Canada and this being the place they got their first belongings upon arrival in Toronto.

Some people were here looking for signs to resell online while others like myself were searching and searching and searching for the right piece of Toronto nostalgia for their wall or basement.

Personally, my mission was to find a sign or a few for items I actually bought here as a kid. Some would grab a bunch of signs and find an area to sort through them while people like me would try to design the layout of signs on my wall. Prices ranged from $1 to $200+ it varies on the design, size and age of the sign.

It is kind of funny to me that now in Toronto we are struggling with not having enough community areas for people to gather and wander around meanwhile places that gave you that opportunity like Honest Ed’s are forced to close their doors because in Toronto condos are our hobby. Rumour has it there are plans for a big closing bash, hopefully many of us can pass through.

Ethnicity, gender and other demographics did not matter here all that mattered was finding the best deal for your family, meeting like minded people and maybe making good conversation in the process, now that’s something Amazon has yet to deliver.

Walk it out people, 

WAYNIE

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My Reflections of Toronto: The Club District in the 2000’s

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Back in my younger days in Toronto, pretty much every weekend that I was free was spent down in the club district. Whether it was on Adelaide, Richmond, Peter, Duncan or Pearl there would always be some excuse to head downtown to party and jam. It could be for someone you know like a friend or family member, or friend of a friend celebrating a birthday or graduation or some other milestone, or some guy/girl you met once at Markham Station while getting some late night eats. And didn’t everyone have a friend or family member that was a club/event promoter?

For me, my downtown clubbing heyday probably was around 2004-2010 so I can only speak on what I recall. The old glory days, which are but a distant and sometimes drunken memory. When I was wandering around downtown a few weeks back I wondered what happened to these spots if they are still around or demolished because for anyone who walks around downtown Toronto these days all you see are condos for the most part. Keep in mind I am not saying these were the best clubs in Toronto but these were places that I recall frequenting in my younger days.

Inside

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I remember when Inside was the place to be not only because it was popping but, former Raptor, Vince Carter was an owner of it! There was like 3 floors and each floor had a different vibe to it. One floor was a glass room where I think the dancefloor was glass and there were glass windows, booths and such that usually was the club anthems floor. The next level up had a wooden floor and we would usually hear Reggaeton and dance music on this floor. One time, we saw Daddy Yankee who was in town promoting a new project performing so that was pretty cool for our 5 dollar guest list cover charge.

However, for me and the crew back in like 2005 it was all about the basement! Or as we called it, the SOCA FLOOR! When we came here on Fridays you would hear Soca Sweetness and/or Dr. Jay De Soca Prince and back in those days it was RARE to hear reggae and soca music inside of a downtown club. So it was important to come and support the cause because if we didn’t show up it would no longer exist and many of us didn’t want to take it for granted. Countless, birthdays were celebrated here I think I celebrated my birthday here two times. The vibes were just toooooo nice week in and week out. It was almost like a weekly reunion with people.

It is now a resto called Ja Bistro. RIP Inside!

 

Seven

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And right next door to Inside was Seven and Runway 224. I only went here a few times. It had an upscale urban music kinda vibe. I could be wrong because again I only been here a few times. One time I celebrated my birthday here and there was a snowstorm so the place was virtually empty. On the top floor, where we stayed at it felt more like a private party since it was literally only the people who came for my birthday that were in the room. It was kinda awesome just like 12 of us liming and wilding out. Oddly enough, one person I met there for the 1st time has become a good friend of mine since then. I respect Seven for that.

Now it is called La Vie Complex one of the few places from back in my day that is still a club!

 

G-Spot

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So this place has been through quite a few name changes over the years but, I remember it as G-Spot. Usually, after a shooting would occur at a club the management would change the name to refresh the place and give it facelift. If I’m mistaken I remember it once being called Metro and its last incarnation was Gravity not sure if it has a tenant anymore. If you wanted ratchet well G-Spot was the place for you!

I think we took my cousin here after he turned 19 and it was probably a mistake but, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Can’t front though the convenience was great because I could watch a movie across the street at Paramount (now known as Scotiabank Theatre) then pop over to G-Spot shortly after. Then again, shots might pop off in the club as well.

I also remember getting into an argument with a friend of mine over something which to this day I don’t understand and she was mad at me for a while. Oh the memories!

 

Lot 332

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Lot 332 used to be poppinnnnn! Once upon a time, I came here back in like 2006-2007 a few times. I came here with some friends to celebrate a birthday and this was like back when SexyBack and anything Justin Timberlake was all the rage! And now, it’s a City of Toronto building.

It had cushy couches and upscale lounge décor. It really had the loft kinda vibe down cold. The crowd would be a mix of bag of people from new clubbers to older ones. The most vivid memory I have is listening Jr. Flo just juggling beats and killing it! The problem was most of the crowd weren’t really into that stuff so they didn’t get it at first but just some of the mixes and live remixes he did were awesome. One of the best things about the line up at Lot 332 was that it was directly across the street from a hot dog stand so if the line was long you could grab eats without losing your place in line.

 

Afterlife

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Personally, Afterlife was legendary to me. To the older club goers its legendary status comes from when it was called Limelight when I was younger I would hear older family members raving about it. I first set foot into Afterlife probably in 2005. Now if you love Soca and Reggae on a Saturday there was NO OTHER PLACE but Afterlife. Friday was Inside with Dr. Jay and Saturday was Afterlife, 3rd floor, the Paradise Room with Jump Up Kingz and Loudmout Chiney.

I will admit the décor and layout was very basic they didn’t appear to try hard on making Afterlife look good. Chipped paint on walls and faded dancefloor.

People had strategies as how to jump the line or claim they were on guest list. The thing was if you got there before 11:30pm you were good after that though, all bets were off because it would be jammed! It truly was a meeting place, the random girl you saw at STC a week ago was there, the dudes you were shooting pool with a month ago were there, that crew from your work would be there wilding out. The amount of times I had to MSN Messenger someone for guest list or send a message on like Black Planet or Desi Planet is countless. So many birthdays, so many reunions, so many passed out people that needed to be dragged down 3 flights of stairs and so many foolish fights over the bar, a girl or stepping on a man’s shoes.

And I cannot forget Afterlife Sundays! Why, because the whole bar was $2 a drink. Beer, mixed drinks, shots it was all a TOONIE!!! Most people could get lit on a $20. When I worked in retail if you had Monday morning off it was expected you would be there Sunday night. They would do limos there and back so it was no excuse not to have a few. I remember one time we had a work dance battle, I refused to dance to anything 50 Cent related which is still true today and one time the song ‘Girlfight’ by Brooke Valentine was playing and literally a girl fight started over wanting to be on top of the riser dancing.

Eventually, Afterlife lost its lustre and faded into obscurity but the good times were definitely lasting memories and now it is Rock N Horse Saloon.

 

 

Sometimes when I walk around downtown and reminisce I wonder about what happened. Toronto used to be so much fun and then suddenly we became the town from Footloose with a ban on dancing. The city opted that bringing the suburbs downtown made better sense it seems. The best cities in the world have a balance between residential living and providing nightlife and entertainment but, while Toronto is technically the 4th largest city in North America we still seem to have this small town sort of mentality. Sometimes that’s a good thing other times it’s a not so good thing of course it depends who you ask.

I am sure I will post more in the future because there is lots of history and stories that we all have about these places. Mine aren’t that wild and crazy… Well because I have a filter and somethings just should not be posted online =)

 

Walk it out people,

Waynie

Video History of Toronto

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This short video created for TEDx Toronto Conference last fall is a brief history of the culmination of our city Toronto.

The video starts from its early days going to today. As a proud citizen, not just a taxpayer, of Toronto it is great to see our diversity celebrated even if it is just for 150 seconds. If you don’t know where you came from, you will not know where you are going.

Enjoy,

Waynie

A Farewell to Legendary Stores in Toronto: Honest Ed’s

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Now I will be the first to admit that Honest Ed’s is not closed until Dec. 31st 2016 but it still is unfortunately on the way out and that Honest Ed’s handmade signs sale they had a few weeks conjured up some nostalgia for me. As I am sure Honest Ed’s provides nostalgic memories for many residents in the GTA.

