Nicholas Gray, Founder of Longtime NYC Hot Dog Chain Gray's Papaya, Dies at 86

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The founder of Gray's Papaya, the stand that helped make the unlikely combination of hot dogs and papaya juice a staple for New Yorkers for decades, has died, his family announced.

Nicholas A.B. Gray died at the age of 86, his family said in a statement Wednesday.

"It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we announce the passing of a New York icon and  our fearless founder Nicholas A. B. Gray. An immigrant who opened Gray’s Papaya in 1973 and the sweetest, funniest, most eccentric boss, father, husband, brother, husband, uncle, grandfather and friend," read the statement from Tessa Gray, his daughter. "Thank you for the countless lives you brightened one Recession Special at a time."

In a tweet, NYC Mayor Eric Adams called Gray's Papaya "a New York City institution and a beacon for Polite New Yorkers thanks to Nicholas Gray."

The restaurant chain has had multiple locations throughout the years and currently has just one, its flagship on the Upper West Side.

Gray was a former partner of Papaya King, another NYC staple, when he founded his own stand in 1973. Since starting his own franchise, Gray's Papaya has consistently been named among the best hot dogs in the city.

In addition to its namesake drink, Gray's became famous for its low prices on its hot dogs, once selling them for 50 cents. They are now sold at $2.95.

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