NEW YORK — William D. "Bill" Modell, chairman of Modell's Sporting Goods, who led the growth of his family-owned sporting goods chain from four stores to 136 full-line units, died of prostate cancer Thursday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was 86.
Born in Brooklyn's Manhattan Beach section, Modell began his retailing career at the age of nine when he sold produce door-to-door in his neighborhood. He attended Peekskill Military Academy and New York University.
In 1946, Modell returned from serving with the Army's Ninth Air Corps during World War II, and joined the family business. He realized that many returning veterans, who were moving to the suburbs and building families, needed a place to shop. So he developed Modell's Shoppers World on Long Island.
Modell also worked with his father, Henry, to establish the Modell Veterans Training Center in lower Manhattan. The center helped thousands of unskilled or unemployed veterans prepare for retailing careers.
The business was founded in 1889 by Bill Modell's grandfather, Morris A. Modell, who began selling clothes to sailors on shore leave. Morris A. Modell established a store on Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan that supplied outfits for Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. All seven of his sons worked there. One son, Henry, became the company's president in 1920 and chairman in 1937, and the firm became known as Henry Modell Co. The retailer, which sold Army surplus merchandise after World War I, recorded major growth during the Great Depression because of its discount prices.
In 1955, Bill Modell launched an aggressive expansion of the family business, which ultimately grew to 136 full-line stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington.
By 1991, the Modells began a major renovation of the chain's stores and renamed the company Modell's Sporting Goods. Modell's purchased 15 stores from the bankrupt Herman's chain in 1996.
In addition to his role at the sporting goods chain, Modell was a philanthropist and active in civic affairs. He saw the potential of developing Long Island City and founded the Long Island City Business Development Corp., spearheading the movement to transform Long Island City into a central business district.Modell was appointed a member of the Negotiating Committee for the Panama Canal Treaty under President Jimmy Carter. He was New York City's Commissioner of Public Affairs under former Mayor Abraham Beame, as well as a founding patron of the Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and a member of the Friar's Club.
For 40 years, Modell worked to find a cure for Crohn's disease, which took his son Michael's life in 2001. He was national co-founder of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America and founder of CCFA's Long Island chapter and the Gold Coast chapter, raising millions of dollars for medical research. He was a recipient of the Gilda's Club Magic Award and CCFA's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Modell is survived by his wife, Shelby; a son, Mitchell, chief executive officer of Modell's; a daughter, Leslie; a sister, Doris Tipograph, and nine grandchildren.
Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews