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The First Lady of Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive’s “first lady” almost single-handedly pioneered the beachside shopping district

Jackie Zorn strolls in front of the Beach Shop with Margaret Cornelius, secretary for the neighboring Joseph W. Walton Real Estate Company, in 1950.

Jackie Zorn strolls in front of the Beach Shop with Margaret Cornelius, secretary for the neighboring Joseph W. Walton Real Estate Company, in 1950.

Future generations will probably never know the name Jackie Zorn. They won’t see it plastered on the buildings Jackie built or the businesses Jackie started. They won’t find it on city street maps or in state tour books. They should; but they won’t.

Most people who knew Jackie Zorn say she would have wanted it that way. She died in 1990 with remarkably little fanfare.

Never mind that Ocean Drive’s “first lady” almost single-handedly pioneered the beachside shopping district. She never needed praise, though she seemed always to hunger for a protégé. “Jackie was an eternal optimist and loved to help people get started,” says beach businessman Rich Bireley.

When she met people she liked and thought would make good retailers, she put them in business, and they paid her back when, and if, they could. “Everything she did was a gift,” says Bireley’s wife, Marti. “She charged the least amount of rent of anyone on the street. She started people in business, including us, and never expected a thank-you. She was the most Christian woman I’ve ever met.”

Jackie herself grew up poor and motherless in Maitland, Georgia, where she helped raise two younger sisters. After graduating from Georgia State College for Women, she was a successful Orlando restaurateur for 10 years before being wooed to Vero Beach in 1945 by the city fathers. All the convincing Jackie needed, says Marti, was one wonderful evening “dancing under the stars” at the Ocean Grill.