Gray’s Papaya Just Reopened With an Extra-Special Recession Special

They’re back!

By Carol Tannenhauser

Gray’s Papaya, on 72nd and Broadway, reopened for takeout and delivery on Wednesday, May 6th, at 8 a.m., after being closed for a month. It was the first time in the 47-year history of the legendary hot dog store that it had ever been closed. On the morning of the reopening, WSR spoke by phone to the owner, Rachel Gray. A light bulb went off. That’s why it’s called Gray’s Papaya!

“Gray is our last name,” Rachel explained. “It’s a family owned and operated business and has been since we started in 1974. Actually, I was five years old when my husband started the business,” she laughed, “47 years ago in this same location. He had been in the financial business and had enough of that and wanted to work for himself and loved hot dogs, so he opened a hot dog store and the rest is history.”

Nicholas Gray, between twins Rufus and Tessa.

Is there any relationship between Gray’s Papaya and the Upper East Side’s Papaya King?

“Originally, my husband, Nicholas Gray, was a Papaya King. He was a Papaya King for two years and then Papaya King didn’t want to renew the contract, so he went off on his own and became Gray’s Papaya. I took over running the business three years ago. He’s 83, so he doesn’t get to the stores very often anymore. Bit of an age difference between Nick and I! We have been together for 31 years and married for 24. We are very proud of our relationship and marriage! He is and will always be the love of my life. Our twins, Rufus and Tessa, are turning 16 next month.”

Rachael Gray.

Why is Gray’s Papaya such an icon?

“Cheap prices, a good product, and so many years in one location,” Rachel replied.

How do they keep the prices down?

“Volume, strictly volume. You’ve got to sell a lot of hot dogs.”

To that end, they have specials.

“We’re offering a Recession Special, our longest running special, we’ve had it for 35 years. It’s two hot dogs and a medium drink, for all frontline health care workers and doctors — they come and they eat for nothing. All they have to do is show ID. And there’s the Frontliner Special. Anyone who gets any three hot dogs gets a fourth one free.”

Ready to go.

Gray’s Papaya applied for a government PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loan, but has not heard back yet.

“We’re still working on it, but we’re going to try to do it without any loans,” Rachel said. ”Our biggest expense is rent. The PPP loans don’t cover a lot of rent. We’re going to give it a couple of weeks to get our legs back under us. We’ll have a better idea in two weeks how we’re going to do.

“In truth, I didn’t ever really want to close, but realized it was the right thing to do for our staff and our customers,” Rachel concluded. “Now, we decided we made it over the peak of this crisis, and we’re allowed to be open, so our staff got a level of comfort and I got a level of comfort and we felt it was just time. We wanted to get back out here and open our doors for New Yorkers.”

Gray’s Papaya is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. “If we see the demand, we’ll resume 24 hours,” said Rex, the manager. Delivery is through Seamless and Grubhub. (212) 799-0243.

Gray’s Papaya has a second location on 8th Avenue and 40th Street. “We are planning on opening that one back up May 18th when there are a few more people in that area.”

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 26 comments | permalink
    1. Bob says:

      So he was 52 and she was 22 when they got together, and 59 and 29 when they got married? Well… it breaks the half-plus-seven rule, but… if you’re happy you’re happy!

    2. Pete says:

      Good luck to them. Not a hotdog lover but will try and support them when things get better.

    3. Joanne, Banker working on PPP loans says:

      As of May 6th they haven’t heard about their PPP loan? Who is their bank? This is unacceptable. First round was tough but second round all eligible companies should be getting their loans.

    4. Emerald Inn says:

      Very happy to hear ! Very big part of the upper west aide for me . Grew up here ! Remember when they were 75 cents

    5. Natasha Gray says:

      Wonderful news! I am having mine with sauerkraut and mustard!

    6. AC says:

      My go to place for decades!

    7. m says:

      going tomorrow- love this place

    8. NYer says:

      We love you guys! Welcome back!!!

