There’s been an outpouring of love from the neighborhood in the days since Ray Alvarez, who has run Ray’s Candy Store in the East Village for nearly 50 years, was brutally attacked by two thugs who are now in custody.
“He is a legend,” said Josh Bowen, who lives around the corner on East 7th Street and pushed his daughter, Billie, in a stroller up to the takeaway window of the small colorful store the morning after he heard of the attack on Alvarez. Much to his surprise, Alvarez was back on the job.
“He’s always giving kids ice cream,” said Bowen. And he’s always helpful to the down and out who hang around nearby Tompkins Square Park across the street. “If someone doesn’t have money, he’ll give them some food for free. He’s one of the kindest people. He’s literally the equivalent of a saint.”
Firefighters from Engine 33 and Ladder 9 also stopped by for a morning coffee. “We heard what happened on the news, and wanted to show our support,” said Firefighter Vinny Lupes who was joined by fellow fire fighters John Acevedo, Joe Pichardo and Brandon Timmins who all work at a firehouse on Great Jones Street in NoHo.
A GoFundMe page that was started by neighborhood residents last November when they were worried that pandemic related bills might force the iconic shop to close are pouring in once again with over $3,000 coming in the past week.
“I met Ray on our last trip to NYC after reading about him online,” wrote Vivian Gabrielli who donated $25 to the GoFundMe account. “I am so happy they caught his assailant! Take care of yourself, Ray! Your hard work ethic is an inspiration to many!”
And long ago fans are chipping in too.
“Thanks for the egg creams 40 years ago” wrote Judi Orlick who donated $25 on Feb. 5. “Get well soon.”
“I love you ray! thank you for everything!” said Tiffany Champion who donated $50 four days ago.
Alvarez recalled the day of the attack on Jan. 31. “I open at 9 in the morning and close at 4 am,” he told Our Town Downtown. Around 3 am he said he stepped outside.
“I went outside to get some air Tuesday morning. Two guys with six packs of seltzer water asked if I wanted to buy them. I said, ‘no thanks’.”
At that point, he said the person holding the package--since identified as Luis Peroza--handed it off to his accomplice and said, “hold this, I am going to kill this guy.”
Alvarez said the suspect pulled out something that he thought was some kind of belt with a rock in it and swung it at his face. “He hit me on my left side. I fell on the sidewalk. I was bleeding. I told my help to close the door.”
He said the suspects ran off empty handed.
Police issued a photo of one of the persons wanted in the attack and asked the public to call 1-800-Crimestoppers with any info. By the end of the week, police said they had arrested 39 year old Peroza and 55 year old Gerald Barth and charged them in connection with the attack. Peroza is being held on $200,000 bail.
The attack on the beloved Candy Man of Avenue A was apparently only one part of a vicious crime spree by the two suspects across the East Village, according to prosecutors.
Outside a deli at 158 Ave. C, about a half hour later the two suspects, while pushing a shopping cart, blocked the path of another victim and demanded, “give me your money,! according to prosecutors. That victim was also struck in the head causing a “deep bleeding laceration, a broken orbital bone and substantial pain,” according to prosecutors.
But they were not done. At around 6:20 pm on the 31st, the thugs attacked another victim at 106 Avenue B and struck him in the head with an unknown object that caused lacerations to his head “loss of teeth and substantial pain” while swiping the victim’s cell phone.
Despite the attack, Alvarez, who emigrated from Iran in the 1970s, said he has no intention of closing up shop, which boasts that it makes the best egg cream in New York, serves golden delicious french fries, hot dogs, fried Oreos, fried bananas, and thick shakes among other specialties. “I want to work for ten more years,” he said, at which point he would be 100 years old. “It keeps me alive,” he said.
The story is open 365 days a year, seven days a week. “If I retired, I would miss the people,” he said.
Last year, just before his 90th birthday, a Go Fund Me Page was started by neighborhood residents to help keep his doors open to pay off an $18,000 Con Ed bill and other pandemic related expenses that was threatening to force him to close. It had a goal of raising $90,000. So far, it has raised $60,000 and the attack has spurred a new round of donations to pour in recent days.
“I heard about the mugging and want to turn 2 men’s cruelty into a blessing by hitting the fund raiser’s goal,” said Phil Watson, who kicked in $100 on Feb. 6th. The GoFundMe has raised $62,428 since it was started in November, with a goal of $90,000.
I want to work for ten more years. It keeps me alive.” 90-year-old Ray Alvarez, who survived an attack by two thugs at Ray’s Candy Store, the beloved East Village Shop he has run since 1974.