5. Ray’s Candy Store is owned by a 90-year-old immigrant

Courtesy of James and Karla Murray

Ray’s Candy Store, located at 113 Avenue A in the East Village, has been a local favorite for nearly 50 years. Known for its egg creams, beignets, and fried Oreos, Ray’s Candy Store has not changed much since opening in 1974, keeping its original cash register. Owner Ray Alvarez, an Iranian immigrant who moved to New York City in 1964, worked as a dishwasher for a decade before purchasing the store for $30,000. The store has survived it all, from staying open during the Tompkins Square Park Riot to dealing with the kidnapping and attempted murder of Curtis Sliwa in 1992 right outside.

For the past decade or so, the restaurant has fought to stay alive as rents have skyrocketed. The store was won numerous awards over the years that have brought more attention to it. The shop has appeared in numerous films including What About Me and Die Hard With a Vengeance, as well as media series by HBO and Vice News. In 2018, Ray’s was featured in the series finale of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. In November 2022, Ray’s employees launched a GoFundMe campaign for his 90th birthday party, as well as to recover some of the store’s losses from the pandemic. A mural was painted for the big day which took place on January 1st, 2023.