Cincinnati, OH

Opinion: Welcome to the Jungle of Cincinnati

Libby Shively McAvoy
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Welcome to the Jungle — A Unique Culinary Destination and More

Cincinnati has many memorable attractions, but Jungle Jim’s is a must-see destination representing over seventy countries. It is heaven for foodies, but it is more than a place to grocery shop; it is an experience. When you enter the parking lot, you feel like you are in a different world. Jungle Jim’s was created by Jim Bonaminio. It has a quirky, whimsical, and fun vibe.

Jim started selling produce by buying directly from local farmers and setting up a humble roadside stand. He watched cars pass him; instead, they chose to go to a more established spot. Soon after, Jim set up a semi-permanent stand where he worked all day and night. He even slept there; he was so committed.

He was forced to vacate that lot when it was sold but had been researching other locations. He decided it was time to buy his lot in Fairfield, Ohio. He did not have enough money for the down payment but was fortunate enough to find two women who were willing to co-sign. That is when Jungle Jim’s International Market was born. It started small but continues to grow to this day.

Jim’s story is a fantastic testimony to what is possible when you commit to your dream. He worked hard to get where he is, but he will leave a grand legacy.

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Many years later, in September of 2012, He opened his second location in Eastgate, Ohio, which boasts 200,000 square feet of space. They even have a separate events center.

Jungle Jims is a great place to stroll casually, enjoy a beer or glass of wine, and take in all the magic surrounding you. Jim clearly has put a lot of thought and energy into making this a unique experience, yet one to which you return repeatedly. Children and adults of all ages enjoy it, and you can see the awe in their eyes as they revel in the collections of eclectic decorations he weaves throughout. It is the Disneyland of grocery stores.

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It is, in fact, so large they offer maps at the door. Do not worry; it has a logical floor plan that flows well and does not require too much walking. You will learn where everything is quick.

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Events

Jungle Jim’s hosts’ various fun events at both stores and their event center, such as wine and beer tastings, five-course meals, and cooking classes.

A few upcoming events are listed below, but you can visit their website for a far more complete calendar listing.

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March 29th 

  • Wine and Trivia Night; Fairfield Back the Glass Up. When you bring a designated glass back to the bar, you receive $1 off select wines. The event is from 5–8 pm.

March 31st

  • Pint Night Eastgate with Masthead Brewing Company.
  • Pint Night Fairfield with Country Boy Brewery.
  • Italian Wine Dinner at The Oscar Event Center. Located at 5440 Dixie Highway. This event includes a five-course Italian Dinner with wine pairings for $150 pp.

April 6th

  • Hands-On Cooking Class: Shrimp Scampi. 6 pm.
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What to Expect

Both locations of Jungle Jim’s are open seven days a week from 8:00 am- 10:00 pm. Each location boasts its own unique decorations ranging from vintage signs, cauldrons you can sit in, a giant cheese display, and even robotic wild animals.

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The bathroom doors are disguised as port-o-lets, but you must experience the playful trickery yourself. This store will bring out your inner child no matter your numerical age.

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Each location has a candy shop with vintage candies and the most current favorites, a giant cheese selection, and a unique produce selection with everything you could want, including sugar cane and fresh mangoes. They have a fresh seafood department, deli, meat shop, and bakery. Then you enter the international arena where you can find specialty foods from around the world and products from those regions. I purchased a sushi mat and chopsticks.

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Final Thoughts

Jungle Jim’s has been written up by Good Morning America, Food Network, and the Travel Channel. Jim Bonaminio has done a terrific job and deserves the accolades he receives. People come from all over to experience this unique store. There are even stores, restaurants, and a movie theater within. You could spend the whole day there.

Jim kept his original vision of selling from local farmers. You can find local baked goods, produce, cheese, and honey. But, you can also find exotic foods from around the world. They have top quality items you will struggle to find anywhere else in Cincinnati. 

References:

www.junglejims.com

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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH
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