GETTING PERSONAL: …with Jim Zimmerman

Q. What was your first job out of college?

A. I was a personnel administrator for a life insurance company. I’m a licensed therapist, and I couldn’t find a job, so I went back to my college, and they told me to get a job in personnel.

Q. How did you get started in the catalog business?

A. I was tired of corporate America and miserable in personnel, so one night over dinner in 1985 we decided to start a store. We started the catalog in 1990 because people were telling us to open more stores around the country. We didn’t have the money to invest in new stores, so we launched the catalog to reach people outside of LA.

Q. What are you favorite catalogs?

A. This year I shopped from Sharper Image, Alsto, and Herrington. I also bought wine from Windsor Vineyards.

Q. What are your favorite Websites?

A. I buy from Amazon.com and only from Amazon.com, but I visit every Website that sounds interesting to me.

Q. What are your favorite foods?

A. Pasta, specifically paparadelle con lepre. It’s a Tuscan dish made with rabbit. My favorite recipe is a Tuscan soup with pasta and garbanzo beans. I love to eat. I have an office in Florence – I gain weight whenever I’m there, and I lose it when I’m not.

Q. What are the best and worst movies you’ve ever seen?

A. The best was Funny Girl, and the worst was Ishtar.

Q. Who makes up your immediate family?

A. I have a lover of 22 years, named Chris, who is also my partner. And there’s my mother, who works for us. In the beginning that was difficult, but now it’s great. I probably see her three or four times a week. We have an incredible relationship. And I have a golden retriever named Quincy, who incidentally will be featured more prominently in the next catalog.

Q. What was your best cataloging idea?

A. Big pictures. When we started, our pictures were too cluttered and too small. Customers have to see these products, and the merchandise has to be true to the pictures. Otherwise it gets sent back.

Q. What was your worst cataloging idea?

A. Not having product codes or ID numbers appear with the pictures in the catalog. We thought that our customers would be able to figure out which item was which in a complicated catalog without them. But we realized that we’d designed a catalog from the outside in, not thinking about the customer.

Q. Do you have any personal plans for the future?

A. To own a vineyard in northern California.

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