Martin Zell (b. 1927)

Born in 1927 in Portland, Martin Zell was a second-generation manager of the successful Zell Brother’s jewelry business. Martin’s father, Julius, was one of four brothers who emigrated from Austria to the Pacific Northwest around the time of the First World War. Julius and his brother, Harry, took over the drugstore of their cousin, Mike Silverman, and converted it into a jewelry business that eventually also employed their brothers Milton and Dan, and included an optometry department. In 1922, Julius married Lillian Freudenstein, whose family came from Leipzig, Germany. Lillian’s sister, Hannah, was married to Julius’ brother, Harry.  

Julius and Lillian had two sons, Martin and Alan. Their early childhood was spent in the Dolph Park District, and later Martin attended Lincoln High School. From 1945 to 1946, Martin served in the Navy, joining voluntarily rather than waiting to be drafted. Martin worked as an electronics technician with the Navy, and following his service, attended college at Stanford University and the University of Washington, finishing his degree in 1949.

Martin worked with Zell Brothers in the retail jewelry business until 1986, when he opened Marty Zell & Associates. Zell Brothers was sold to Zale Corporation in 1972, and though Martin stayed with the newly owned company for more than a decade after the sale, he wanted to exit the large corporation and return to a smaller, more specialized company of his own creation. Martin Zell retired from the family jewelry business in 2002.