Jeffrey Zimmer, president and CEO of Reeds Jewelers of Niagara Falls Inc., Buffalo Jewelry & Loan, PawnMore, Satchel Real Estate Development, and Satchel Insurance Co., LLC, shared how he grew his family business during a presentation on March 19, 2024.

By his own admission, Jeffrey Zimmer was not academically gifted—“I graduated from Niagara Falls High School 15th from the bottom. I would come home from school my senior year, and my mother would be crying, opening up every college rejection that came our way,” he said.

During an entertaining presentation for students in Niagara University’s Holzschuh College of Business Administration on March 19, part of the college’s Leadership Speaker Series, Zimmer shared how, despite this challenge, he grew his family’s business and launched a successful entrepreneurial career.

Zimmer is president and CEO of Reeds Jewelers of Niagara Falls Inc., Buffalo Jewelry & Loan, PawnMore, Satchel Real Estate Development, and Satchel Insurance Co., LLC.

“Our businesses are all vertical and spider off of the main business,” he said. Satchel Development, named for his children Sammy and Rachel, started as a tool for him to build his own stores. Satchel Insurance, a family owned and operated captive insurance company, enables him to provide risk mitigation services for his own related entities. Buffalo Jewelry & Loan and PawnMore, high margin businesses with low operating costs, provide additional proceeds for further investment.

Zimmer, who earned a B.S. in marketing at Northeastern University—“by the grace of God, Northeastern University in Boston gave me shot”—and went on to graduate from the Gemological Institute of America, learned the jewelry business by shadowing his father, he said, and sought mentorship from notable jewelry industry veterans George Crohn and Joel Schechter. The business, which was established in 1912, expanded over the years throughout the United States and overseas, and now has employees in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It is in its fourth generation of family ownership, something only 3% of family-owned businesses achieve.

Zimmer notes that he has had some significant failures, as well. He recalls having to close several stores in the 1990s, firing 178 of his employees in the process, and making a bad business decision involving a store he planned to open in Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario, which never came to fruition.

But putting integrity before profits, and the ability to be content with what he had, two values he also learned from his father, allowed him to overcome these failures, he said. Other keys to his success were the ability to sell his vision to coworkers and clients, knowing his balance sheet, putting employees first, and seeking guidance.

“I didn't start to become successful until I was 50 years old,” Zimmer said. “The last thing Joel taught me was that your 20s are for learning, your 30s are for implementing, your 40s are for correcting your mistakes, and you'll start to monetize your work in your 50s. And that was so true in my life.”