Somehow, Joe Ades got people’s attention as the crowds swirled by at the Union Square Greenmarket, on their way to eyeing and buying the produce. He was the white-haired man with the British accent, the expensive European suits and shirts — the man selling the $5 peeler. For carrots. Or potatoes.[...]
His was a particular kind of street theater in a city that delights in in-your-face characters who are, and are not, what they seem. For he was the sidewalk pitchman with the Upper East Side apartment. The sidewalk pitchman who was a regular at expensive East Side restaurants, where no one believed his answer to the “So what do you do?” question: “I sell potato peelers on the street.” Mr. Ades (pronounced AH-dess) died on Sunday at 75, said his daughter, Ruth Ades Laurent of Manhattan. She said he never talked about how many peelers he sold in a year, or how many carrots he had sliced up during demonstrations. She said he stashed his inventory in what had been the maid’s room of the apartment.
I caught his act -- er, heard his spiel -- many times before at the Union Square Greenmarket. This guy was good. (But I never bought a peeler from him - we are Oxo loyalists in this household when it comes to small kitchen tools.)
The Times article points to a Youtube video of the man at work. It's worth checking out.
Also: The King of New York Hacks has some lovely remembrances of Joe Ades and fantastic still photography of the man in action.
Speaking of Joes in New York, Joe Mitchell would have loved this guy.