CINCINNATI — When large events, concerts and sports succumbed to the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, so did other stage performances.
Like keynote speaking at corporate events, something Curtis Zimmerman relied on to support his family.
Zimmerman is a best-selling author and speaker who typically travels a third of the year for events with 2,000 or more people. When the pandemic hit, he said, the bookings went away.
As an entertainer with 25 years of juggling, eating fire and performing magic on cruise ships, he longed for interaction while stuck at home.
“That's the part of me that I was really missing during the pandemic,” Zimmerman said. “Like so many millions of other people, I went down in the basement, and I got up my little Michael Jordan collection... I started going through it and my son came downstairs and said, 'What's all this junk?' And then I started telling the stories. Now, I remember pulling this card and he said, 'Well, that's kind of cool.' And we realize we're not the only ones that did that actually. Millions of families have been doing that.”
That find would lead to the way Zimmerman rebounded and made it work when he met a man named Ray at Trader’s World.
“We went in and started looking through his basketball stuff," Ray said. "Then we started talking to him and he said, 'Listen, I'm getting older, I want to retire, I'd love to pass this off to somebody and have them take my collection and then distribute it out into the world.' And wow, I thought, well, that would be a dream come true.”
For a man who teaches others to live their dream, it was.
“We wanted to get out of there and we wanted to get out of there and get something that we can be passionate about," Zimmerman said. "And I'm passionate about cards and I know it's not forever. And I think that's the big mistake is people think, well, what am I going to do next? I lost my job. It's the pandemic. What am I going to do? And it's forever. This isn't forever.”
Soon, Zimmerman plans to get back to the keynotes and the conventions. The calls are already starting to come back, but until then, he plans to make sure everyone who steps into Ray’s Sports Collection has fun.
“I always tell people to collect what you love and not just for an investment. Some people do that, but no matter if it's worth $1, or $100,000, make sure you're going to be happy to have it and have it surrounding you.”