7. Ray’s Candy Store

Ray's Candy Store
Image courtesy James and Karla Murray

Ray’s Candy Store, located at 113 Avenue A in the East Village, has been a local favorite since Ray Alvarez opened the store in 1974. Born in 1933 in Iran, he immigrated to New York City in 1964 and worked as a dishwasher for a decade before purchasing the store for $30,000. Serving candy, egg creams, beignets, and more, Ray continues to operate the store, even sleeping in the back at times. 

In November 2022, Ray’s employees launched a GoFundMe to throw him a 90th birthday bash and recoup the store’s losses from the Covid-19 pandemic. His big birthday was on January 1st, 2023. The business has been an East Village staple for nearly fifty years, featured in Humans of New York and praised by Anthony Bourdain. It continues to serve up an eclectic variety of food and desserts, including classic soda fountain favorites like milkshakes, egg creams, sundaes, frozen yogurt, and specialty items such as New Orleans-style beignets and Belgian fries.