You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we've got a better idea. Each week, New Hyde Park Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
The path to memory lane is right down Lakeville Road in New Hyde Park. Where doo wop music plays and candy can be purchased for spare change, Bobb Howard’s General Store is a brief escape to simpler times. Selling old-fashioned sweets and retro toys, it is a place where kids and kids at heart can share in the nostalgia of yesterday.
Owner Eileen Caplin-Wysel’s parents opened the adjoining auto repair shop in 1946. Back then, they also sold gas and what is now the general store was one of the first gas station convenience stores on Long Island. After many years, Caplin-Wysel decided that it was time for a change, revamping the space into the beloved blast to the past that it is today.
“I replaced all of the cigarettes with candy and nostalgic toys,” she said.
Now, the only kinds of cigarettes you will find there are made out of sugar.
Together, Eileen and her husband, Ronnie, operate the store, bringing smiles to their customers with a collective count of almost one thousand old-fashioned candy and toy products. Baskets wait beside the door to be filled with loot from the fully-stocked counter and brimming canister-lined shelves. The experience is so pleasant that many return to share it with family and friends.
“My husband and I are both kids at heart so we have always surrounded ourselves with candy and toys in our home and it just kind of carried on into our business," Caplin-Wysel said.
Out of the over 350 “old” candies, you will find a variety of gums, lollipops, chocolates, and “penny candies” including Bonomo‘s Turkish Taffy, chocolate babies, Pine Brother’s cough drops, Black Jack gum, Mary Janes and B-B-Bats taffy pops. Candy prices range anywhere from a nickel a piece to $2.85 for a specialized candy bar and everything is fresh and wrapped.
With items that span decades dating back as far as the twenties, the couple has fun introducing the new generation to candy that their parents or grandparents might have enjoyed when they were young, giving out tastes of old favorites to children.
According to Caplin-Wysel, customers are often very jovial at their sight of their favorite childhood sweets. Reactions have ranged from hugs and kisses to pleas to never close the store; some have even burst into tears!
Classic toys, games, and collectibles also bring back memories. Punks, Wooly Willy, Slinky, Spalding balls, Bozo Bop Bags, Magic 8 Balls, Gyroscopes and Dunkin YoYos are among the simple pleasures of the past that you’ll enjoy exploring.
For special events, party favors, centerpieces, candy buffets and “baskets of memories” are made for all age groups. Reunions and milestone birthdays are very popular, with candy and toys customized to the graduation or birth year. Candy can also be shipped out to a loved one anywhere in the country.
Throughout the year, Caplin-Wysel and her husband host various promotions, contests and drives that help to support the disadvantaged on Long Island.
“We are big believers in giving back to this community that has been so good to us,” Caplin-Wysel says.
Right now, they are running their second annual “Boys of Summer” charity raffle. For two dollars a raffle, you have a chance to win two great seats to an August Yankee game valued at $110 apiece; all proceeds go to the United Cerebral Palsy Association.
Gumby or Bozo will be out front to help you find your way into Bobb Howard’s General Store, where after taking time to enjoy the past you can step back into the present with a smile, a bag full of candy and maybe even a few extra surprises.
Bobb Howard’s General Store, 581 Lakeville Road, New Hyde Park, (516 )354-9564. Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; closed on Sunday except Thanksgiving-Christmas time. www.weselloldcandy.com.