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FAIRFIELD, OHIO Jungle Jim's is a shopper's paradise



Published: Sun, August 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The four-acre grocery store offers everything from Irish brown bread to mushrooms from all over the world.

By CATHY SECKMAN

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Thinking of a grocery store as entertainment might take a stretch of the imagination, but if you haven't been to Jungle Jim's, you haven't seen what imagination can do.

Pulling into the parking lot of Jungle Jim's International Market, just north of Cincinnati, one sees license plates from all over. Shoppers pour in looking for more than just milk and bread, and they aren't disappointed.

The building looks like a grocery store with a miniature golf course grafted onto the front of it. Jungle noises blare from loudspeakers, and fiberglass animals hide in the foliage camouflaging the storefront. Ponds, rocks, waterfalls and greenery must be negotiated on the way to the entrance.

Inside the four-acre store, the liquor department is bigger than some ordinary grocery stores and includes wines that cost hundreds of dollars per bottle, stashed behind locked grilles. Jungle Jim's hosts a regular wine dinner series, and tastings are held frequently.

The seafood department boasts such delicacies as sushi and in-house smoked fish.

In the international cheese market and on the olive bar, free samples are everywhere.

A Cigar-of-the-Month Club keeps smokers happy, and there's a Honey Table for sweet-lovers.

Under the giant mushroom in the one-acre produce department, shoppers can find fresh and dried mushrooms from all over the world.

A shopping experience

The European Gourmet Village is a set of small rooms that house specialty foods from Greece, Germany, Scandinavia, Ireland, Holland, France and Spain.

Every odd ingredient or spice you've ever heard of -- and many you haven't -- can be found on the shelves here.

In the Irish section, I picked up two packages of brown bread mix to compare ingredients. "Oh, you won't want either of those," a soft Gaelic voice said beside me. "Try this instead," the man urged, holding up a third bag of bread mix. "You're told to use water, but use buttermilk instead, and you'll think you've died and gone to heaven."

The man turned out to be a native of Dublin who visits Jungle Jim's regularly for his favorite Irish delicacies. He also recommended Odlum's pinhead oatmeal and a particular brand of orange marmalade.

Just across from the European Village, India and Asia are represented behind the International Elephant Gates.

'Live' entertainment

Those who like musical entertainment with their shopping can hear the Big G Cereal Bowl Band. Trix the Rabbit, Honey Bee and Lucky the Leprechaun perform atop the S.S. Minnow in the center of the store. Elvis, Luigi the Italian Chef and the Birdies in Petland also perform.

Anyone who gets lost or confused by the sheer magnitude of the place can take a break in Jungle Jim's Theater to learn the history of the store.

Jim Bonaminio, originally from Lorain, got his start selling produce from a roadside stand. Jungle Jim's is his way of putting fun into shopping and introducing food lovers to delicacies from all around the world.

It's hard to walk out of Jungle Jim's empty-handed. Whether it's toasted nori from Japan, Irish brown bread mix or an odd-looking bottle of Peruvian wine, everything you see begs to be tasted. And once you've tasted, of course, you have to go back for more.




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