When I went to Union Squares green market Saturday to do some food shopping, I ran into a familiar figure on the corner of 15th and Broadway. Joe Ades is a fellow with a dapper suit whose equally charming spiel, spoken in fine Cockney meter, sells a five dollar Swiss-made peeler. Joe has the routine of a quality English street barker, which makes sense as he's originally from Manchester in Great Britain.
Actually, he likes to describe himself as a "grafter," a British term for someone "who works hard." And that he does, or at least he works hard at capturing and entertaining a crowd. He's awfully good. The man has has been written about frequently, from profiles in Vanity Fair to articles in the New York Daily News, the latter about which he boasts, in between his sales of peelers. Having caught his speech in the past, initially I was about to forgo it on this visit. But then his Carey Grant demeanor, as well his banter with kids in strollers, and chatting with the parents pushing them, captured my attention.
In Howard Kaplan's Vanity Fair article, he talked about days of fine meals and sipping Veuve Cliquot at fancy city restaurants, and his pleasure when other glamorous diners asked him how he spent his days, he'd tell them "I sell peelers." Apparently, the handsome old Mancunian (apparently, the terminology for folks from Manchester), he lives with his wife in an apartment on Park Avenue. The peelers, according to Joe, are all stored in the room once reserved for maids. Times change but Joe Ades remains to deliver New Yorkers his words, charm and peelers.