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2007 07 11
On Honesty

Before I knew much of anything about Toronto, I knew a discount retailer named Ed Mirvish had "saved the Royal Alex". Mind you, I was under the impression that Mirvish was an old-money Toronto millionaire who had purchased a historic London theatre. Of course, I was mistaken on one count (he also purchased and restored London's Old Vic) but in time I would come to know the Mirvish clan as Hog Town icons, and their productions, theatres, shops and charitable works as all part of the empire built on a garish shop on Bloor Street where jokey hand-painted signs, porcelain Elvis busts and free turkeys could all be found.

Still, what is most remarkable about Ed Mirvish was he appeared the exact opposite of every successful entrepreneur you could think of. He was wasn't brash, egotistical, or larger than life, in fact, he struck me as sort of shy and reserved (even while wearing a Santa's cap and toting a frozen turkey). As you approach the Honest Ed facade at Bloor and Bathurst, you can only picture the owner of such a place as some kind of cowboy-hat-wearing, gun-slinging, Yosemite Sam type character, not the humble, cardigan-wearing, rags-to-riches story of Edwin Mirvish.

I also underestimated the importance of the Mirvish theatre productions to Toronto's greater image and culture. While at school in the mid-90's, I was surprised to meet numerous Americans from Michigan or New England who seemed to know Toronto better than most suburbanites. Why? Because, they had all enjoyed countless trips to Toronto specifically to see not just the big shows, but the smaller productions as well (and with a favorable dollar, get a bit of shopping in on the side).

Now with the dollar at an almost generational high point, border crossings becoming more and more difficult, and gas prices limiting the kinds of trips many families might have normally made, one wonders if Americans will ever think of Toronto as their Great White (North) Way again. I'm not sure how much theatre in Toronto is supported by American visitors, but with tourist numbers dwindling, the importance of Mirvish Productions as the spine of live entertainment in the city seems greater than ever.
[email this story] Posted by P. Rogers on 07/11 at 02:44 PM

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