What can I say about Ray’s Candy Store? First, it’s not a candy store. Second, both the shop and Ray are NYC icons worth preserving as long as possible.
Born in Iran in 1933, Ray moved to the states with his father when he was still young. He entered the food industry as a dishwasher and eventually saved enough money to buy what is now Ray’s Candy Store in 1974. It’s a deli probably most famous for serving soft serve ice cream, but also egg cream, sandwiches, fries, coffee, beignets and more.
The place is the definition of a hole in the wall. There is barely enough room to stand, leaving any sort of seating completely out of the question. It is packed with stuff – papers, flyers, junk and food – with not an inch of wall space uncovered. And Ray himself is usually there for 12 hours a day, taking the 4 pm – 4 am shift 7 days a week without fail. That late at night, he’s often found sleeping behind the counter before a customer walks in and wakes him up. His lovely Eastern European wife sometimes accompanies him. At the age of 84, he’s still got the zest and ability to run the business he loves the most. He’s just a cute, cool, great guy. He’ll talk with you and show you stuff. But if he’s got customers, he’ll tend to them immediately.
I personally go for the soft serve. It’s actually good and they are generous about letting you try the flavors. You can choose from the classics (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry) and also now green tea, which has been all the rage for years. You can do a combo of flavors too if you’d like. A cup is $4 and they really stuff it. Is it the best quality in the world? No. But it’s pretty good and Ray himself makes the trip worth it on occasion.
I hope he’s around for decades to come.