22 April 2010

Helen's Candy Store

The Carroll Gardens Newsstand on Smith Street, a couple doors down from the Gowanus Yacht Club, always looked way too old to me to not have had an interesting history. It had wooden frontage, one of those set-back entrances, and odd window configurations on either side. I often wondered what the space had been before the newsstand came along.

This little leftover item just to the left of the newsstand awning gave me an inkling as to the address' former life. Yes, it could belong to the newsstand era; the shop sells all the things listed. But the style seems to old. I think the red oval was there before the present owners arrived. (New York Lotto was founded in 1966.)

I learned some history recently. And the address was exactly what the little storefront looks like it might had been—a candy store. Specifically Helen's Candy Store, an apparently beloved local institution, know for its superlative egg creams. Kids spent hours inside and outside the place. It was run by two sisters who lived upstairs, Helen Hanaway, who had a reddish-blonde beehive hairdo and Georgia. But they didn't apparently work the counter.

These two did. If that ain't a priceless picture, I don't know what is. The one on the right is Josie, who looks motherly and nurturing. The woman on the left is Lilly, who was cross-eyed, and whom no one ever forgot once laying eyes on her. If you believe certain Facebook pages by oldtimers, everyone had a Lilly story. Some say she was mean and nasty; I choose to think that being around candy-grubbing kids all day long gave her an edge from time to time. 

I found evidence in New York Times archive that Helen did indeed exist. Not the kind of evidence Helen would have liked, though—she failed to pass a health inspection in 1973. That gives us a date, anyway. I'm guessing the candy shop didn't make it to 1980. I know the newsstand has been there since at least 1994.

No comments: