Jungle Jim's International Farmers Market is something different the second
you pull into the parking lot. Two life-size plaster giraffes are surrounded
by a family of plaster elephants in a shallow pond. Brown plaster chimps
hang from the roof over a stand of giant plaster fruit. We followed the
crowd, unsure as to whether we were entering a super market or a theme
Jungle Jim's used to be a roadside fruit stand, but it's grown a bit in the quarter-century since its founding. It now covers over four acres, huge by ordinary grocery store standards. The produce section alone takes up one of the acres, and the beer section isn't exactly tiny. Eight hundred different kinds of brew are always available, and if you prefer wine, there are 6,000 different bottles to choose from. It's an all-inclusive collection: prices range from a buck to US$600.
The meat department offers such delicacies as medallions of kangaroo, ostrich, alligator, venison and wild boar. If you're not sure how to cook unusual cuts, you can sign up for cooking classes in the deli, and if you're not the adventurous type, you can stick to Oscar Mayer wieners. Jungle Jim's is not snobby. Pop Tarts and Power Ranger birthday candles are right there next to the smoked pheasant and truffle paté.
The cheese shop is more of a cheese Smithsonian with selections from around the globe organized by country of origin. A walk-in humidor the size of a city bus features 75 different kinds of cigars. The seafood display offered fish so exotic an ichthyologist would be impressed.
The amazing merchandise is more than enough to hold your attention, but Jungle Jim, whose real name is Jim Bonaminio, likes theme decor. There's a forty-foot boat in the fish department labeled "S.S. Minnow." Cartoon silhouettes of the Gilligan's Island crew are painted on the windows. Stuffed monkeys dangle over the banana display, and you select the fungi of your choice from a giant mushroom. When automatic sprayers turn on to mist the vegetables, they're accompanied by thunder and lightning. A full-size horse-drawn buggy looms over the Amish-style meats and groceries section, and, apropos of nothing, a large animated lion dressed like Elvis sings every five minutes on a glittery stage.
If you go to Jungle Jim's, allow enough time to explore, and make sure you have room in your refrigerator before you leave home. Whether you're gourmet, gourmand, or just fascinated by unusual eats, you'll end up with at least a cartload of souvenirs from your "Adventure in Shopping!"
International Farmer's Market
5440 Dixie Highway Fairfield, Ohio 45014
From Cincinnati, 4 miles north of I-275 on Route 4