When we spoke to Ray Alvarez on Monday about his Obama burgers and fries, the proprietor of Ray's Candy Store in the East Village was nothing but upbeat. But the Villager reports today that the Obama gimmick has not worked, and Alvarez's finances — as well as his health — are in bad shape. The 76-year-old is in need of new glasses, suffers from a hernia, and subsists mostly on leftover potatoes and soft-serve ice cream from his shop. Neighborhood resident and frequent customer Bob Arihood told the paper that Alvarez has $40,000 in credit-card debt and cannot collect Social Security because he doesn’t have a birth certificate. (Alvarez is Turkish and has a green card, but cannot prove his age.) As the East Village has changed, so has Alvarez’s customer base — the late-night bar crowd is not paying his bills. Business was up because “people can’t afford to eat in restaurants,” Alvarez told us on Monday, but his low prices (the $3 cheeseburger) don't cover costs for 100 percent ground-beef patties, the Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup for his egg creams, and the Hellman’s and Boar's Head that go onto his sandwiches. "I buy the best," he told us. "My friends say, 'Why do you buy Hellman’s?' But anything I buy, I buy good, because I love my customers."
Save Ray! [Villager]
Read more posts by Jenny Miller