MIRVISH, family of Canadian entrepreneurs and theatrical producers. EDWIN ("Honest Ed"; 1914– ) was born in Virginia in 1914 and lived his early years in Washington, D.C. Ed Mirvish moved to Toronto with his family when he was nine years old. His father opened a grocery store in a heavily Jewish immigrant downtown residential neighborhood. After running a series of different businesses, including a cleaner's and a dress shop, Ed, a high school dropout, moved into bargain merchandising and quickly found success with his no-credit, no-frills model of doing business. In 1948 he opened Honest Ed's, a discount store located at Bloor and Bathurst, a key intersection in Toronto's busy downtown. The store with its huge billboard remains a landmark in the city. Between 1959 to 1963 he purchased a two-block area of houses on Markham Street adjacent to his store and converted the area into "Mirvish Village," a trendy area of art galleries, studios, stores and restaurants.
In 1963 Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra, a historic theater that was slated for demolition, and refurbished it, revitalizing the Toronto theater scene. Convinced that theaters and restaurants worked well together, he also opened a series of restaurants which drew crowds into the area. With his son DAVID (1944– ), in 1982 he bought and refurbished London's legendary Old Vic Theatre, which they owned and operated until 2000, and also built the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1993. Ed and David operate Mirvish Productions, which has staged productions of many Broadway hits such as The Lion King, Mama Mia!, The Producers, and Hairspray. In addition to their theater business, David Mirvish has operated an independent bookstore from the 1970s, which specializes in books on art, architecture, design, and photography.
A tradition since Ed's 75th birthday has been the large annual party adjacent to the flagship store, which attracts over 50,000 people for seven hours of free food, entertainment, and children's rides. Ed has been awarded honorary degrees from five Canadian universities and from Tel Aviv University and has been inducted into the Canadian and American Business Hall of Fame and honored with the Order of Canada.