Joe Ades

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Joe Ades
Joe Ades - Union Square, NYC - Aug 8 2005.jpg
Joe Ades in Union Square, 8 Aug 2005
Born(1934-12-18)18 December 1934
Manchester, England[1]
Died1 February 2009(2009-02-01) (aged 74)
New York City
CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationStreet Merchant

Joseph "Joe" Ades (/ˈɑːdɛs/; 18 December 1934 – 1 February 2009), also known as the "Gentleman Peeler," was a well-known street potato peeler seller in New York City, United States.

Early life[edit]

Joseph Ades, the youngest of seven children, was born in Manchester, England, to a Jewish family 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, jewellery, and toys directly on the streets.[1]


In 1956 he married a woman, eventually having three children. The family moved to Australia in 1969 as Ten Pound Poms and 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.[2] After the marriage to Shirley dissolved in 1980, Ades remarried and divorced again.[3]

His third wife 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 modelled himself on sellers that Mayhew called "the patterers," most of whom liked to ape the dress and mannerisms of gentlemen.[3]

New York City[edit]

After the break-up of his third marriage and a period of residence in Ireland, Ades followed his daughter to New York City,[2] taking up residence in Manhattan.[3]

From 1993 onward, Ades sold $5 Swiss-made metal potato peelers.[4] His engaging sales patter and his $1,000 Chester Barrie suits and shirts from Turnbull & Asser[3] made him a well-known character on his regular demo circuit, which included places such as the Union Square Greenmarket. Ades never bothered with a license, meaning that he was often moved on by the New York City Police Department.[3] His iconoclastic pitches and lifestyle eventually brought him attention and notoriety, and he was the subject of a Vanity Fair article.[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[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 1 February 2009,[2] aged 74, only a day after being informed that he had been granted American citizenship.[3]


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 "Joe Ades". The Daily Telegraph. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "His Stage, the Street; His Rapier, a Peeler". The New York Times. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Joe Ades". Daily Telegraph. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  4. ^ Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (Volume 77 / Number 51 – 21–27 May 2008). "He serves up potato peelers with a slice of style". Retrieved 3 February 2009. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Kaplan, Howard (May 2006). "The Gentleman Grifter". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  6. ^ "Estelle Pascoe Obituary". The New York Times. 18 November 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Joe Ades". MSNBC. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  8. ^ "The Veggie Peeler". WestView - The New Voice of the West Village. 1 March 2009.[dead link]
  9. ^ "Ades' Subtraction". 4 May 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 19 May 2009.

External links[edit]