2020 Village Awardee: Ray’s Candy Shop, 113 Avenue A
Each year, Village Preservation honors the invaluable people, businesses, and organizations that make a special contribution to our neighborhoods at our Annual Meeting and Village Awards. On June 17th, 2020 we will be celebrating nine outstanding awardees at our— RSVP here to participate virtually.
Have you ever meandered into the bright little shop at 113 Avenue A between St. Marks Place and 7th Street? It might have been at 3am when you were craving fried oreo cookies? Or maybe a mid-day egg cream to bring to Tompkins Square Park? Maybe Ray was there, behind the counter, joking and telling stories, or pulling out his binders of poems and photos from the early days of the shop or his various raucous birthday parties.
Ray’s Candy Store has been a staple of East Village life since 1974, and Ray Alvarez, who works every night shift at the store, is at its helm. And we at Village Preservation are thrilled to be giving Ray and his shop a Village Award for 2020.
An East Village Institution
Ray’s Candy Store IS the East Village. It’s not only one of the few 24-hour places in the neighborhood, it’s also an ad hoc community center where locals come to chat with Ray and learn the local news. A minute or two with Ray and it’s clear that he cares deeply about the community and his customers. We know that he helps out people who can’t afford to pay for food, insisting, “Don’t worry about it. You can pay me next time.” Ray isn’t your average shopkeeper — he reads a beat up copy of Omar Kayyam’s poetry, wants to save the planet by not giving out plastic bags, and his store is an anachronism and a rarity in every good way.
This gritty, delicious, sweet shop has amazing beignets, donuts, soft-serve ice cream, and a friendly, old-school vibe that brings so much joy to customers. Ray is a charming gentleman with a great homey presence, and all the snacks are fabulous.
Give this one-of-a-kind spot a try!
Ray has owned Ray’s Candy Store on 7th and Avenue A for the last 46 years, possibly the oldest run by its own owner in the neighborhood. Ray’s is a pillar of the East Village community, a place that provides an oasis to all who enter. Ray himself is an icon, known internationally; just google him and you’ll see. And of course, his Belgian fries are heavenly!
Have you not experienced Ray’s Candy Store yet? Well, it’s a step back in time to classic New York, with familiarity and comfort served up every day, which never goes out of style. If you’re lucky enough to catch Ray, we know he’ll make you smile as he prepares some of the most delicious treats you’ve had in a while. And he’s done exactly that for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year — neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — since 1974. Everyone should be as happy to serve his friends and neighbors as Ray is! He’s one of a kind.
Keeping things sweet and running
Ray has had many challenges along the way – he had emergency heart surgery in 2015, and faced the threat of eviction in 2010. Ray told us he was open to the idea of receiving a Village Award between spoonfuls of soft ice cream, doses of medicine, and stories about the changing neighborhood and his defection from the Iranian Navy which he accomplished by jumping off a ship and swimming to shore.
It’s not easy to rent a little storefront in the East Village, and we want to recognize Ray’s hard work. Ray’s is one of the last small businesses that has survived through the push of rents that has shuttered many small businesses in the East Village and Lower East Side. Ray, who’s in his 80s, is still there and loving it, keeping alive a part of an NYC that has been steadily disappearing for decades.
Now, a Village Awardee
Ray’s Candy Shop was nominated for this award by so many people we lost count. Each one had a similar story, whether young or old, whether they met Ray just passing through, or got to know him back when he first opened his shop. Each one talked of Ray’s love and dedication, of his food, his work, his generosity, his creativity, and the sense of community that the shop brings to the neighborhood.
Everyone agrees that Ray’s is a great 24-hour joint that should stay around for generations to come. No matter who, every person had the same thing to say about Ray’s — they need Ray, and Ray needs them. And it’s this mutual relationship that keeps Ray’s alive. In this way, Ray’s award is both for him and his entire community. We are proud to be a part of this, and encourage everyone to support Ray’s!
We hope you’ll join us for this special evening of awards – to RSVP, click HERE.