Since its inception back in 1948, Honest Ed’s has been an indelible landmark in Toronto. Whether it was throwing over the top birthday parties for Honest Ed Mirvish filled with freebies for the crowd, giving away free turkeys around Christmas season or even the hand painted signage inside of the store Honest Ed’s is undoubtedly one of a kind. For plenty of people living in Toronto whether new to Canada or old to Canada if you wanted a deal Honest Ed’s was on your list of places to check out.

As the child of immigrant parents I can speak first-hand about the impact this store had for us. My mother waking my sister and me up on a weekend morning demanding we get dressed because we had to go. Keep in mind we lived in Scarborough and Honest Ed’s is located on Bathurst and Bloor we had a bit of distance to cover. Usually, when we were visiting family that lived in Parkdale an Honest Ed’s trip was virtually guaranteed. Taking the subway all the way there was a task in itself along with walking all over that store looking for stuff I didn’t want but my mother insisted we needed. Items such as: winter boots, undershirts, colouring books, touch lamps (you know you had one), Christmas decorations, frames, house slippers and so on were musts for my mom. If she knew it would be cheaper at Honest Ed’s rather than BiWay, Bargain Harold’s or Woolco (yes, I went there with you guys) we were going to be there a while! I swear if I didn’t get lost from my family at least once for each time we were there it would be a miracle.

I remember one Christmas season we went to Honest Ed’s and to this day when I think of Christmas I think of Boney M’s Christmas album because it was like etched into my memory from shopping and only hearing that album for like 3 hours straight.

I will admit the best part of going to Honest Ed’s would be when we were leaving to go home on the subway. Why? Simple, BEEF PATTIES at Bathurst Station! I do not care what anyone says the Beef Patties located at Bathurst and Warden Station are the BEST in Toronto. My mother recognized my struggles with keeping up with her so as a reward I would get a beef patty for my troubles. As you can tell, as a kid, bribing me was pretty easy.

Honest Ed’s is the quintessential family store created by a family for families of all types. It did not matter how much money or status you had or how well adapted to Toronto you were, you could always appreciate a good deal and a place filled with energy and the kind heart of Mr. Ed Mirvish. I was just there a week ago looking through records at Sonic Boom and it still gives me the same sense of awe as it did when I was kid. Only now it is because of what I gained from going there and how places like this are rare this day in age. The building may not last but the memories….those are forever!

Regards,

Waynie

A Farewell to Legendary Stores in Toronto: World’s Biggest Bookstore

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Last Sunday was a milestone for many book lovers in Toronto as it marked the end of an era in which ‘World’s Biggest Bookstore’ existed. Whether the land will be converted into some big box store, or maybe a condo (because when it comes to condos, Toronto loves to build them) or who knows what else the memories of the 30+ years of Toronto’s book lovers going there to find their favourite titles will not be soon forgotten.

While I was growing up in the 90’s, most malls had Coles or WHSmith as your bookstore options keep in mind this was long before the era of Chapters and Indigo. Considering that World’s Biggest Bookstore was owned by the creators of Coles it just had a different kind of feel to it always that wasn’t totally like a Coles store. Not to mention literally miles of bookshelves covering almost too many genres. Back in the day, I used to like reading movie novels so I would spend time every now and then to go there and search for the books of the movies I had seen recently or planned on seeing in the near future.

I remember watching the movie remake of Dick Tracy with Warren Beatty I sought out some more Dick Tracy novels and just happened to have found one if my memory serves me correct at World’s Biggest Bookstore. It was a landmark achievement in my short life at the time and that was what I read over a summer.

As I got older, my love for reading kind of faded away but I would still check out the store for magazines, satirical books and comics. It still amazes me how big of a place it was and all the hopes and dreams of younger readers and students it carried. When you could not find a book at a mall bookstore World’s Biggest Bookstore was your go-to place because Amazon and EBay did not exist back then.

