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‘End of an era’ as Honest Ed’s 28th annual Christmastime turkey giveaway comes to an end

Posted by Oped 648 days ago Toronto Star| end era honest eds th annual christmastime turkey giveaway end All
http://www.thestar.com — It was the usual jubilant and generous affair. David Mirvish, flanked by Toronto’s mayor, police chief and other city glitterati, smiled and cooed “Merry Christmas!” as they ushered customers through a narrow corridor on the third floor of Honest Ed’s on Sunday morning with a pat on the shoulder — and a free, frozen bird. “We’re very lucky to be able to do this,” Mirvish says, of the annual turkey giveaway his late father, Ed Mirvish, started 28 years ago, in 1987. “It just feels wonderful.”That feeling holds, says the theatre impresario, even though this event marks the last time it will take place in the iconic Bloor St. store. Come December 2016, the landmark building at Bloor and Bathurst Sts. will be transformed into a new development.While the Mirvish family will continue to give away free turkeys every year, officials say, it is unclear how or where. “We’ll find other ways in the future,” Mayor John Tory says. “It’s a wonderful tradition.”It’s a tradition that Frank Mirabelli, 63, has been part of from the beginning. Now an Honest Ed buyer in housewares and gifts, he’s been working at the store since he was 14, and remembers when they charged 25 cents a bird in the first few years. He was wowed, he says, when big boss Ed — a man staff still refer to as Mr. Mirvish — famously declared: “We’re making too much money, let’s give it away for free.”Mirabelli recalls the year actor Mickey Rooney helped give out birds, and the time when then-police chief Julian Fantino couldn’t remember the Italian word for “turkey” and he had to whisper it in his ear. And, he says, he’ll never forget the feeling of breaking a toe about a decade ago, when a turkey accidentally slipped out of the bin and onto his foot. His wife took him to the hospital, Mirabelli says, but only after he was finished the giveaway. “I have a lot of memories here. A lot of good people. It’s going to be sad.”That was the consensus among those waiting in the lineup Sunday morning, which snaked west on Bloor St. and through the quiet streets of the south-Annex neighbourhood. Betty Burnett, 53, calls this last giveaway the “heartbreaking” end of an era. She woke up at 5 a.m. and took an hour-long TTC bus ride from her home in North York just to be part of this local ritual one last time. The frequent Honest Ed’s shopper says she can’t “fathom” the city without the store or this Christmastime giveaway. So she captured the moment on her cellphone in a short video recording of the lineup. “It’s in memoriam,” she says. Annie Wolf, 37, and her two young children, who woke up at 4 a.m. to take part, have made the turkey giveaway an annual tradition four years in a row, she says.She, along with others in line, wonder where they’ll ever find a “good bargain” now that Honest Ed’s is closing.Maria Loria, 58, who lined up to snag a turkey for a family in need in her east-end neighbourhood, says she’s thankful for this giveaway and the store even though it’s only around for one more year. “Thank you,” she says, as if the owners can hear her, “for all the stuff you’ve done. But now, we have to keep moving on.”
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