Brockport, N.Y. – Jimmy Zisovski, known better as Jimmy Z, was born into the restaurant business. As a 5th grader, he was hired by his father, who owned six different diners, to bus tables, wash dishes, and work in the kitchen. It was this upbringing in the industry that he helps him run Jimmy Z’s Plates and Shakes in downtown Brockport. Although he learned a lot from his father, he’s incorporated a few of his own ideas as well.
When he opened in 2003, Jimmy’s first goal was to make the size of the restaurant, including seating and staff members, smaller. Jimmy’s vision for success was that the smaller the restaurant, the less rent. The smaller the staff, the less money to pay them. The less those two payments have to be, the fewer customers they need to bring in to make a profit, and the smaller the “gamble”. In the beginning, this is what kept Jimmy Z’s Plates and Shakes afloat.
“My motivation was really not allowing myself and the family to live in the failure stage in the business. We’re gonna make it this time” he stated.
And make it he did. His next goal was to bring his own style to the decor. To do this, Jimmy brought his childhood bedroom to Main Street. A lot of the 80s and 90s posters and memorabilia on the walls were things he received and bought as a child. A huge fan of the 80s and 90s, Jimmy compares the uniqueness of his restaurant to that of artists such as Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, and Dr. Dre. Although “they are not the greatest in their genre”, he believes they all have their own “identity.”
“All I ever wanted in this whole process was for us to have our own identity, for us to not be mistaken for somebody else. I don’t want to sound like Guns and Roses, I want to be Guns and Roses.”
Jimmy brings this unique identity into creating his menu. Items like the “Eiffel Tower” satisfy his customers with big appetites. This bacon cheeseburger that is topped with BBQ chicken tenders and onion rings goes great paired with their “Fire Crackers,” pizza logs dipped in buffalo sauce. These two items are just a few of the many meals that Jimmy Z’s offers that you can’t find anywhere else. Going back to his music-loving childhood, Jimmy compared his menu to an album.
“We created our own album. It’s kind of like a cover band, you start with some covers and then create your own material. That’s kinda how we started. Every menu that I came up with, that we would revise, there was always a bunch of new items being introduced. I always felt that every menu was a new album. And that these were our new hits.”
Like all restaurants, Jimmy Z’s was shut down in early 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. For two months, the restaurant closed its doors before reopening for takeout only. Turning the front door into a pickup area, Jimmy Z’s was able to continue to be very successful, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. Jimmy believes that the company was “COVID Proof” before the virus even began.
“We did not have the struggles that the table cloth restaurants had. Nobody wants to pay $200 for a fancy dinner in a to-go box. Jimmy Z’s, half of our business is pickup and delivery. We were very very blessed to only have to make a few changes.”
The COVID-19 shutdown did have its “blessings in disguise” though. The restaurant had planned on closing in May of 2020 for renovations. Already shut down, Jimmy was able to get the renovations done early, which in turn helped him feed the community at the height of the pandemic.
Whether they’re incoming freshmen, 5th-year seniors, or the local community members, Jimmy sees everybody as a piece of the puzzle and he believes that every piece matters. Jimmy Z’s brings in customers of all age groups and from all over the area, and this is something that Jimmy himself is very proud of. He likes to tell people that his demographic includes everyone from newborns, to those eating their “last f–cking hot dog.”
Jimmy loves the college town feel and all the people in it. From the college students to the community members, Jimmy sees them all as family. He is beyond thankful for the fact that he is considered a community establishment and looks forward to continuing to serve in the place he now calls home.