I find that is part of what people miss out on whether they want to admit it or not. The hunt and thrill of finding something you have been scouring for since nowadays most things are a Google search away. World’s Biggest Bookstore was one of kind and while the Guinness Book of World Records might not agree it will always be the World’s Biggest Bookstore to me! (That rhyme was totally coincidental, I promise!)

Regards,

Waynie

A Farewell to Legendary Stores in Toronto: Sears / Eaton’s

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As this Sunday passes, we bid a fond farewell to fabled and perhaps locally famous store at Yonge and Edward…The World’s Biggest Bookstore! Not only have we seen this one time giant fall but also we said goodbye to Sears (formerly Eaton’s) and in the near future Honest Ed’s.

To be perfectly clear this post is not to point out the politics or hardships that have led to the demise of these stores. I am just simply a fan that would like to pay tribute by sharing memories of what these places meant to me as a kid growing up in Toronto.

It was sheer irony that the week Sears finally closed its doors at the Eaton Centre, in February, coincided with Yorkdale Shopping Centre began to celebrate its 50th anniversary. A few days after Sears officially closed I snapped this picture. Hard to believe such an iconic brand was leaving us.

Maybe I’m showing my age but, I recall when this was Eaton’s not Sears. As a kid growing up in Scarborough, coming downtown to Eaton Centre was like a wonderland for me. The draw of these big stores, so many escalators, usually fast paced all the time, the two food courts, two McDonalds (yes I was easily impressed back then) and of course Eaton’s. Why does Eaton’s hold a special place for me personally you may ask?

Well, I had a family member who worked there. Visiting them was my excuse to go downtown and just be a kid with my eyes opened wide, especially at Christmas time with that Christmas tree dangling from the mall ceiling and the Santa with sled and reindeer. You could even sit on Santa’s lap, yes that’s right no Skype appointments! Eaton’s was that go to store when you wanted to be in style and it had a floor strictly dedicated to TOYS! Yes, Floor 7 a.k.a Toyland I remember you. The first time I ever saw a Nintendo or Sega Master System was on that toys floor.

Tell me you remember that shopping bag? That’s actually my Eaton’s bag I found it while rummaging through that closet most people have filled with bags and boxes that you haven’t checked in over a decade. When Eaton’s transitioned into Sears in the mid 90’s my family member sadly was no longer working at Eaton Centre and I did kind of resent Sears for a bit because of that. It didn’t matter what new Kenmore appliances they had on display I probably did not set foot into that Sears for like 2 years. Eventually, I caved and did shopping here and there but as I grew up I discovered other stores and I kind of lost touch with Sears unless I was seeking a fragrance or a watch perhaps.

When I heard Sears was closing its doors, my first reaction was ‘Hmmm will the Jays Store have awesome deals?” followed by the thought of that another piece of my childhood swept away. So for the last few months, while cutting through Sears, to either get to the rest of the mall or get to Yonge Street, I would kind of wander around and reminisce of those days but sadly I was blinded by the discount wholesaler vibe I was getting where literally everything was on sale even the fixtures and storage cases.

So I have lived through Eaton’s to Sears to now Nordstrom in 2016 wow where does the time go? While the ending for Eaton’s and Sears was kind of ugly to me I will hold on to that memory of the grade school version of me endlessly playing with the new toys in Toyland. Sometimes the simplest memories are the best ones.

Regards,

Waynie

Being ‘Happy’ in Toronto on a Cold Winter Day!

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A friend of mine sent me a link to this video a few days ago and I gotta admit it is pretty infectious! The video was done by Flip TFO

They made -17C look somewhat enjoyable, once you keep an open mind. Dancing throughout the streets of Toronto to Pharrell Williams’ smash hit ‘ Happy’. Sadly, no one was wearing his infamous ‘Arby’s’ style hat in the video.

Really cool to see this group get everyday citizens of Toronto in on the fun too.

Sidenote, don’t forget to check out ‘This Is Not A Toy’ exhibit at the Design Exchange guest curated by the one and only Pharrell Williams going on until May 19th.
http://www.dx.org/index.cfm?pagepath=exhibitions/current_exhibitions&id=47464

Enjoy,

Waynie