NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – On the Upper East Side of Manhattan is a neighborhood fixture where, each day, time stands still.
“We are the last surviving original luncheonette in New York City,” said John Philis, co-owner of Lexington Candy Shop.
He’s gotten accustomed to hearing certain phrases from first-time customers.
“One of the first things they say is, ‘Oh, my gosh. It’s like stepping into a time warp,'” he said.
Philis’s grandfather Soterios, an immigrant from Greece, opened the shop in 1925. He chose a corner location facing oncoming traffic to maximize visibility.
At that time, the business was a soda fountain and candy store, marking holidays with chocolate renderings of bunnies and Santas prepared in the shop’s basement.
These days, you’ll find only a few packaged candies by the register, as the focus has shifted to more substantial fare.
With its booth seating, apron-clad staff, and stacks of pancakes, Lexington Candy Shop could be mistaken for a diner. It is, however, a luncheonette, serving only breakfast, lunch, and treats like chocolate milkshakes and Coca-Cola mixed by hand from syrup and carbonated water.
Customers include locals and international visitors to the nearby Metropolitan Museum.
“During the week, we get a lot of people going to the doctors in the area. There’s a lot of doctors’ offices here,” he said.
Those below wage-earning age are especially welcome.
“One of the beauties of a place like this is the kids are able to come here after school, and they run a tab,” he said.
In a week or two, their parents drop in to pay the bill.
“We’re in the middle of Manhattan, on the Upper East Side, the most densely populated zip code around, and really, it’s like a small-town atmosphere,” he said.
He says his customers enjoy seeing the familiar faces of longtime employees.
“The ‘newbie’ on our staff has been with us for thirteen years,” he said.
And regulars appreciate being remembered.
“We know a lot of people’s orders,” he said.
As the world outside transforms at dizzying speeds, Philis works to keep his restaurant’s interior largely unchanged.
“What you see today is the way the store has been since 1948,” he said.
And to its fans, it’s the shop’s originality that makes it irreplaceable.
“We’ve become part of the fabric of the city,” Philis said.
Lexington Candy Shop
1226 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10028
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