[UPDATE] On Saturday February 7th there will be a public memorial for Joe Ades in Union Square; details here.
The city lost one its quintessential characters Sunday when the enigmatic Joe Ades died after decades spent selling his $5 vegetable peelers at the Union Square Greenmarket, and other locations around town. Ades, born in Manchester, England, was an unavoidable and entertaining presence at Union Square, and eventually became something of a media darling for his loud, hypnotic patter; his distinctive suits; and his incongruous Park Avenue address. [Video of Ades in action below.]
Despite numerous media profiles in New York dailies, TV, and even the pages of Vanity Fair, Ades never revealed how much he made off the Swiss peelers, which he claimed to be "the finest ever made." But he was a regular at Upper East Side restaurants, and Kathleen Landis, a pianist at the Pierre Hotel, told the Today Show last year that Ades "would show up each evening to hear me play, and buy an expensive bottle of champagne." That's where he met his fourth wife, who left him the Park Avenue apartment when she died in 2007.
While leading the Today Show on a tour of the well-appointed three-bedroom, Ades remarked, "Never underestimate a small amount of money gathered by hand for 60 years." [Today video also after the jump.] He's survived by his daughter Ruth Ades Laurent, whose husband's family runs La Ripaille Restaurant in the West Village, two grandaughers, and two sons in Australia. Speaking to the Times, Ms. Laurent recalled that sometimes she would go looking for him in Union Square at the end of the day, only to find him gone, "but still there were these little shreds of carrots that said, 'I was here.'"