Joe Ades

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Joe Ades in Union Square, Aug 8, 2005

Joseph “Joe” Ades ([ˈɑdɛs]) (18 December 1934–February 1, 2009), also known as the “Gentleman Peeler,” was a well-known street potato peeler seller in New York City, USA.

Early life[edit]

Joseph Ades, the youngest of seven children, was born in Manchester, England, where his father worked in the textile industry. Leaving school at 15, he became an office boy before becoming intrigued by the local markets that would spring-up in the World War II–devastated landscapes of Northern England. He started out hawking comic books before selling linens, textiles, jewelry, and toys directly on the streets.[1][2]


In 1956 he married Shirley, and they had three children. The family moved to Australia in 1969 as Ten Pound Poms, where they settled in Sydney, where Ades tried to set up markets in the parking lots of drive-in movies. Eventually he sold goods at street fairs off of the back of a large truck.[3] After the marriage to Shirley dissolved in 1980, Ades remarried and divorced again.[1]

While married to his third wife, she gave him a copy of London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, which recorded the activities of the street sellers of the Victorian period. Ades modeled himself on what Mayhew called “the patterers,” most of whom liked to ape the dress and mannerisms of the gentleman.[1]

New York City[edit]

After the breakup of his third marriage, and a period of residence in Ireland, Ades followed his daughter to New York City,[3] taking up residence in Manhattan.[1]

From 1993 onward, Ades sold $5 Swiss-made metal potato peelers.[4] Known for his engaging sales patter and demonstrations in places such as Union Square Greenmarket, while wearing $1,000 Chester Barrie suits and shirts from Turnbull & Asser.[1] Ades never bothered with a license, meaning that he was often moved on by the New York City Police Department.[1] His pitches and lifestyle eventually meant that he became so famous that he was the subject of a Vanity Fair article series.[5]

Ades sold enough peelers to enjoy café society at the Pierre Hotel, on the Upper East Side, and lived with his fourth wife, Estelle Pascoe–November 17, 2007)[6] in her three-bedroom apartment on Park Avenue.[7]

Never underestimate a small amount of money gathered by hand for 60 years

Ades died on February 1, 2009,[3] only a day after being informed that he had been granted American citizenship.[1]


Ades was survived by his daughter and two sons from his first marriage. His daughter, Ruth Ades-Laurent, began selling the peelers in the same spots as her father,[8] but was later forbidden from selling in Union Square.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Joe Ades". Daily Telegraph. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  2. ^ Erikson, Chris (October 6, 2008). "Perfect Pitch: Street Hawker Joe Ades Is New York's Greatest Product Mover - But Don't Call Him a Salesman". New York Post. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  3. ^ a b c "His Stage, the Street; His Rapier, a Peeler". New York Times. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  4. ^ Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (Volume 77 / Number 51 - May 21–27, 2008). "He serves up potato peelers with a slice of style". Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  5. ^ Kaplan, Howard (May 2006). "The Gentleman Grifter". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  6. ^ "Estelle Pascoe Obituary". New York Times. 2007-11-18. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  7. ^ "Joe Ades". MSNBC. October 2, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  8. ^ "The Veggie Peeler". WestView - The New Voice of the West Village. 2009-03-01. 
  9. ^ "Ades' Subtraction". 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 

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