zel coverThe Story of Zel Camiel

In 1926 Zelig Camiel left the small village of Ostrolenka, Poland in pursuit of his dream of coming to America. Unable to enter the United States because of its strict quota system prohibiting immigration of foreigners, he was forced to disembark in the port of Havana, Cuba where he remained for 2 years. Beginning a new chapter in his life his footprints crossed one border after another. First through South and Central America then Mexico until he found his way to the sleepy town of Tijuana. Befriended by the small colony of Eastern Europeans who had also established themselves in the border city, Zel found work at the exclusive Aqua Caliente Resort and Gambling casino which attracted crowds from Hollywood’s movie industry and members of high society from all parts of the U.S. Beginning as a Bellhop he rose to Chief Croupier of the Roulette Section until the President of Mexico enforced a law which demanded that only persons born in Mexico could be employed in Mexico.
With the loss of his job, Zel left Tijuana and headed down to Honduras to join his brothers who had also left Poland. The dream of marrying the San Diego girl he left behind and reaching America never faded and in 1932 his girl, Jeanne Klazkin, left San Diego to join him in Honduras where they were married by the towns Mayor. After two years and with Jeanne pregnant they chose to emigrate to the U.S. and Mr. and Mrs. Zelig Camiel and their son settled in San Diego. Zel never forgot his years of struggling to accomplish his goal: To be an American citizen and to achieve financial success for his family.
Beginning in San Diego with the ownership of a small liquor store, he moved on to become a downtown fixture with the opening of the Mission Bell Market on 8th and B Street where his warm personality opened up many avenues of friendship including prominent civic and business leaders, one of which encouraged him to move to Del Mar and open a liquor store on the property which today is the Del Mar Plaza on the corner of 15th St. and Camino Del Mar. Customers from all walks of life found their way to his door. Students in the area were always a part of his staff and both Zel and Jeanne became permanent fixtures within the framework of the seaside community. One of his favorite pastimes was to walk along Camino Del Mar, visiting with other merchants, listening to problems, giving advice.
When the construction of the new Plaza was announced Zel chose to retire from active business and was given the honorary title of “Mayor of Del Mar” (with no official duties). Never forgetting his early trials and tribulations, he always showed consideration for newcomers in business.
In 1987 Zel passed away. The City of Del Mar honored him with an inscribed bench in Seagrove Park at the end of 15th St.
We hope you will join us to dine in the heart of the town he came to love and which returned the affection. It is one of the many reasons we have the privilege and pleasure of honoring him and welcoming you to Zel’s Del Mar!

 

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Greg and Jennifer Glassman

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