BY BOB KRASNER
Ten years ago, Ray Alvarez’s business was facing eviction from the tiny spot that is Ray’s Candy Store, a fixture on Avenue A since 1974. Thanks to the great support of the neighborhood, fund raising efforts ensured that Ray’s shop is still serving egg creams and deep fried Oreos, with Alvarez at the helm.
Matt Rosen, who’s known Ray for over 20 years, has been organizing a burlesque birthday bash for him since 2007. Acting as MC, Rosen took a few moments to inform the crowd of the highlights of the last year. He noted that local artist Leah Tinari created custom hand-painted sneakers with a Ray’s Candy Store theme that were sold in Bergdorf Goodman, Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian made a much publicized visit to the shop and Men’s Health magazine featured the spot in a “Cheat Day” video.
The shop was also featured on NBC New York Live, Food Insider and NYU News, as well as being the setting for a one-act play by Rachel Carnes. Ray himself showed up onstage at The Theatre for The New City, holding a heart, as part of a performance of a song from the late Michael Shenker’s “The Squatter’s Opera.” He was, said Rosen, “representing the fact that Ray’s Candy Store is the heart of the East Village.”
Although he also received a boost from Facebook and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce with a free advertising campaign, he had a setback as well. The birthday party should have been in January, but hernia surgery forced the performers to be put on hold.
And so, on the ten year anniversary of the benefit that raised the money needed to keep the shop in business, the neighborhood showed up again to celebrate Ray’s 87th year.
Well-wishers were totally entertained by purveyors of classic Burlesque – Gal Friday, Peekaboo Pointe, Stormy Leather, Pearls Daily and The Maine Attraction – who bravely performed on a countertop that was maybe a foot and a half wide for a crowd that was eager to record every move.
Alvarez didn’t say much, except for a brief thank you to everyone. He didn’t have to, though, because he never stopped smiling.
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