After the upsetting news about the passing of Ralph Lee, the founder of NYC’s annual Halloween Parade, comes another sad death; Nicholas Gray, founder of Gray’s Papaya, sadly died at a Manhattan hospital last Friday.
The cause of death came from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, Nastasha Gray, his daughter, told The New York Times.
Gray’s Papaya, on the Upper West Side, was opposite to Papaya King, on the Upper East Side. Pairing hot dogs and tropical juices, Gray’s Papaya provided New Yorkers with an unlikely pairing that took the local food scene by storm. Today, customers can get two dogs and a tropical juice for $6.45.
According to The New York Times, the story goes that in 1973, Nicholas Gray was a recent divorcee frustrated with his job, when one day, he passed by Papaya King buzzing with happy people. He found the tropical juices to be nostalgic of his homeland in Chile, while the hot dogs and renowned neon sign tugged on his affinity for Americana.
He struck a franchising deal with Papaya King after quitting his stockbroker job, and after two year’s went independent with Gray’s Papaya.
Gray always tried to keep the prices as reasonable as possible. “It’s always very traumatic for me as well as for the customers,” he told The New York Times in 2008 about raising his prices. Gray even had a sign up at one point that said: “We are getting killed by galloping inflation in food costs. Unlike politicians we cannot raise our debt ceiling and are forced to raise our very reasonable prices. Please don’t hate us.”
From there, the knockoff was getting knocked off, as The New York Times put it. Similar joints include: 14th Street Papaya, Chelsea Papaya, Empire Papaya, Papaya International, Papaya World, and more.
As of now, Gray’s Papaya has no plans of closure, as the lease isn’t up for a few more years, shared The New York Times.