Francis “Fran” Zimniuch (pictured), the East Coast sales manager for InStore and parent company SmartWork Media for 16 years, died on Dec. 17, of complications related to COVID-19. He was 66.
Zimniuch was born in Philadelphia and attended Temple University. His first foray into the jewelry publishing world was at Accent magazine, where he worked from 1985 to 1988. Following that, he sold for Professional Jeweler, from 1998 to 2002.
He began at SmartWork in 2004, following a recommendation from former JCK publisher Charlie Bond, who had worked with him at Professional Jeweler.
“It was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten from a colleague,” wrote SmartWork director of the board Dan Kisch on InStore’s website of his decision to hire Zimniuch. “Fran was an inspired seller. People just naturally wanted to buy from him. But he was way more than that.
“Fran was a person that up or down, good times or bad, you would always want to be around. His sincerity, caring, kindness, and wonderful sense of humor made you feel that the bad could be survived and the good will only get better. He was loyal to a fault and gave 110% of himself to those he loved.”
Zimniuch was also a baseball historian and the author of numerous books on the sport, including Baseball’s New Frontier: A History of Expansion, 1961–1998; Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball; and Crooked: A History of Cheating in Sports.
Close friend Shelly Burton Weaver, who knew Zimniuch from her days developing jeweler credit card programs at Synchrony and its predecessor, GE Capital, calls him “irreplaceable.”
“There are hundreds of good memories and thousands of laughs we shared,” she remembers. “I believe his favorites, though, may be our times at the New York City and Atlanta 24 Karat events, as well as dinner at Angelo’s every time we were in New York. He knew Italian wasn’t my first cuisine choice, but I’d get the meatballs with him just to see the happiness in his eyes.
“Fran was a great man, father, and friend, and he loved his two sons more than anything.”
Says JCK publisher Mark Smelzer: “Fran was the ultimate friendly competitor. We were always happy to see each other and share a laugh. I respected him immensely, and always enjoyed watching him in action, whether that was in a show booth next to ours, on countless show floors, or at the many, many events we attended together.”
In a long thread in the Jewelers Helping Jewelers group on Facebook, Zimniuch was remembered as a hardworking salesperson who enjoyed a good time and was quick with a quip or a story.
Drew Shapiro, president of Chelsea Taylor, called him a “great guy” who must have “put on about 1,000 miles of walking trade show floors.
“His smile and stories about baseball will be missed forever. I considered Fran a friend, not a business associate. Not sure if anyone could say one bad thing about [him].”
Wrote Jacquie Earle, owner and designer at Willow Diamonds: “Fran worked hard and was always so kindhearted, with a ready smile and laugh, yet endured so much loss and pain. So tragic to lose him and another senseless casualty to COVID.”
Zimniuch is survived by son Kyle. A second son, Brent, predeceased him.
Funeral information can be found here.
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