Ray’s Candy Store is a New York City institution serving up the city’s best fries, shakes, egg creams, and more 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, since 1974! Proprietor “Ray” has helmed the counter for nearly 50 years, conducting a sort of nightly junk food symphony, satisfying customers and making people smile with every ice cream cone or heaping pile of golden, delicious Belgian fries he prepares. As the sign outside reads, Everything Made With Love™. And Ray, who turns 90 YEARS OLD on January 1, still works the overnight shift! It’s been said, if you’ve not been to Ray’s, you’ve not really been to New York.
When people ask “What’s so special about this place?” we simply say “Go there and you’ll know.” It’s a trip back in time to old-school NYC. People from all walks of life have stepped up to Ray’s worn-in blue counter over the years: from the homeless to Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, from college students in varying states of inebriation to financiers and titans of industry, from Bruce Willis and Madonna to Anthony Bourdain and Harley Flanagan, from Action Bronson to members of the Knicks and Nets, from hip-hop legends to rock stars, from taxi drivers and cops to firefighters and first responders, from local artists to club kids, from punks to skateboarders, from longtime neighbors to visitors from dozens of countries, from seasoned foodies to people just looking to try an egg cream for the first time…
The wonderful thing about Ray’s is that it’s truly a place for EVERYONE.
And that welcoming spirit comes straight from Ray himself. Ray, whose real name is Asghar, is an immigrant who arrived in the United States in the early 1960s by — literally — jumping ship from the Iranian Navy. So thankful to be on American shores, you’ll never meet a greater Patriot! After adopting a new persona to blend in, Asghar, aka Ray, worked a series of jobs, first in Miami, and then made his way north to New York City. He toiled for years before saving up enough money to buy his eponymous candy store located at 113 Avenue A in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. Since then, Ray has seen it all. Before there were brunch spots and high-end boutiques, there was Ray’s. In 1988, during what infamously became known as the Tompkins Square Park Riot, the store, whose door faces the entry to the park, stayed open the entire time since, as Ray put it, “all the combatants were his customers.”
Ray’s Candy Store has been featured in several books, magazines, films, music videos, online publications, and television shows over the years: Photographer Brandon Stanton’s "Humans of New York;" the 1995 action film "Die Hard with a Vengeance;" a 2010 Fox News special hosted by John Stossel called "What's Great About America;” and notably in 2018, the final episode of CNN's travel and food show, "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." In the opening scene, Bourdain and friend, musician Harley Flanagan, stop into Ray’s to chat him up and sample his famous eggs creams. Said Bourdain upon his first sip, “That is a superb egg cream.”
And, in an “Only in New York” kind of way, some friends of Ray's have thrown him an annual birthday bash, typically featuring a lineup of local burlesque dancers! The party always gets a lot of press and has been cheekily coined by the store's staff as "THE BEST TRADITION IN NEW YORK CITY™.”
To know Ray is to love him. He truly is one of the great New Yorkers. Few people in this world can say that just about all they’ve ever done in life is make other people happy. Ray can. It’s been his gift to us for nearly five decades. And because of his generosity, we decided it’s time to repay Ray for all the good he’s put out in the world. With Ray’s 90th birthday coming up, we figured now would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate a sort of Lifetime Achievement Award for Doing Good™ and his contributions to our collective happiness.
To start, we want to celebrate him with a 90th birthday party fit for a king! So, to all of Ray’s friends, neighbors, and customers from near and far, today and yesteryear, if you’ve ever left Ray’s with a milkshake in hand, some powdered sugar down your shirt, and a smile on your face, please give what you can as a way to say “Thank You” to Our Man Ray on Avenue A.
Finally, with your support, we want to help Ray stay in business for as long as he wants until he decides to hang up his apron on his terms. Any additional funds raised will go directly to Ray to help keep his doors open and his bills paid! Running a small business in New York City, and all across America, for that matter, has become a herculean task. The recent pandemic and the economic pain it has wrought brought many restaurants and other small businesses to their knees. Ray’s food costs have soared. His energy bills have doubled. And Ray refuses to double his prices to make up for it because he would never do that to his loyal customers. That’s just who he is. Many businesses were unable to survive. We refuse to let that happen to Ray’s! Ray’s Candy Store is the heart of the East Village. If Ray goes, a part of the neighborhood, and a part of New York City, goes with it. Together, with your help, we can ensure that Ray’s awning stays lit up, the soft serve machines stay humming, and the deep-fried Oreos keep coming! (And, of course, that you can count on hearing Ray shout "I LOVE YOUUUUU!!!" from his window as you pass by!)
Please give what you can, help spread the word, and thanks in advance for your generous contribution!
P.S. Be sure to wish Ray a Happy 90th Birthday the next time you visit the store!