The Gentleman Peeler

By Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

Mourners in New York City recently celebrated the life of salesman Joe Ades, fondly known as the Gentleman Peeler, at a small memorial. Ades – who passed away in February at the age of 75 – was remembered as the ultimate pitchman with a keen sense of timing and showmanship. According to The Villager, gatherers constructed an unconventional wreath made of carrot peelings and toasted the beloved salesman with small cups of champagne.

A few years ago, while wandering the cheerful Union Square farmers market, I joined a small crowd encircling Ades. Wearing a suit, he sat on a crate and was surrounded by buckets of potatoes and carrots. With confidence and ease, he demonstrated the peeler he was selling, slicing knobby potatoes into paper-thin rounds. He then magically made whisper-thin matchsticks of the rounds.

Joe Ades sold in different regions of New York City including Union Square seen here. (iStock)

I purchased one of the vegetable peelers and truthfully, it is a top-notch tool with just the right amount of resistance. I never was able to slice my potato wedges quite like Ades but still I was quite pleased. On a subsequent trip I found him again – this time near Radio City Music Hall. A small crowd stood before Ades as busy shoppers passed by. While touting the virtues of the Swiss-made peeler, he casually mentioned he had been featured in Vanity Fair. Julia Roberts on the cover, a feature of me inside, he said proudly.

When he announced a five-for-$20 deal, I eagerly opened my wallet and made room in my shopping bag. I also encouraged my friend Jason to buy in bulk too on the grounds that the peelers would probably be really good as Christmas presents.

According to a New York Times profile, Ades sold children's books, linens and toys before moving on to peelers. Happily, his daughter Ruth Ades Laurent, with 40 cartons of peelers left, is now selling her father's wares.

“He always told me my inheritance would be 40 cartons of peelers,” she told The Villager. “I am going to practice with a bucketful of potatoes and then come out. It will be a pleasure to carry on the legacy, even though my father will be a hard act to follow.”

What's the best sales pitch you've ever heard? Were you delighted or disappointed with the final product?