Jungle Jim’s SuperStore International Market

Jungle Jim's International Market - Seafood Department

Jungle Jim's Market - Seafood Department

Wow.. This place is HUGE!

I was watching Modern Marvels and they had a skit about Mega Stores. One of the stores they showcased was Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield Ohio.

The place is so BIG it has a Monorail System to take visitors to the entrance. I dug up a couple of videos on YouTube that give a tour of the operation. Plus there is another YouTube Channel (TheKenAllenShow) that has a bunch of mini videos covering all the separate departments in Jungle Jim’s in very good detail.

From JungleJims.com Overview Page
Often described as an adventure in grocery shopping, your senses will be stretched to the limit from the delectable food samplings, the tantalizing smells emanating from the scratch bakery, brightly colored food displays and the bustle of carts weaving in and out of the amazing assortment of products. Little did owner and store namesake, Jim Bonaminio know when he started his market that he would take grocery shopping to a new level. Jungle Jim’s has grown over the years from a simple roadside stand to a 300,000-square-foot food extravaganza and tourist destination, offering 150,000 different items from over 75 countries around the globe and employing an average of 350 employees.

Jungle Jim’s International Market is described as a theme park for foodies. Founded in 1974 by “Jungle” Jim Bonaminio, the store started as a small produce stand and has grown to over 6½ acres. Jungle Jim’s is noted for having one of the largest wine collections in the United States, live seafood tanks, and an in-store cooking school in addition to a 1000 person Event Center. Each week, the store is visited by approximately 50,000 shoppers, who are known as “Foodies”. Many of the 50,000 specialty products in the store’s International department are difficult to find elsewhere in the Greater Cincinnati area, and customers have been known to drive from other cities, and even states, for the store’s wide variety of foods and unique shopping experience.

Jungle Jim’s History
James O. Bonaminio was born in 1949 in Lorain Ohio, 30 miles outside of Cleveland. His father, Clem, was a steelworker; his mother, Marie, a housewife and sometime saleswoman. For a while, she peddled Fuller brushes door to door. Pushing a baby buggy, she discovered, was a terrific ice-breaker. Jim swears he remembers hearing sales pitches from inside the carriage…

By the time Jim was 6, he was eager to start earning money for himself. He began by offering to do odd jobs for neighbors. By age 13 he was collecting golf balls from a nearby course, scrubbing and then selling them to avid golfers… In high school, he washed cars and trucks for Ohio Edison, hitchhiking five miles to their parking lot, hauling his own hose, bucket and rags… At age 19, he worked out deals to sell pillows, carpet remnants and purses. Jim stocked the 1948 milk truck he’d snagged for $50 and became a garage sale on wheels.

After purses, produce looked easy. It wasn’t. Jim thought he was doing everything right, buying directly from farmers, offering rock-bottom prices, setting up a stand where motorists could see him. But they whizzed by the nondescript peddler, then stopped mere yards down the road for someone they recognized… About to give up, he realized, it all had to do with being established.

Jungle Jim's Early Peddling Days

Jungle Jim's Early Peddling Days

That night he got a phone call from a farmer who had 45,000 pounds of white potatoes rejected from a potato chip factory. He’d let them go for $150; was Jim interested? A light bulb flashed over Jim’s head. “Yeah,” he replied, “if you’ll leave us your truck for the weekend.” Jim bought two baby scales, donned a white apron, crayoned a large sign offering 20 pounds for 75 cents, hired a couple of 10-year-olds to bag and weigh. Suddenly, he was a recognizable merchant.

In 1971, he set up his first semi-permanent produce stand in a parking lot on the corner of Erie and High in Hamilton. He worked 21-hour days, slept on the premises, showered under a hose behind the building. When the place sold, he had to move. The same thing happened with several other locations, including the corner of Symmes and Route 4 in Fairfield. Lots gone unnoticed for months suddenly became hot when he landed on them. Jim mused that he’d missed his calling; he should probably have gone into selling real estate.

In 1974, he found land he wanted to purchase. Owners Jim Ivers and Bruce Cunagin were willing to sell, but a $10,000 down payment wasn’t enough; they insisted he’d need a co-signer. There was a silence. Then Bruce’s mother, Fanny, a third owner spoke up: “I’ll co-sign.”

Jim Bonaminio has come to believe in guardian angels. He had two: Fanny Cunagin and Esther Benzing. Esther was president of Fairfield’s planning commission in 1975 when city officials were reluctant to okay a permanent fruit and vegetable market because the area was zoned industrial, not commercial. They admitted an exception had been made, though, for a nearby Arthur Treacher’s because that was where workers ate lunch. “What’s the difference,” Esther queried, “between having a fish sandwich and having an apple or an orange?” She banged her gavel. “Permission granted. Good luck, son.”

Jungle Jim’s International Market was born. A mere cubicle at 4,200 square feet… but it was a start. Before long, more and more products were added, and expansion continues to this day.

Jungle Jim’s International Market is a place where the first rule is to treat customers like gold. The second is to have fun doing it. People come from several states away for the unique shopping experience Jungle Jim’s International Market offers. A wide selection of food from all over the world, red hot deals and, of course, fun.

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