Oh brother! Ray’s fundraiser brings nearly $50,000 to struggling Avenue A icon

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A fundraiser for Ray of Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A has already shattered its original purpose. In less than two weeks, by the afternoon of Sunday, November 20, the campaign had raised $47,533, surpassing the initial goal of $19,740. More than 1,800 people donated.

Major news outlets, like Fox News, ran stories about the fundraiser, helping to boost the effort.

The GoFundMe remains open. The idea was to continue until his 90th birthday in January. Perhaps, fittingly, he’ll end up raising $90,000.

Ray’s real name is Asghar Ghahraman. He grew up in Iran and is of Turkish descent, he said. While in the Iranian Navy, he left the ship in Florida, slept under a bridge and gradually made his way to New York.

Struggling to obtain American citizenship, Ray was at a loss, when a Puerto Rican colleague shrugged that he should just use his name – Ray Alvarez – since all Puerto Ricans have dual citizenship, which he did.

In 1974, he managed to buy the classic store on Avenue A, with its worn linoleum counter, and the rest is history – almost six decades. After braving the tough times of the 1970s and 1980s when taxi drivers wouldn’t cross Avenue A, Ray has more recently risen to internet fame, with the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kendell Jenner and other influencers swooning down. stopping to taste – and shoot for Instagram – her fried Oreos, shakes, Belgian fries, egg custards, soft serve ice cream and more in the store’s colorful and authentic decor. Before the influencers arrived, the late East Village blogger Bob Arihood helped raise Ray’s profile.

One of a parade of dancers on the counter at Ray’s 87th birthday party in March 2020, just days before the pandemic officially hit. The party actually took place a few months later that year. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
The well-worn counter has seen dazzling moves over the years. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
A dancer lost a tight glove at Ray’s 2020 birthday party. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, Ray had finally been granted amnesty under President Reagan – but, by bad luck, the notification letter was sent to the wrong address. Decades later, everything would be settled, and he would get his citizenship, allowing him to get Social Security payments — which he only poured into improvements for the store, like new ice cream machines.

He’s had to rely on fundraisers on several occasions in the past to help pay his rent, but in recent years he’s seemed to turn the page thanks to the explosion of online delivery apps, which have helped his company. He can now sometimes have up to two employees working for him at night, allowing Ray to get some sleep in the back of the store.

But he’s still on the night shift, placing his bulk orders, standing for hours a day, lifting 5-gallon buckets of oil. The hardest working man on Avenue Ait is a machine.

When The Village Sun stopped by to say hello a few weeks before the GoFundMe announcement, Ray was regaled by a rowdy group of local gypsies he knows. After they left, he shared that all of his costs skyrocketed.

His business is really down right now, he said, and everything is a lot more expensive, from potatoes for Belgian fries and big white paper cups for electric shakes, the latter of which goes through the roof.

But, on the bright side, he said he loved Joe Biden, like he loved Barack Obama before him. Longtime customers will remember Ray’s “Obama burgers” and even the “Obama tube socks” he had for sale.

Meanwhile, Ray looks great. As for its 90th birthday, will it have a 90s grunge-rock theme? Stay tuned.