Medha Imam: In a city
that never sleeps, bodegas, carts, and diners are routine hot spots
for late-night eats. But one 24-hour
joint in New York City stands out as a sacred site
for all things junk food. And it’s been
there for decades. Its name? Ray’s Candy Store. Customer: This is a staple
of the Lower East Side. Like, this is an
awesome place to, like, just come after work, just grab a ice cream, you know. On a cute date or something. Customer: It’s, like,
it never really changes, so it’s kind of
like this timepiece. Employee: It’s almost like
an oasis for people here. It holds the community
together a bit. Medha: We’re here at the
heart of the East Village, at Ray’s Candy Store. Ask anyone in the neighborhood. If you haven’t had Ray’s for
some late-night munchies, then you’re really missing out. Ray’s serves deep-fried Oreos, fries, soft serve, and ice cream. So, we’re gonna take a look inside, see how it’s made, and meet the legendary Ray himself. Step into Ray’s Candy Store and you instantly
travel back to the ’80s. The narrow shop is splattered with a collage of Ray’s snacks, pictures with celebrities and friends, news clips of high praise, and, of course, lots
and lots of junk food. Ray Alvarez: We sell everything. Cigarette, beer, fried Oreo,
french fries, chicken, green cards, anything
you want (laughs). Medha: That’s Asghar Ghahraman, widely known in the
neighborhood as Ray Alvarez. Ray came to the
United States in 1963 after abandoning the Iranian navy, jumping off a ship that
was docked off of Virginia. Without any papers, Asghar
adopted a Puerto Rican identity and worked odd jobs at restaurants until he scrambled enough
money to buy a store. Ray: So, since then,
I am Ramon Alvarez. Medha: Ray’s Candy Store
has now been serving late-night munchies
in the East Village for over 45 years. And Ray, who is now 86 years old, works the overnight shift, waking up at 4 in the afternoon to run his shop until
the next morning. Ray: I work seven days a week. I work from 4 o’clock
afternoon till next morning. No day off, no vacation. Medha: At first, the
candy store sold only egg creams, coffee,
and french fries. But with the rise of
rent prices each year, Ray added new items to the
menu to make ends meet. Ray: I like to make
things that people like. I enjoy it when they are happy. That’s my reward. Medha: But diversifying
his menu wasn’t enough. In 2010, Ray faced
increasing pressure to close down his
shop, as rent tripled. Members of the local
community stepped in and started a crowdfunding
campaign to keep Ray’s open. With an elevated
social-media presence and local financial support, Ray’s Candy Store was saved. Ray: People came and
they donate money. They help me “save the Ray,” you know, every block
they had the music, “save the Ray.” Employee: People just
want to come and support, and they care about Ray, and they see that
he cares about them and he puts, like, real
love into his food. Ray: Hershey, this is my
favorite thing in the world. Hershey bar. Yummy. Customer: So, the reason I
actually came to Ray’s is because Anthony Bourdain came to
Ray’s in one of his episode, and that’s why I’m here
to try the egg cream. I’ve never had egg cream,
I didn’t know what it was, so it’s my first time
trying that, but yeah. Medha: I just walked across
into Tompkins Square Park, and I’m about to try
Ray’s deep-fried Oreos for the very first time. I’m really excited because
I’m a big fan of Oreos, and I’ve never had it deep-fried, so let’s just see how it is. OK, which one do I pick? I like this one. The one with the powdered sugar. Ready? (crunching) Oh, my God. This is heaven! Customer: My favorite thing
is the fried Oreos, yeah. They’re magical. Customer: Cheers. (crunching) Customer: Mm. Mm, good. Customer: Pretty good. Customer: It’s really good. Customer: You finished
the whole thing? (laughing) Medha: With a newly
painted storefront and his East Village family in tow, Ray and his candy
store are here to stay. Ray: No day off, I had,
1955 I had one day off. I got drunk. Yeah. I had my day off.