NOLITA — The former home of the oldest Ray's Pizza in the city has gone from mozzarella to massage oil.
The first U.S. location of the all-natural bath products shop Mt. Sapola opened Sunday in place of the restaurant half of Ray's, the 52-year-old institution that spawned dozens of imitators citywide before closing last October.
The shop's owner Guido Barani, a German who recently moved to the city for the U.S. launch of the Thailand-based brand, learned about the history of his new digs as he set up the store.
"I heard Ray's Pizza was very famous," he said.
Mt. Sapola's bath and home products with all-natural ingredients like lavender, clove and lemongrass are on display along the store's white-and-black wood, stone and wallpaper-covered walls, where framed photographs of famous customers used to hang.
"We thought of keeping the brick but we needed to match the store's concept," Barani said.
Mt. Sapola management chose Prince Street for the brand's first U.S. location because of its high foot traffic, Barani said.
"It seems like there are only young, nice, beautiful people here," he said. "And it's very relaxed shopping, unlike Midtown or Grand Central. Here you can feel the spa atmosphere."
Prices at Mt. Sapola are comparable with those other shops of its kind. A 7.5-ounce bottle of body wash costs $15, a 7.5-ounce body lotion runs $19 and a large bar of soap is priced at $5.90.
New Yorkers can expect to see more of the store. The company is planning an early May grand opening party and is seeking to open additional locations.
"I think there is a market for four or five stores in the city," Barani said.
As DNAinfo first reported, Ray's closed after one of its owners bought the building for $5.9 million, according to documents filed with the city Department of Finance.
The president of the space's property management company said the slice shop and adjacent sit-down restaurant had been "caught in a time warp" and needed to be renovated to match their trendy surroundings.
The slice-shop side of Ray's became Prince Street Pizza, which opened in January. Owner Frank Morano, whose parents grew up in the neighborhood, vowed to carry on Ray's legacy.
Cheryl Sorrentino, Cuomo's niece and a former owner of Ray's, said in December that she supported the changing of the guard in NoLita.
"I just hope [the new businesses] add to the neighborhood, and it keeps going like it was before and that people will like it," she said.