The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

Main Street shop owners react to closure of Jimmy Z’s 

By Robert Merrill / Canalside Chronicles staff  

Brockport, NY– As the neon lights and late-night laughter of Jimmy Z’s crowd fades into the past, Brockport business owners are realizing just how much the local hotspot has impacted their lives over the years. 

John and Sarah Bonczyk, owners of Lift Bridge Book Shop, have known Jimmy and Poppy Zisovski since before the iconic Jimmy Z’s restaurant opened.  

Lift Bridge Book Shop is located right next to Jimmy Z’s (Monday, March 5, 2024).

“I think he’s (Jimmy) just a year older than me and grew up in town just like me,” John Bonczyk said. “He started the business right after I left high school, so I’ve known him since then. He’s a great guy, you know, always asking, ‘What can I do to help you?’ and we try to do the same thing for him. He’ll treat you right if you treat him right.” 

The news about Jimmy Z’s closing worried the Bonczyks, who had to stop selling textbooks because of competition from SUNY Brockport’s own book service and online sellers like Barnes and Noble. The restaurant’s popularity brought more business to Main St.  

“It’s a ripple effect,” Sarah Bonczyk said. “I think the loss of Jimmy Z’s really going to impact downtown, and I don’t think people may realize it at first. It’s a huge indication of setting the tone of what is happening in our community. I don’t know if people are paying attention, but this is the eighth location [on Main St.] to close in less than one year since the bridge has been out for repair. It’s not necessarily the only factor, but this is a shift that’s happening.” 

The Main St. bridge has been out for repair since last March; it allows people from the north to cross the Erie Canal and enter the city’s historic center. With the bridge out, cars and pedestrians must cross at other points, severing the village’s main economic artery in a way that hits business particularly hard. 

Jo Matela, former Brockport mayor and Red Bird Cafe owner, understands how much the loss of customers can affect her bottom line. 

Jo Matela Opened her shop after her time as mayor; it is closer to the bridge than most other shops (Monday, March 4, 2024).

“I look at our Main St. like a mall, their customers were my customers, my customers were their customers,” Matela said. “The more customers that come through, the more customers will come into your place. I think if you look at all the retail stock that we do have here, we all share the same customers, so it will be a blow to the community in the long run.” 

Matela remembers all the buzz when Jimmy Z’s first opened during her time as mayor. 

“I met him when he was doing the renovations on his building. And oh my gosh, they had such a big job to do because the place was just a wreck,” Matela said. “But they tore everything out and they built everything brand new. When he was done, it was just amazing. We cut the ribbon and everything, and the rest is history. 

Other nearby shops are trying to envision a world without the beloved restaurant. Jim Drake, owner of Unique Gift Boutique, isn’t as concerned.  

Unique Gift Boutique is further up the road than Jimmy Z’s, being farther from the bridge its easier for their customers to get to the store compared to the stores down the road (Monday, March 4, 2024).

“It’s good to have more things to bring people downtown,” Drake said. “Every business adds to it; they’ll [Jimmy and Poppy Zisoski] be missed for that. They’re both great to get along with and be around.  

The loss of the restaurant only isn’t the only issue facing shops on Main St., Though Drake isn’t as concerned as many.  

“It’s hard with the bridge, but there are always businesses coming and going, and it always seems to fill right back in. I’m not sure if that will be a long-term issue,” Drake said.  

With Jimmy Z’s neon lights turning off, shop owners wonder what they’ll have to do to keep their lights on.  

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