    9. beergas says:

      Nice. Both dogs in photo work NY style. Rem the other King. Wasn’t there couple dog & soda places in Times Square mid 1960s? 40th & B’way area.
      Now I got the hungers for 1980s nights at Brothers BBQ in Tribeca. Even their dogs were blitzed – my first kale. Night printers, cabbies, truckers, real artists.

    10. Josh says:

      Love it!
      The onion sauce and kraut, 2, well done please.

    11. Susan says:

      Wish the Gray family all the best and continued success with their iconic and much-loved business!

    12. Mark Moore says:

      I love Grey’s but they need to stop saturating my hot dog buns with sauerkraut juice. Forty seven years in business, they should know better.

    13. ZoomZ says:

      Been eating these dogs since day 1.
      Love it.
      Best for me is plain with mustard.

      BTW – Rachael looks great!

    14. Steve Friedman says:

      And consistently good for 47 years too. With apologies everywhere to sharks, Gray’s nowhere near “jumping the dog.” Amazing after a half century. And they always kept it current with signs outside periodically “teasing” events of the day so you always notice that the little shop on the corner,
      never becoming just part of the landscape. And never overdone. Very shmart.

      And as for age differences, they’re in very good company: Long successful unions with long age differences -Charlie Chaplin & Oona O’Neal / 35 years; diiference; Buster & Eleanor Keaton / 23 years; Gene & Patricia Ward Kelly / 47 years; and currently, Tony Bennett & Susan Benedetto / 40 years.

    15. Dave C says:

      Living in Melbourne now but whenever I get to spend time with my frat friend Monti a neighbour of yours on W72nd I can’t wait to get my hotdogs and a drink. Keep it up love you

    16. stu says:

      I don’t go back that far, but I do remember 50-cent hot dogs at Grays.

    17. Lauraine Effress says:

      My friend, Dan, who passed away last year, used to come to NYC every year to visit. His first stop, and a daily stop was at Gray’s. We could never go out for dinner because he loved Gray’s so much, he would do a double double and be too full for dinner. Here’s to you, Gray’s.

    18. Natasha Caraballo says:

      Please advise her to hire her own delivery guys!!!! The delivery companies keep too much of the money! Grub Hub Seamless Uber Eats all SUCK!!! Delivery is a decent job for someone right now but not from a corporation that is stealing profits from the little guys! I NEVER order from places with these delivery options.

      • lynn says:

        I ordered directly from restaurants for 20+ years, and then approx 7 years ago everyone started INSISTING that I order online. It wasn’t my preference because I have dietary restrictions and couldn’t always find the options I needed. Some restaurants (UWS) actually hung up on me when I called them directly. I understand that businesses need all the help they can get now, but why is there so much hostility now directed toward these same delivery services? How are they harming you as a consumer?

      • Boris says:

        Delivery corporations are not STEALING profits from the little guys. They’re making fees that the restaurants have agreed to pay in order to reach a wider customer base who prefer to order online.

        For a restaurant to achieve and profit from a high-volume delivery business, they would have to hire 1-2 people just to take and manage delivery orders. Those workers could cost more than the delivery fees.

    19. Betsy Wade says:

      Worked in Times Square; live on 72d and West End, could not live without you.

    20. Mary O'Brady says:

      Gray’s Papaya is one of my favorite places in the world! As an upper westsider for 37 year, it shines like a beacon. So glad you’re back!!!

    21. Richard says:

      Hurray for Gray’s Papaya! Glad to hear they’re back and wish them the best.

    22. Towald says:

      There’s hot dogs on the planet

    23. Paul Vella says:

      I just LOVE Grays Papaya!!! Brought my niece, who loves in New Jersey, about 30 years ago… when she married a UK man, the first place she brought him to in NY and USA was first Grays Papaya, then Museum Natural History, them Central Park, in that order… Grays Papaya is MAGIC!! Thank you MRS. Gray for your efforts during this tough time… NYC should make you a Landmark and pay your rent!