Joe Ades, natural born peddler, dies at 75

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.

Recent Deaths in Business

    Hans Beck, the inventor of the tiny plastic toys, Playmobil, died in his home in southern Germany on January 30, 2009. He was 79 years old.

    Frank Boxler, AP

    New York City lost one its quintessential characters on Sunday February 1, 2009. Manchester, England-born Joe Ades sold his $5 vegetable peelers on the streets of Manhattan for two decades, earning a luxurious living.

    Aviv Small, ZUMA Press

    1927 - 2009 | Don Callender, who is credited with turning his mother's modest home-based bakery business into a restaurant and pie dynasty in Southern California, died Jan 7. The 81-year-old Corona del Mar resident sold the Marie Callender's restaurant chain to Ramada Inc. in 1986.

    The Orange County Register, ZUMA Press

    1934 - 2009 | The body of German billionaire Adolf Merckle, ranked as the world's 94th richest person by Forbes magazine last year, was found near railroad tracks in southwestern Germany in early January after an apparent suicide. Merckle's business interests, which included generic drug maker Ratiopharm International GmbH and cement maker HeidelbergCement AG, had run into trouble in the global financial crisis.

    Matthias Rietschel, AP

    The body of Steven L. Good, a well-known real estate mogul whose company did deals with Donald Trump, was found in his car in early January, parked in the lot of a wildlife preserve outside Chicago. Authorities say they have no concrete evidence that the apparent suicide was related to Good's finances.

    Chicago Association of REALTORS

    1935-2008 | Andrew McKelvey, Former CEO of Monster Worldwide
    The philanthropist and one-time chief executive officer of Monster Worldwide founded a phone book ad business in 1967 that in 1995 acquired the Monster Board and Online Career Center. The site was launched four years later.

    Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

    1918-2008 - Betty James, executive
    In 1945, James and her husband Richard, the creator of the Slinky, founded James Spring & Wire Company. When her husband left for Bolivia to join a religious cult in 1960, James took over the company, then named James Industries, and managed it for decades.

    J.D. Cavrich, AP

    1924-2008 | Osborn "Oz" Elliott, journalist
    Elliott built Newsweek into a globally known archrival to Time magazine while serving as its editor during the '60s. He left the magazine in 1976, and later served for seven years as dean of Columbia University's school of journalism.

    Keystone / ZUMA Press

    1914-2008 | Thomas Bata, shoe magnate
    Tomas Bata, who once referred to himself as "shoemaker to the world," ran the Canadian-based Bata shoe company, which makes about 300 million pairs of shoes a year for worldwide distribution.

    Petr David Josek, AP

    1932-2008 | Sid Craig, entrepreneur
    Sid and Jenny Craig founded Jenny Craig Inc. in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia. The company eventually grew to include 655 weight loss centers in four countries. In 2006, Nestle SA bought the Carlsbad-based company for $600 million.

    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 made

from 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.

Read Full Story

From Our Partners