Unfortunately, Little Syria was razed in the early 1940s to make way for the Battery Tunnel. Many of the neighborhood's Arab-owned businesses, including Shalhoub’s, relocated to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, which remains a Middle Eastern enclave today. Around this time, Joseph, George's son, enlisted the help of 12-year-old son Louis, and renamed the shop Joseph Shalhoub & Son. “Louis became the master baker, and from what I would understand he was very good at it,” Ray says.
Louis left the business in 1950 to serve in the Korean War, and returned with two Bronze Stars and a desire to get out of retail. “My father got tired of it,” says Ray. That’s when Louis started experimenting with adapting amardeen to single-size, individually packaged rolls -- something Sunkist would later model closely.
“He rented a basement down the block,” says Ray. “While Ma was pregnant with me, they would buy a few pounds of apricots at a time, go down there, he would use a little hand press to press them out into the little pie shapes, and Mom would hang them on clotheslines and let them dry.” They then wrapped them around dowels, rolled them, and sealed them. And the fruit roll was born.
After Joseph passed away, Louis closed the retail store and dedicated his business entirely to manufacturing fruit rolls. He named the brand Joray, a combination of his sons’ names, and sold their first fruit roll in 1960. In the beginning, he and his wife Madeline were still making them by hand. “It was a very slow process,” says Ray. “They had a small space. He built drying trays, put the candy on trays. He’d turn the heat up, he’d go home, he’d come back, maybe they’d be dry, maybe they wouldn’t.”
Soon enough, Louis introduced mechanized equipment to increase productivity. “My dad met someone who built a very primitive machine and over the years I’ve improved it,” says Ray. During the 1960s, Joseph Shalhoub & Sons expanded to three storefronts, two basements and “a lot of steps.” In 1982, after Ray and his younger brother, Joseph, joined the company, they upgraded to a larger facility in the nearby Windsor Terrace neighborhood. This is where the fruit rolls are still manufactured today, and where Louis worked until his death in 2003. Joseph passed away in 2014, and Madeline died earlier this year. Now, Ray runs the business with his wife, Jayne.
Though the process continues to be refined and seven new flavors have been introduced over the years, the fruit roll, at its core, is the same as it was in the early days. The base is still made from dried sweet-tart Turkish apricots, which are ground into a paste with other ingredients, pressed onto sheets of cellophane, dried and packaged in colorful wrappers. Joray fruit rolls are cold-pressed and dried at cool temperatures, which Ray says helps maintain a faithful flavor and a pleasant chew.