Sidewalk Salesman By Day…
Bon Vivant By Night
In the hands of a good salesman …
even a simple potato peeler can have great curb appeal.
Here’s an ‘Only In New York’ story …
of a Terrific Salesman …
Looking out over the harbor you see the Statue of Liberty, or gaze down the canyons of Manhattan you view Fifth Avenue even in this city of millions of stories the tale of Joe Ades stands out in a crowd.
His voice clears the air like a snap to a cymbal: “When you peel a potato, it doesn’t matter whether you’re right-handed or left-handed or, like a politician, underhanded…”
A dapper British street salesman, charming people into buying a simple tool. And along the way, having the time of his life.
If you’re a New Yorker, you know who the “Peeler Man” is. Exactly.
Joe’s daughter Ruth, “He loved selling the peeler. It was his favorite thing.”
“… You can really see how sharp this is (watch as Joe trims off very very thin sheets of a carrot). Anything less sharp won’t do this.”
It was a Swiss Stainless Steel Peeler that Joe came across in the early nineties and thought people would buy.
“You get one for five. You get five for twenty.”
Turns out, he was right.
Ruth, “His philosophy was that a small amount of money builds quickly.”
He sold tens of thousands. You do the math.
A woman passing on the street says of Joe’s Peeler, “Celery, potatoes, carrots … anything you want sliced thin. It works!”
Another passerby says of Joe, “I’ve been seeing him for years doing that, you know. He’s great.”
Born in Manchester, England, Joe was a born performer, Joe made the sidewalk his stage. His routine, ‘The Pitch.’
“You do it right, you get paid. If you do it wrong …
you don’t get paid. It’s as simple as that.”
Ades did it right, very right.
It’s said that he once made a hundred thousand dollars in a weekend. Which helps explain the ‘other side’ of Joe Ades, the Rolls Royce, the Park Avenue apartment, the good life.
Joe, “There’s always a thrill, always a thrill.”
What really thrilled this peddler by day was New York at night. Fine restaurants, theatre, jazz. His favorite spot was at the exclusive Pierre Hotel where he’d sip champagne and listen to Kathleen Landis play piano.
Kathleen, “He always sat directly behind me. And would pour a glass for himself and then have a bottle of bubbly for me all night long.”
Joe turned a lot of heads.
Kathleen, “People thought he was an actor. A lot of people thought he was Sean Connery because he was always so well-dressed and so well put together.”
But Ades was never ashamed of what he did
(the street Salesman who sold Peelers).
In fact, Joe loved being recognized.
Daughter Ruth, “Occasionally people would come up and go ‘You’re the Peeler Guy’. At other times they would just look at him and say ‘I know I’ve seen that man’ .”
Joe met Estelle Pascoe, his fourth wife, at the Pierre. They lived in style in their three-bedroom Park Avenue apartment while he worked the street. He stored his Peelers in the maid’s room.
You’d think he kind of straddled two worlds but in his mind there was only one world. Ruth’s father never told anyone how much money he made but it was enough to spoil his family. Even send his daughter to Columbia University.
Although Joe could have retired, he never planned to.
Joe, “I can’t imagine retiring. Retiring is like stopping living.”
But a year ago after a night out listening to jazz, the week he’d become an American citizen, Joe Ades died in his sleep. He was 75.
Which could have the end to this story, but …
there’s a new chapter…
“The Peelers all come from Switzerland, dad imported them all directly himself.” Daughter Ruth, has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps.
Ruth says, “Dad used to say: Why don’t you learn the Peeler? Because somebody should be able to take over.
That’s my big regret, I wish that I would have learnt the Peeler when he was alive. And you know, we could’ve worked together. I used to put it off sayin’, “Yea Dad. I’ll do it when I’m ready.”
Well, she’s ready now.
Ruth is sitting on the same little stool her dad has used for years trimming back the potato and the carrot throwing out that familiar pitch. You’d almost think you were hearing Joe until you realize it’s a female voice making the same pitch with still the hint of a British accent.
A passerby couple mentions that they had seen her dad do it for years. She piped back:
“it’s the same Peeler.”
Ruth, “I feel very close to my dad when I’m doing it. It makes me sad that he’s not here. I often think when I’m working here in the street that my dad is standing in the outskirts of the crowd and watching.”
Then if you close your eyes and listen closely you can hear the new street sales pitch mixing well with the old seasoned sounds of Joe and it’s almost imperceptible to tell who’s who.
CLICK HERE for more info on Joe:
“Union Square Peddler Dies…”
Blog post link: http://bit.ly/SidewalkSalesman
“Always Be Marketing”
Direct Response Marketing Consultant | Copywriter
Two Comma Copy Pty Ltd
(Located in Avalon… just north of Sydney suburbs and
sometimes at my office in La Jolla (San Diego) California in the States)
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