For years, I've passed by the ancient George Modell pawn shop on Atlantic Avenue and wondered about it, but never went it. At the same time, I would periodically visit a Modell's Sporting Goods store for a soccer ball, ice skates or whatever. Yet I never made the connection between the two, until now.
Both chains (there are four Modell pawn shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and nearly 100 sporting goods stores) are run by descendents of the same immigrant family. Morris and George Modell hightailed it out of Russian in the 1880s, fleeing the pogroms there. First they ran a pushcart, then they opened a haberdashery on West and Cortlandt Streets. Morris stuck with the clothes, while George went off on his own in 1893 to buy and sell jewelry. Morris's son Henry began to dabble in sporting clothes in the 1920s, and after WWII, went 100 percent into sporting goods.
George Modell, Inc., is now run by the third and fourth generation of that family. Modell's is also family-owned. No signs as to whether the two sides of the clan feud with each other (as is often the case when there are two family-owned businesses in this city). There is this, however, on the Modell's Sporting Goods website: "Modell's, founded in 1889 by Morris A. Modell, had its first store located on Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan. Four generations of the Modell family have developed the family business into a chain of stores located in the northeast." No mention of Morris there. I know he was only with the firm for four years, but still. A founder is a founder