Ray’s Candy Cleans Up

Picture 065Kenan ChristiansenA Ray’s customer contemplates the closure notice.

This morning Ray Alvarez could not stop fidgeting. He checked the soda machine for dirt, scrubbed the countertop with bleach, and consolidated the coffee into one pot. As he worked he counted off each potential violation.

“Now I’ve got to wash these, too, or they’ll be on to me,” he said, referring to the empty coffee pitchers.

Two days ago, Ray’s Candy Store, at 113 Avenue A, was ordered to close by the Department of Health. The store had racked up 53 points in health code violations, for issues which included mouse excrement on the floor and dirt on the soda machine.

The 78-year-old owner was told he could not reopen until these issues were addressed and his shop passed a follow-up inspection. At the time, Mr. Alvarez ignored the order, fearing that if he closed, for even a day, the loss in revenue would put him out of business for good.

It ended up being a costly decision. When the health inspector returned yesterday and found him still operating, Mr. Alvarez received a hefty fine and now estimates that he owes a total of $7,000.

Picture 048Kenan ChristiansenHeaded to court.

Ever since, he has been preoccupied with solving the problem. Last night, he signed a $120 per month contract to have an exterminator come in twice a month. Employees and friends have come by the store to help him place boards beneath the ice machine and perform small patchwork repairs to the walls and the floorboards.  But mostly, Mr. Alvarez has been cleaning in anticipation of the follow-inspection expected to arrive later today.

“Ray, don’t worry about all this,” said Andre Olczak, a taxi driver who has been coming to Ray’s Candy Store for over 20 years.  “Put a jacket on. You need to look presentable.”

Mr. Olczak’s had offered to take Ray to the court house to see about his fine and had been trying to hurry him out the door.

“Right..right”  Said Mr. Alvarez.  “If I was an inspector the first thing I’d do is look at these shoes.” Before they left he grabbed a pink rag from the counter and used it to wipe his shoes.

“Ten points,” he said.  Then the two left together.