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Neighborhood Celebrity: The Union Square Fruit Man

By Jess Hullinger | September 19, 2014 8:50am
 Kamal Uddin Ahmed says when someone tries to steal food, he can only tell them not to do it again. 
Kamal Uddin Ahmed says when someone tries to steal food, he can only tell them not to do it again. 
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DNAinfo/Jessica Hullinger

UNION SQUARE — The corner fruit man is a staple of New York City street life.

Monday through Friday, Kamal Uddin Ahmed presides over his cart at the intersection of Union Square East and East 15th Street, hawking fruit to his regulars and occasionally his brother, who drops by every now and then for a banana.

Originally from Bangladesh, Ahmed has been in New York for close to seven years and is known by locals for his cool and friendly demeanor, even in the face of fruit thieves.

DNAinfo New York caught up with Ahmed as part of our Neighborhood Celebrities series:

How long have you been selling fruit at this corner?
A long time, five years. I have regulars. All the people know me because of such a long time working here.

Did you get to choose the location?
No, my boss, he chooses the location and tells me what price to charge. The fruit comes from Hunts Point in the Bronx. My boss brings it and delivers it to me.

About how much fruit do you sell every day?
Probably between $300 and $350 a day. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and grapes are the most popular.

Has anyone ever tried to steal from you?
Sometimes. When I take care of another customer here, sometimes someone else will swipe something. I have to do nothing. When I see it, I just say, "Don't do this, never. Don't do it ever again." That's it.

What if you need to take a bathroom break?
I have the halal guy who helps me. When I go to the bathroom I say, "Please watch it." Some customers know me and I can ask them to watch it for two minutes and they stay and watch the cart.

Do you like what you do?
Yeah. Well, I don't like it, but what do I do? I have family here. If I don't work I have big problems. This job, actually, I don't like this because working outside in the rain, cold, it gets windy. It's a problem. I have big dreams but money is not easy. Some people, on Christmas Day every year they give me tips. Some people $20, some people $10, some people $50. 

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