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Moishe Cohen’s Sweet Lower East Side Legacy

Economy Candy founder, who opened the shop in 1937, died last week at 97

Stephanie Butnick
February 11, 2015
Economy Candy on Rivington Street in New York City. (Flickr)

Economy Candy on Rivington Street in New York City. (Flickr)

Moishe Cohen, the man we have to thank for Economy Candy, the sugar haven on New York City’s Lower East Side, died last week at 97. Cohen opened the Rivington Street shop in 1937, when he was 19, and the store quickly made a name for itself with its cheap candy, enormous selection, and haimish atmosphere. That reputation has lasted, and Economy Candy is a regular stop for tourists and New Yorkers alike, who are all won over by the place’s old-school charm.

The store, which is now run by Moishe’s grandson, Mitchell Cohen, announced the death on its Facebook page: “It is with great sadness and fond memories that we share with the Economy Candy family that we lost Morris ‘Moishe’ Cohen, the Original Candy Man at the age of 97.” The comments below the post, many of which were written by former Economy Candy employees, are a moving testament to Moishe’s character. “The man was my boss and also like a father to us,” one comment said. “Thanks for taking care of me and making me the man I’ve became,” said another. Two employees from the 1970s fondly remembered getting to drive Cohen’s Lincoln continental for pickups and deliveries.

Cohen immigrated to America from Salonika, Greece, where he was born in 1917. Like many 20th-century Jewish immigrants, he landed on the Lower East Side of New York City, where he opened what began as a shoe and hat repair shop with a candy pushcart. When the candy became what was selling, the store morphed into a sugar-only enterprise.

Moishe’s son Jerry, who ran the shop before Mitchell took over, took Blake Eskin on a tour of Economy Candy’s Passover selection for a Vox Tablet segment a few years back. You can listen to the podcast here.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.