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Remembering Gerald Modell

In loving memory of Gerald Modell, a pioneer of the pawn industry and friend to all.

The National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA) and the entire pawn industry has lost an admired pawnbroker, great mentor, and dear friend. We would like to respectfully acknowledge the passing of Gerald Modell of Modell Financial in NYC.


The Modell Family immigrated to America in the 1870s from Russia and settled in the lower east side of New York City. They soon began peddling from a pushcart selling clothing, jewelry, and various odds & ends.


In 1893, George Modell opened a store at 79 Cortland Street selling jewelry and watches. He also bought from the public. The business moved to Nassau Street during the 1930s when George’s son Louis joined and established the pawnbroking business. Louis successfully expanded and assumed leadership of the company during World War II.


Blessed with good looks and charm, Gerald Modell was born in Brooklyn on May 7, 1934. He was an alumnus of Columbia University and went on to Columbia Business School. He joined ROTC while at Columbia, and later joined the United States Army, where he proudly served his country until he was honorably discharged as a 1st Lieutenant. In 1959, Gerald joined the Modell Jewelry & Pawnbroking business.


With the help of Gerald, the company opened a second location in 1960 on West 47th Street, situated in the heart of the Diamond District, where Modell began to extend financing to the diamond and jewelry industry. In 1965, Gerald expanded by starting a diamond-importing company operating in Antwerp, Tel Aviv, and Bombay. Gerald’s diamond company sold loose diamonds and jewelry wholesale coast to coast.


Upon the passing of Louis in the early 1970s, Gerald assumed leadership of the business, headquartered in the Modell Building on West 47th Street. Over the next 30 years, Gerald expanded the business to four locations throughout New York City. He maintained the diamond company as an importer of diamonds and a manufacturer of high-quality diamond platinum jewelry. Gerald also served as President of the Collateral Loanbrokers Association of New York (CLANY) for 25 years.


Gerald not only succeeded in his business; he became a highly influential pawnbroker who had a profound impact on the pawn industry overall. Gerald served on the NPA Board of Directors for more than 20 years. In 2015, he was honored with the Charles R. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award. During his tenure with the NPA, Gerald was a founding member of the President’s Council (now called GRC), established to secure funding to initiate the NPA’s Government Relations Committee efforts at the national level.


From 2003-2005, Gerald served as the Chairman of the GRC Committee. Former NPA Government Relations Liaison, Fran Bishop, remembers Gerald fondly. She says, “Gerald Modell was one of the finest gentlemen I will ever have the privilege of knowing. The pawn industry has lost an icon.”


Gerald was generous with his time, knowledge, and financial contributions to the NPA to ensure the voice of the traditional independent pawnbroker was heard in Washington, DC. Professor Sarah Jane Hughes worked with Gerald for more than twenty years. “His deep knowledge of pawn, keen sense of politics, and unerring manners and grace touched me deeply,” says Professor Hughes. “He was kind to me and taught me more than I can express. He was witty and interested in everyone’s success.”  To this day, Modell Financial continues to donate money quarterly to the legislative efforts of the NPA.


In addition, Gerald initiated and led the search for a lobbyist in Washington DC to represent the NPA. He interviewed numerous applicants at his own expense and on his own time, ultimately recommending present-day NPA Lobbyist, Cliff Andrews. “The statements about Gerald being ‘witty,’ a ‘total gentleman’ and ‘invested in your success’ completely reflect my relationship with him,” says Andrews. “He introduced me to the NPA, for which I am forever grateful.” Gerald was also the one to recommend the NPA establish its highly successful Legislative Conference, which has been well attended by NPA members annually.


In 2000, Gerald’s son Eric joined the company and became a fourth-generation pawnbroker and diamond dealer in the Modell Family. Over the next 14 years, Eric rose through the ranks while expanding the pawn business. Today, Eric serves as President of the Modell companies, and has continued to expand the business; proudly operating nine pawn stores throughout New York City: in the heart of the Diamond District, Gramercy Park, Spanish Harlem, Brooklyn Heights, Brownsville, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Astoria, and Richmond Hill. Annually, Modell provides tens of thousands of loans to the public for their short-term financing needs.


Gerald was a generous man who served on the boards of numerous charitable institutions. With his beloved wife of 43 years, Paula, they traveled all over the world and enjoyed an active social life in the company of many close friends. He is remembered for his wonderful sense of humor, being a mentor to many, and his love for family and friends. Jerry passed away peacefully in his oceanside home. He is survived by his sons, Gregg, Steven, and Eric, his grandchildren, Rebecca, Eden, and Hudson, and his beloved extended family.


Rest in peace, Jerry. You will not be forgotten.


Funeral Service

The funeral will be held Friday, March 1st at 11:00 am at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th Street, New York, NY. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to a charity of your choosing in Gerald’s name. Those unable to attend in person can view a live stream of the service at