A store in the East Village is marking 40 years of being the go-to place for New Yorkers with a sweet tooth. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
City resident Hugh Pollack could hardly wait Friday morning as Ray Alvarez made him an egg cream, the a New York delicacy made with milk, flavored syrup and of course, seltzer.
"Any time of day, an egg cream is the perfect food, the perfect drink," Pollack said.
And many say no one makes them as perfect as 81-year-old Ray Alvarez, owner of Ray's Candy Store on Avenue A. The tiny spot has been a gathering place for nearly 40 years featuring a soda fountain plus treats like Belgian fries, hot dogs, ice cream and fresh deep fried beignets.
Ray's given name is Asghar Ghahraman. He bought the store in 1974 for $33,000 saved up from jobs as a dishwasher. He says he never thought he would still be at it four decades later.
"No, I was thinking I would be rich and get out of here, but I never got rich and I couldn't get out. But I'm glad I didn't get out, I like this neighborhood," Alvarez said.
When other store owners were chased out by rising rents and new construction, one might wonder how he has been able to stay around. He credits working 12 hour days, seven days a week. The guy has not had a vacation since 1955.
"I manage somehow to pay the rent, that's all I do. The rent is too high, that's it. You either pay or get out of here," Alvarez said.
Neighborhood residents like Artist Anton van Dalen says that's not something they want to see happen.
"These are the very things that brought people like me here originally, and I think it brought a lot of people here, and why would one not want to protect that and encourage that," van Dalen said.
Ray's regulars agree.
"I come in here every single day," said Pat Korabel, an East Village resident.
"I know years ago they tried to close Ray's over a rent dispute and the whole community got together to keep it open," said Michael Landau, and East Village resident.
"It's like a time warp almost," added Eileen Kallas, an East Village resident.
Ray says he has no plans to stop working, and adds the place is going to keep going as long as he keeps going.
"I hate to sit in my apartment watching TV, I want to be with the people," Alvarez said.