Legendary NYC Vegetable Peeler Salesman Joe Ades, 75
If you live in New York or have visited as a tourist, it's more than likely you've seen the compelling salesmanship of Joe Ades, vegetable-peeler extraordinaire. Mr. Ades died on Sunday. He was 75.
Mr. Ades' five-minute pitch was hypnotic, and whenever I saw him on a corner—in Midtown, at Union Square (he had various favorite locations)—I'd always stop to watch, even though I'd seen his spiel countless times and even though I had already bought a couple of his peelers. (They really do work well and, as he claimed, mine has never needed sharpening.)
With bins full of vegetables, Ades would demonstrate the utility of the stainless steel Swiss peeler that made him a wealthy man ("one for $5, two for $10, five for $20"). He'd deftly remove the eyes from potatoes and show how easy it was to julienne carrots or to slice them into stars ("you do that for the kids and they'll eat their veggies"). [A video of Mr. Ades in action appears after the jump.]
Always nattily dressed in a suit and tie, no matter the weather, Ades was the subject of numerous magazine and newspaper articles that recounted his almost Dickensian trajectory from Manchester, England, to the streets of New York City.
Mr. T and I like to go to Union Square on Saturday's to get fresh produce, potted plants and cider when it is in season. Each time we go, we stop and watch the Vegetable Peeler Man for a few minutes. No matter how many time we've heard his pitch, and it was always exactly the same. There was something about his british accent, his full suit, and the obvious joy he found in his work that made him hard to turn away from. I never bought a vegetable peeler. But I wish I had.
R.I.P. Mr. Vegetable Peeler Man.