After falling behind on his $3,700 rent and almost getting evicted by his landlord, the owner of Avenue A hole-in-the-wall institution Ray's Candy Store says things are looking up. 77-year-old Ray Alvarez, who opened the little burger, shake and fries joint in 1974, tells the Villager the landlord is no longer trying to get rid of him, and he's received $36,000 in back-pay from Social Security (until now Alavarez, a Turkish immigrant, has been unable to receive Social Security). The money is enough to keep things afloat, but now there's a new problem.

The property manager, Barbara Chupa, has long been concerned that Alvarez's method for making his signature Belgian fries is a fire hazard. Her agreement to let Alvarez stay on the lease was contingent on his promise to take fries off the menu (and pay an extra $200 each year.) So Alvarez says he's had no choice but to discontinue the popular item, at least until he can install an Ansul system hood over his deep fryer, and he doesn't want to do that until Chupa promises he can fry again. "She didn’t say on the lease, ‘If you put on the hood, you can fry.’ That word is missing," Alvarez noted. Clearly, Ray is not a man who was born yesterday.

Other problems: Alvarez has a hernia that makes him "feel like I have a pit bull hanging down," the new NYC Icy on the other side of Avenue A "has taken half his business," and disgruntled customers are lingering outside his store grumbling, "I want cheese fries!"