In the early 1950s, Herb Zobrist began traveling to Asia and buying consumer-electronics equipment for his store in downtown Seattle. He grew fond of the products of one little-known Japanese firm: Sony.
Said his son, Lee Zobrist: "He really had an excellent knack for recognizing market trends."
Hard to argue with, when you consider that Mr. Zobrist opened his electronics store in 1926 and operated it nonstop until 1988, when he retired at the age of 87.
Even after retirement, Mr. Zobrist, who died Nov. 3 at his Seattle home at age 90, frequently popped by the store "to check on his baby," said David Spencer, who now owns Zobrist Consumer Electronics on First Avenue.
Mr. Zobrist still knew what products were hot and which were not, Spencer said. "He was very, very intelligent, still very interested in everything, and I had to give him a report every time I saw him."
Mr. Zobrist was born June 2, 1901, in Acme, Whatcom County. His father, an immigrant from Sweden, owned a general store and established the town's first power plant.
Mr. Zobrist spent his youth working at the store and on the family dairy farm before heading to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where he he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1925.
Mr. Zobrist worked at Seattle City Light and managed the radio department at Frederick & Nelson and at a downtown furniture store before first starting a radio store with a partner, then going into business on his own.
During World War II, he sold electronic gear and replacement parts to the Russian navy, which had ships moored in Elliott Bay, and to the U.S. Navy.
He continued to sell radios after the war and eventually became one of Seattle's first television dealers, once serving as president of the Television Distributor's Association.
Mr. Zobrist counted gardening among his hobbies, and for years he and his wife of 60 years, Jane, spent time at a home they purchased near Mazatlan, Mexico.
Mr. Zobrist was a charter member of the Washington Athletic Club, where in his 80s he continued to swim regularly.
A service is scheduled for noon tomorrow at the Saxon Cemetery in east Whatcom County.
Survivors include his wife; a daughter, Helen Jane Mirande of Bellevue; two sons; Herbert Zobrist and Lee Zobrist, both of Seattle; five grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Memorials are suggested to Community Home Health Care, 200 W. Thomas St. Seattle, 98119.