Alice “Chris” and Ronald J. Zimmerman poured their foundation for family and community values and life into Federal Hill, raising their son and daughter there, Ronald F. or “Ron” and Mary.
In 1977, Ronald J. established “Ron Zimmerman Realtors and Associates” (RZR). As RZR prospered, he gave generously to his community by donating to The Allen Center for Seniors, contributing to the American Legion Memorial in South Baltimore, the VFW in Locust Point, and assisting in establishing the Baltimore Immigration Museum (BIM) in Locust Point. He also sat on the Kiwanis Club. Mary was the first female President of The Kiwanis Club in the country.
Similarly, Ron’s mother, Chris, donated her time and talent by serving as a full-time volunteer Librarian at the Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School (TJEMS) in the 1980s at a time when the Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) could not afford to pay for a librarian. In the 1990s when funding was available for a librarian, she continued serving on a part-time basis for an additional ten years.
With this sense of deep community commitment and solid underpinning, it is not surprising that Ron and Steve followed the examples of Ronald J. and Chris. However, Ron did not join his father’s real estate firm right away; he attended nursing school while tending bar.
Then, on a cold winter’s night, January 11th, 1981, while visiting the Club Hippo, Ron’s life changed forever. Not only was that the evening he found the courage to introduce himself to Steve, but that was their first and only date, some thirty-five years ago. Reflecting on their long-term relationship, Ron told Baltimore OUTloud, “Our entire life we have lived openly. We are together 24/7. The commitment was there from the start. We are not married. We feel it would be anticlimactic.”
Ron and Steve eventually joined RZR, carrying their personal commitment to each other into the work place. At his father’s urging, Ron attended the Community College of Baltimore in 1988, earning his broker’s license. “My father gave me a blueprint to follow. Real estate is localized. You work that neighborhood. It’s a ‘niche market’, a commitment. If you make a living out of that commitment, you have to give back to that community.”
About 15 months ago, Ron decided to expand and renew their firm’s commitment to their neighbors in Federal Hill as an independently owned Weichert affiliate. “Weichert is a franchise,” Ron pointed out to Baltimore OUTloud, “a brand name, out of New Jersey with offices in 38 states.” Steve exclaimed proudly, “We are the only Weichert in Baltimore. They came looking for us.” Equally important, Ron added, “They share our value systems. It was a good match for us. We weren’t giving up our independence and we got more tools to give to our agents and clients. We specialize in urban living, but lifestyles is more applicable. We also sell houses in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.”
Unlike other real estate firms where competition among agents can be “piranha-like”, Ron emphasized, “At Weichert, everyone is the team! Our agents are not competing with other agents. We don’t allow internal competition. We never will.” That team includes ten agents, one of whom is his sister, co-owner Mary Zimmerman, and their receptionist, Sharon Lawson-Bates.
As there is only one broker for an agency Ron’s time is precious. Steve explained, “The broker’s job is to run the office full-time, review all agents’ paperwork, and also police the actions of the agents. We do it for the consumer.” A typical contract can easily exceed 50 pages. Despite the long hours and late night dinners, both Ron and Steve are contented. “I pride myself in my honesty. Some clients have known me for decades. I will never lie to you. That is the foundation of our [business] relationship.”
Another distinguishing feature about Weichert Realtors is their Career Night. “We believe in hands-on training,” Ron declared. Every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Weichert offers a free one hour class for people interested in becoming real estate agents. Ron’s sister Mary does the presentation and slide show. While Career Night attendance varies weekly from no one to 15 people, Steve said, “We try to maintain consistency.”
Unlike many couples of thirty-five years, they are not winding down and getting ready for retirement. They are gearing up, ready-to-go, deriving a deep sense of satisfaction from serving others. As Ron happily commented, “We made our decision to live this way.”