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How Economy Candy Became a New York Icon

A look inside the store three days before its busiest day of the year

Morris "Moishe" Cohen opened Economy Shoes on a Lower East Side corner in 1937, near the end of the Great Depression. Even as the state of the union slowly improved, shoe sales waned, and Morris’s side candy business became the store’s sole revenue maker. Recently laid off workers flocked to the Rivington Street storefront, seeking childhood nostalgia in the form of Jujubes, Sugar Daddies, Candy Buttons, and Mallo Cups. And so began Economy Candy.

By the time the pattern repeated itself during the Great Recession, Economy Candy was being run by Morris’ son Jerry and his wife Ilene in its current home at 108 Rivington Street. "We ran the store together with my father for a few years," says Jerry. "Learning all the tricks of the trade from The Original Candy Man." Jerry and Ilene’s son, Mitchell, who was working on Wall Street at the time, began working at the shop on Sundays, also seeking an escape from the financial crisis.

Today, Mitchell is Economy’s third-generation owner, and the shop is seeing some of its sweetest times. There’s been a rise in Economy’s event planning, and Mitchell launched an Economy Candy website that delivers nationwide. "People from around the country realize we can ship them anything they need," says Mitchell. "Just to relive their childhood. A lot of our online customers are displaced New Yorkers who grew up shopping at Economy Candy."

Still, Mitchell is careful not to make too many changes to the iconic shop. "Don’t try to fix what’s not broken," he says. "We will continue to be open seven days a week for our growing customer base as well as the influx of tourists who seek out the Lower East Side for some good ole nostalgia." He adds: "While things have really changed from the push cart days, we want to make it possible for people to relive their childhood when they step into Economy Candy. From Abba Zabba to Zagnut, and all things in-between."

Here, now, in this special Sweets Week edition of Eater Scenes, photographer Nick Solares visited Economy Candy three days before its busiest day of the year: The day before Halloween. Take a look at the scene on a rainy Thursday afternoon.

Shelves packed with candy inside store Economy Candy Nick Solares/Eater

Economy Candy on the Lower East Side. Eater

Economy Candy

108 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002, USA

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