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Column: How Jimmy Z's keeps the customers coming back

by Tori Martinez - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Feb 28th 2017 10:55 pm
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 Have you ever noticed all the cute shops and restaurants on Main Street? There are so many cool and unique places to go that offer the perfect gifts for a birthday, anniversary or a "treat yourself" kind of day and plenty of options for food during any time of day. 

The best part is that the majority of these stores are small businesses and even some that are part of chains are locally owned. This is what makes Brockport truly unique and that's why I wanted to start this column, the "Main Street Beat", an idea I've been working on since the fall semester. From Seward's Candies to Lift Bridge Book Shop to Trader Shag's Emporium, I wondered how many people know about these stores and how many actually stop in. It took me until this past summer, the summer before my junior year at Brockport, to discover some of my now favorite stores in the village. 

My hopes are that by reading this column, you might find that some of these stores could be your favorites too — and you won't have to wait as long as I did either. It's important to shop locally and buy from small businesses. Even if there's a time you have to spend a few more dollars, you  will feel much better after shopping there than at Walmart or on Amazon. There won't be an order to the businesses I review and talk about; it's just whatever catches my eye or thoughts each week. Let's start this column with one of the most well-known local businesses in Brockport: Jimmy Z's.

You may be familiar with Jimmy Z's for a few different reasons. It's one of the only places in Brockport at this point, other than pizza, that delivers. When I lived in Mortimer Hall on campus, this was perfect. Jimmy Z's also caters different events on campus year round. On Eagle Day, it brings good snack food, like macaroni bites. You might know it because it's open later than any other restaurant in Brockport. It's open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, until 3 a.m. on Thursdays and until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Its weekend hours are pretty good for a small town like Brockport, which is great, because when your party gets busted or the bars kick you out at 2 a.m., you've still got two hours to stumble on over.

Jimmy Z's is one of the few places you can get a garbage plate in town and for a decent price too — the most expensive plate is still less than $8. When I tell people I go to Brockport, they always seem to bring up "that place on Main Street that sells garbage plates." Even my dad, who is rarely in Brockport, knows about Jimmy Z's (he likes the hot dogs though). How could you possibly not know about Jimmy Z's plates? They're the perfect meal, whether you're having one for dinner or satisfying your drunk munchies. Speaking of which, did you know Jimmy Z's made it on Buzzfeed's list of "43 Best Drunken Eats in College Towns Across America"? 

Besides all the truly great food for great prices at almost any time you could want it, I'd have to say that the overall vibe of the place is what makes Jimmy Z's the prime college hangout. You can't help but feel the nostalgia seeping out of the walls or feel a sense of family and community. The walls are lined with framed covers of Sports Illustrated, posters ranging from Bart Simpson to ACDC to the Rat Pack and dollar bills signed by people, mostly collected within the first few years of business, lining the walls and ceiling behind the counter. They also seem to always play classic rock music, which I'm totally down with, because I can't think of another restaurant nearby that does that. "Nostalgic" is just the best word I can use to describe the aura of the whole place. 

Jimmy Zisovski is the owner and works closely with his father Steve, also known as Papi. Having owned Jimmy Z's for 14 years (the store's anniversary was last month), Jimmy and Papi have become familiar with a lot of their customers. Most of the employees are locals (the other few are college students) and Jimmy is also a landlord, which helps create a strong connection with both the village and college community. When I spoke with Jimmy, he joked about not liking change, which is why there are people who have been working there for more than 10 years, some more than five and even more who had been there for at least two years. I think that says a lot. No one is going to work somewhere for half a decade or longer if they don't like it, let alone more than a year or two, especially in the food industry. 

Jimmy Z's also holds various fundraisers throughout the year, like its annual Thanksgiving dinner where free dinner is given out and money and food donations are accepted for local shelters. It hosts other activities too, like free ice cream days.

Everytime I'm in there during the day, numerous people walk in, shake Jimmy's hand and ask how he's been. It's seriously like he knows everyone. 

What I really appreciate is that Jimmy is always there; it's not like he's just another owner who has his managers and employees do everything for him. He actually spent his first six years in the kitchen, working days as long as 12 hours sometimes. If that isn't dedication, I don't know what is. It's evident that he didn't get in this business for the money; he just wants to have fun making good food and connecting with his community.

I asked him about his relationship with his customers and if he has any who have been coming there since Jimmy Z's opened. It warmed my heart when he told me he has customers who came to the place as college students when it first opened, who now bring their children to eat there. It made me think about going back to Jimmy Z's 14 years from now, having been out of college for 13 years, bringing my own children. I can barely imagine it but I know I will. He also told me stories about old customers coming back after years of not being there. Someone was once traveling from Syracuse to Buffalo but stopped in Brockport first because they just had to run to Z's. 

"You took a 20 minute detour just to come here? That to me is my paycheck," Jimmy said.

He also told me about a Brockport graduate who had moved to North Carolina and went camping one time in Pennsylvania. Since they were relatively close to Brockport, they drove three and a half hours out of the way to stop here and visit Jimmy Z's. I can't even begin to imagine how much love you would need to have for Jimmy Z's to drive a total of seven hours out of the way just to go there for an hour or so.

"That's just wild," Jimmy said. "That right there is what I work for. Money is just a byproduct."

If you haven't been, you need to stop in to Jimmy Z's as soon as possible. If you've been, I don't think I need to say or do much to convince you to keep going. If you do decide to go, you'll see me there this weekend.


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