2016年12月31日，多伦多地标性廉价百货店Honest Ed’s关门歇业, 正式退出了历史舞台。物价低廉的Honest Ed’s一度成为包括来自大陆的新移民购物之必经之地，为他们在加国定居提供必不可少的生活日常用品。在几十年漫长历程中，大批新移民在加国落地生根，而这座老百货店则一直为省吃俭用的新移民们不辞劳苦地提供着服务。在华裔社区，Honest Ed’s 也被昵称为“三层楼”。
On Dec. 31, Honest Ed’s, the landmark discount store in Toronto closed its doors for good. Providing life starting necessities at a deep discount, it became a rite of passage for newcomers at the time, including many new arrivals from China. Different waves of newcomers from China landed in Toronto, as the store embarked a decades-long journey catering for the hustle and thrift of immigrants. In the Chinese community, the store was given a nick name as the House of Three Floors.
As an immigrant arriving in Canada in 1990s, Honest Ed’s was a big part of my early immigrant life, and brings a flood of nostalgia memories. At one point, it became a place where I connected with others who shared similar pains and struggles, hopes and dreams.
I met my first friend Tracy in Toronto at Honest Ed’s at a time when immigrants from China were scarce and few. I spotted a Chinese looking young lady in a red jacket, as I walked through the labyrinth of the isles browsing for cheap items. A simple word of “Hello” in Chinese following a brief eye contact triggered a conversation over backgrounds about our own. We found each other to be a great companion, as we were both in our late twenties, pursuing an academic degree at universities and facing numerous daunting challenges in the life of the adopted country.
As I checked out a frying pan with a heavy discount price, Tracy told me she was renting a room in a shared house where kitchen time was split among 5 renters. Since then, she became the frequent guest in my “home” shared with my husband – a cheap apartment full of roaches in a poor downtown neighbourhood. Most of the household items – from toothpastes to beddings were bought from Honest Ed’s. We would chat over dinner, with food cooked from groceries bought at the lowest prices. We shared pains and tears, chasing memories about hometown, parents and friends. But amid sadness and despair, there were always hopes and expectations.
Time quickly passed, and we both graduated from university. I landed a professional job in a downtown company and Tracy married a husband and started a new life in Chicago. With a stable income and improved financial situation, we moved out from downtown’s “cockroach infested apartment” and bought a property in the Toronto inner suburb, equipping the home with decent furniture and appliances. Tracy gradually disappeared from my life and Honest Ed’s became distant memories.
Waves of immigrants from China have come to Toronto over the time period. As China has grown into the world’s second largest economy, the financial situation of new arrivals has changed dramatically. Comparing to our early years in Toronto struggling afloat, they came to Canada with a large amounts of cash, buying high end properties and luxury cars, wearing designer clothes and carrying name brand bags. They crave for deals at shopping malls in Manhattan or fashion boutiques in New York. Apparently, discount stores would no longer satisfy their desires for luxury, and they never bother to give a look at store serving low-income people like Honest Ed’s.
But Honest Ed’s will forever be kept in my memories. Three years ago when it announced the fate of its demise, I was gripped by a sense of loss and disappointment. I brought my 18-year-old daughter to the store last year, to mourn its impending death and to chase memories of my early immigrant life. With a few fond and parting glances, I shared with her my past shopping experiences as a devoted client. Amid isles of cheap items and surrounded by wired lights and circus styled decorations, my daughter a first time shopper at the store, quipped: “Aha! That explains why you’ve become such a penny hoarder mom, because you’ve come from this bargain hunter’s paradise!”
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