Jungle Jim’s International Market is a very unique grocery store. Take a look at these numbers: the store itself is over 300,00 square feet (that’s 6.5 acres) — so large that you can go on a guided tour! Over 180,000 items are carried in the store (60,000 of which are international items) and the store is visited by 82,000 shopper per week. The wine section is one of the largest in the US.
The gigantic store is also pretty crazy in appearance. Giant fruit and African animals decorate a large pool and waterfall near the entrance to the store. Traffic lights which read “Start Your Carts” welcome shoppers to the store. Inside there are decorations and displays hanging from the ceiling and various scenes complete with mannequins are built up over shopping areas, including a harbor with fishermen over the seafood section and Robin Hood and his merry men over the British foods. The candy section of the store has an animatronic lion that sings Elvis Presley songs and the entrance to the bathrooms are actual port-o-lets. Once shoppers enter they find a large modern public restroom (talk about toilet humor!).
Jungle Jim’s was opened as Jungle Jim’s Farmer’s Market in 1971 by Jim Bonaminio. Then it was just a small produce stand, the original building from which has been incorporated into the supermarket. Shoppers who frequent this theme park of food are known as “foodies.” The store has been featured on several television programs including Good Morning America, Modern Marvels on the History Channel and Unwrapped on the Food Network.
I’ve been to Jungle Jim’s twice so far. My first visit was as a high school student. I had recently become a vegetarian and begged my parents to take me to this crazy, wonderful store I had heard about that was bound to have amazing and delightful vegetarian foods and ingredients. I remember being amazed at the kitschy, over-the-top displays and the deceptive public restrooms. I don’t remember everything we bought that day, though I know I talked my parents into a large container of powdered chai mix and a jar of coconut oil.
Kenneth and I visited Jungle Jim’s this past June, quite by accident. We had been running errands while simultaneously trying to avoid getting lost in a our new city. We had finished our shopping and were headed home when Kenneth remarked, “I think Jungle Jim’s is near here.” No sooner had the words left his mouth were we pulling up next to the behemoth of a store. We decided to stop in and do a little shopping.
The store is just as crazy and eccentric as I remember it! Not only do the ridiculous displays add a charming, yet goofy whimsy to the shopping experience, they also make things easier to find. Need butter? Just look for the giant piece of toast with the words BUTTER BAR emblazoned across it’s crispy surface. Where’s the frozen foods section? It’s under an iceberg with penguins on it. This obviously wouldn’t work in many stores, but it’s part of what makes Jungle Jim’s unique (and fun)!
We explored the store for at least an hour, possibly two. I highly recommend giving yourself at least two hours on your first visit to the store, longer if you live far away and won’t be able to come back soon. I also recommend wearing comfortable shoes – remember, the store covers 6.5 acres!
While I love the international food sections (the European sections are adorable little houses!) and the massive cheese and butter selection (I looove dairy products), my favorite section of the store is the gluten-free section. It’s huge! Jungle Jim’s website states it’s the largest gluten-free section in the Midwest (I wonder where the largest section is in the entire country…). I gawked and stared at rows and rows of gluten-free flours, cookies, pastas (so much pasta!), crackers, granola, cereal bars, and other delectable treats. I excitedly grabbed boxes off the shelf to show Kenneth, behaving much like a child let loose in a candy shop. I nearly fainted at the site of one section full of just Bob’s Red Mill mixes, my favorite gluten-free flour provider.
I’d love to admit that I only acted this way because I’ve never seen so many gluten-free foods together in my life, which is true, but I behaved pretty much the same way in the chocolate and the exotic produce sections of the store. I get excited about good food pretty easily.
We ended our trip to Jungle Jim’s with an eclectic mix of gluten-free, local and international foods – all which proved to be quite delicious! I appreciate being able to find international foods from around the world at the same location that also sells products grown and produced right here in Ohio. Jungle Jim’s is a delightful mix of local and global, eccentric and kitsch, shopping and entertainment!
Address: 5440 Dixie Highway Fairfield, Ohio 45014
Phone Number: 513-674-6000
Hours: Sunday – Saturday 8am – 10pm. Closed on Christmas Day. Click here for holiday hours.
Jungle Jim’s has two locations. The other location is at 4450 Eastgate South Drive Cincinnati, Ohio 45245.