Gell, 82, succumbed to an infection, said Rice.
Gell began her retail fashion career at age 17, working at her parents’ dress stores in Le Grand, Ore., and Lewiston, Idaho. After she married, Gell worked at her uncle’s store, Jacquelines, in Portland, Ore. She purchased that business with her cousin, Shirley Engleman, in 1960.
In the Seventies, Gell bought out her cousin and changed the store’s name to Helen’s Of Course. Continuing the legacy, Rice opened a branch in Seattle in 1981.
Gell was well known in local fashion circles for her honesty in directing her customers on what to buy — or not to buy. She was among the earliest retailers to bring European designers to the U.S., and in 1961 she began holding designer trunk shows in her store. She operated a couple of freestanding Escada shops in Seattle until the late Nineties.
After directing her business from a wheelchair in the last few years because of complications from diabetes, Gell retired in 1999. The 7,500-square-foot store’s name changed again, to Jeri Rice, and is in the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle.
Besides her daughter, Gell is survived by a grandson, Harrison Rice.