When Donna Zimmerman, owner of Zimmiz Hair Designers, Inc., set to work on her business plan more than 30 years ago, one of the standout items in the plan was her desire to serve the same community for at least 30 years – something that came true this year when Zimmerman marked her 30th anniversary July 10.
“My dream was to be a neighborhood salon for 30 years and by George, I did it!” Zimmerman said.
Located on Solana Road in the Winn-Dixie shopping center, Zimmiz has been in the same location for the past three decades. Zimmerman, an Atlantic Beach resident, said that at the time there wasn’t much going on in terms of construction in the Ponte Vedra Beach area. But when the shopping center was being built, she decided that was where she wanted to have her business, and her salon was among the first businesses to open there.
Zimmerman started the business with her late husband and business partner Mark Zimmerman, expanding the salon around the eight-year mark to its current 3,600 square feet. The spacious family salon – which features bright and colorful stations and is adorned with encouraging signs displaying phrases such as “imagine” and “live your dream” – serves men, women and children and specializes in hair color and color correction, hair smoothing treatments, and hair styling for special occasions such as weddings.
“We do tons of weddings and wedding parties,” Zimmerman said. “My salon is set up in a way that it can handle a lot of people at one time but yet you don’t feel like there’s a lot of people in there.”
A cut above
While Zimmerman said she looks at every one of her clients as stars, she’s been lucky enough to cut the hair of some well-known local celebrities – and even a former First Lady of the United States.
In 2004, she received an unexpected call from First Lady Laura Bush, who was in town to raise awareness about heart disease in women. Bush reached out to Zimmerman and asked her to come to the Omni Hotel to give her a haircut. She also did the hair of first daughter Jenna Bush Hager, who was in town for the event with her mother.
Other clients include local media personalities.
“One of my favorite clients of all time was Deborah Gianoulis,” she said. “I cut her hair for almost 25 years.”
Zimmerman said that she’s forever grateful to the former WJXT-TV Channel 4 news anchor, because their relationship opened up a world of doing the hair of television personalities. She has also cut the hair of other Channel 4 news anchors Jennifer Waugh and Mary Baer, whose daughter was also a client when she was growing up. Lizzie Baer went on to become a stylist and now works at the salon.
Over the years, Zimmerman has given many new stylists a chance to begin their careers. Stylists right out of beauty school don’t yet have an established clientele, she noted, and Zimmerman said she always likes to bring in one beginner – both as a reminder of what it’s like to be just starting out and to help new stylists in their development.
“I’ve trained a lot of people in my career and one of my gifts, I think, is developing and promoting new hairdressers,” Zimmerman said. “You have to find what makes them unique and also to make sure that they’re focused on the client and if they are, they’ll be so successful because that’s really what it’s all about.”
Zimmerman got her start working for Michael Hentrich of Michael’s Designs that was located near Solana Road – not far from where Zimmerman ended up building her salon. Her mentor, who is now in his 70s, works part-time at Zimmiz. It’s part of Zimmerman’s all-in-the-family philosophy that has her staying in touch with stylists long after they have moved on from her employ.
“Oftentimes in (this) business when you leave someone, you never speak to them again,” Zimmerman said. “I vowed that that would not be me and that I would never, ever do that to any of my staff.”
While Zimmiz officially marked its 30th anniversary July 10, Zimmerman said the salon will celebrate the milestone for about two weeks with decorations, food for the clients and a festive party atmosphere. She is also considering throwing a larger celebration sometime in the fall when the weather is cooler.
“I want to celebrate with everyone,” she said.