Jeweler Port Martin's life, work recalled

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Port Martin, a lifetime Walla Wallan who helped build the jewelry store founded by his father into a downtown gem, died last week.

Martin, the longtime owner of Martin's Jewelers and son of store founder Charles Martin, died last Friday at 93 after a long illness. No services are planned, family members say.

Martin learned the jewelry trade working with his father in the 1930s and early 1940s, according to a 1989 Union-Bulletin article on the store's 100th anniversary. He earned $3 a week, plus room and board.

"I remember we used to play in the back room when we were little," he said at the time. "My dad told me, 'You're going to be a jeweler.'"

Founded in 1889, Martin's Jewelers began as a small watchman's bench in a pharmacy, before Charles Martin opened his own full-fledged store on West Main Street.

When Charles Martin died in 1947, his wife Hazel Martin and son took over the operation.

Port Martin later bought out his mother's interest.

Family members describe him as a "classic small-town jeweler with all the requisite skills." He knew watchmaking, jewelry repair, gemology, engraving and retail. In 1956 he was president of the Washington State Jewelers Association.

In 1972, Martin brought his son-in-law, Paul Eagon, into the business. Ten years later, Martin retired, selling the business to family members.

The jewelry store at 18 E. Main St. is owned by a corporation made up of Eagon, his wife and Port Martin's daughter, Mary Eagon; and Paul's brother, Rich Eagon. Paul and Mary's daughter, Erin, is a certified gemologist for Martin's.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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