If you live in New York City, there's a chance you happened upon Joe Ades, in one of his signature expensive suits, sitting just barely above the ground on a short collapsible stool. He'd sit on the sidewalk for hours, usually in Union Square, peeling carrots to show off the easy handling of his $5 vegetable peelers. He made a fortune, presumably, from selling these things.
Frank Boxler, AP
Aviv Small, ZUMA Press
The Orange County Register, ZUMA Press
Matthias Rietschel, AP
Chicago Association of REALTORS
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images
J.D. Cavrich, AP
Keystone / ZUMA Press
Petr David Josek, AP
Tim Boyle, Getty Images
"Never underestimate a small amount of money gathered by hand for 60 years," he told NBC's Today Show while giving a tour of his Park Avenue three-bedroom apartment. He enjoyed going to the ritzy Pierre Hotel, neighboring Central Park and Fifth Avenue's high-end shopping. There he ordered a bottle of expensive champagne every evening, according to pianist Kathleen Landis, who Ades always came to hear play. (He met his fourth wife one night during this evening ritual).
The Manchester, England-born Ades was tight-lipped about how much he madefrom the little peelers. All the various news outlets that profiled him -- from Vanity Fair to CBS's 60 Minutes -- couldn't put a dollar sign to one of history's most charming salesmen.
He was one of the city's self-made celebrities, famous, unlike many in this category, for a good reason. Tourists would stop and stare, take pictures, as he peeled away at carrots, promising a product that's one of "the finest ever made." It was hard to resist buying at least one, even if you don't cook. "Give it to a friend," Ades would tell you.
His daughter, Ruth Ades Laurent, told the New York Times whenever she missed catching her father in Union Square, she could always find shreds of his carrot peels, knowing he had been there. Ades is survived by his daughter, two sons in Australia, and two grandaughters.