Joe Ades RIP
It was only a few weeks ago that I found myself standing and watching Joe Ades in the corner of Union Square market sitting on a tiny stool, selling his peelers. It was such a great show that I had glimpsed in the market before and occasionally on TV. The gent had such a charm about the way he sold his simple peelers and I wondered if it would be interesting to invite him to PSFK Conference New York 2009 to do his ‘thing’ on stage. That won’t be possible sadly because Joe has passed away. Here’s a video of Joe at work.
The New York Times has some colorful details about Joe:
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.
…He had been selling things during his fourth marriage, and his third, his second and his first. David Hughes, the operations manager at the Greenmarket, said that Mr. Ades had been a fixture on the edges of the market for years. (He stayed on the fringes because he never obtained a permit to do business there, and if he staked out a spot too close to the vendors, someone would complain and security guards would be alerted.)
First he sold children’s books, Mr. Hughes said. “Then he moved into potato peelers,” he said. “He told me books were too heavy to carry around.” The Greenmarket was not his only open-air stage; he had places near Radio City Music Hall and in Brooklyn that he liked, Ms. Laurent said.
…She said that he had learned the tricks of salesmanship as a teenager in Manchester, England. Ms. Laurent said she sometimes went to look for him at the end of the day, but he would have packed up and left after selling out. She could tell where he had been.
“He cleaned up really well,” she said, “but still there were these little shreds of carrots that said, ‘I was here.’ ”