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Who is the Zimmer for whom the Zimmer Cancer Center is named?

Ben Steelman

The Zimmer Cancer Center at New Hanover Regional Medical Center was named for William “Bill” Zimmer and his wife Roberta, of Wilmington.

Bill and Roberta Zimmer moved to Wilmington from upstate New York in 1946 and purchased David’s, a small jewelry store at 7 N. Front St., Wilmington [Map this]. They renamed the store Reed’s, after the jewelry store Bill Zimmer’s grandfather had operated in Buffalo, N.Y.

From this original store, with a staff of 5 (including Mr. and Mrs. Zimmer), Reed’s expanded to Whiteville and Jacksonville. By 1979, Reed’s Jewelers had more than two dozen retail outlets. Alan M. Zimmer, Bill and Roberta’s son, joined the company in 1981 as executive vice president; four years later, he became president and CEO.

Reed’s expanded rapidly in the 1980s and ’90s, buying up jewelry chains in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Maryland and Pennsylvania. In February 2004, after having been a joint-stock corporation for many years, the company returned to private owership by the Zimmers, making it the largest family-owned jeweler in the United States. In 2008, the company operated 66 stores in 18 states, mostly in the Southeast, Texas and Oklahoma. National Jeweler magazine ranked Reeds as the ninth largest jewelry chain in North America.

Alan M. Zimmer, his brothers Herbert and Jeffrey Zimmer and their sister Arlene Zimmer Schrieber made a planned gift of $2.1 million to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation in honor of their parents. (All four of the siblings worked in the family jewelry business when they were young.) Construction on the Zimmer Cancer Center was completed in 2000.

Herbert J. and Jeffrey L. Zimmer are members of the North Carolina State Bar and have a Wilmington-based law firm, Zimmer and Zimmer. The family also operates Zimmer Development Co. and a network of related firms and has been active in local real estate development. With H.J. Brody, the Zimmers were partners in the development of Mayfaire Town Center. Several of the Zimmers and their spouses are active in local philanthropies and non-profits.

(Note: Vicky Eckenrode contributed to this report.)

User-contributed question by:
Grant Hipps

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