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Ray Alvarez
Photograph: Instagram/gvshp_nyc

You can wish Ray of Ray's Candy Store a happy 88th birthday online right now

Beware: it's a surprise!

Anna Ben Yehuda

City dwellers—and downtown aficionados in specific—have probably met the unique proprietor of Ray's Candy Store, Ray Alvarez, countless times: while nursing a hangover with his famous chili cheese dogs, late at night while indulging in the shop's deep-fried Oreos or just walking around Alphabet City, where the funky deli has taken up residence since 1974. The shop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, after all.

A former Iranian sailor who landed in New York and eventually became a local celebrity, Alvarez turns 88 in just a few days, on January 25. Since 2007, tradition calls for a group of the owner's friends and regulars to host a big birthday extravaganza inside the shop at 113 Avenue A. Of course, given the pandemic, no party of such kind will be held this year. 

However, folks from all over town are encouraged to wish Alvarez a happy birthday virtually. "Since we can't be together for Ray's Annual Birthday Celebration this year, we're making a virtual video hug for Ray and would love for you to be a part of it!," reads the official callout for videos. "Let's set the Guinness World Record for biggest video hug ever! He deserves it!"

You've got until January 31 to upload your best wishes for the East Village star right here. Oh, one more thing: this whole endeavor is a surprise, so try not to spill the beans while at Ray's Candy Store ordering one of his famous egg creams and beignets.

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