Jungle Jim's International Market
1: forming or consisting of a large mass:
a : bulky
a massive volume
c : impressively large or ponderous
Massive is the best way one could describe Jungle Jim's, at over 300,000 sq. ft. (6.5 Acres) with 180,000 items (60,000 being international), this place is like nothing you've ever seen before. Part grocery store, part tourist attraction & total "Wonder Of The World", It's hard to fully describe what I witnessed while visiting. I mean geez they even have a real working MONORAIL, but more on that later.
Now to provide perspective, The average Wal-Mart is 179,000 sq. ft. with the largest located in Albany, New York clocking in at 260,000 sq. ft. and that's 2 floors. Jungle Jim's bests that by 40k sq. ft. on a single floor!
Are we now in agreeance of my use of the word "Massive"?
Theming is typically associated more with the likes of Disneyland or Universal Studios than a grocery store, which makes the genius of Jungle Jim that much more impressive. From the moment you pull into the parking lot and begin your ascent into the store, your senses automatically go into overdrive, feeding you more excitement than your akin to with the average retailer.
Rather it be the pools with water so clear your drawn to take a swim or the full size Nascar race car propped above the entrance, you'll just be warming up to the impending sensory overload just on the other side of the entrance doors.
I'm sure you know someone that "collects" everything and throws away nothing. The person that always says "Don't throw that away I can use that!", meanwhile you just see junk collecting while awaiting a knock on the door from the TV show Extreme Hoarders. Well Jungle Jim is possibly the only person on Earth to follow thru and give hundreds of obscure objects a new, purpose filled 2nd "life".
This all traces back to theming as everything here works effectively in marketing a section of the market. Looking for seafood? Just look for the real full size yacht (named the S.S. Minnow, once again bringing old to new) with not just any band, but a full sized animatronic General Mills band with the Lucky Charms Rabbit on Keyboard, The Cheerios Bee on Drums and the lead singer and Guitarist, Lucky Charm!
Look above and you'll easily be guided to different sections by the large "mascots"
Frozen Goods: Pepe The Penguin (You'll remember him from early 90s Kroger fame)
Seafood: The large overhead seaside village and shark
Bakery: Large Birthday Cake
Hot Sauce: A full size Fire Truck
Heath Foods: A pre-scandal Lance Armstrong
Soup: A large singing Campbells soup can on a swing
Kosher: A recreated village that looks like the swiss alps
And much more!
So far we've touched on the food aspect and the immense selection thats available so there should be no surprise when I speak on the next two sections, Beer / Wine and Cigars.
With over 17,000 Wine labels and 4,000 different Beers (no typo, you read this correctly), this section could be a whole nother store! I think it's pretty safe to say that you can find whatever your palette desires, as was proven to myself. I decided to test their supply chain strength and requested a bottle of "Earl Stevens Moscato", knowing they wouldn't have it, but to my amused dismay, 2 minutes later a clerk appeared with it! Just a quick backstory on this particular brand, I discovered it while on a trip to San Francisco a few years back and it has evaded my grasp ever since, until now.
On site is also a tasting bar where you can sample different flights of wine in addition to craft beers and even purchase a growler to enjoy while you take a break from "shopping". Be sure to check out "Pint Night" on Fridays where a different craft brewery is featured every week.
You'll also find adjacent to the Beer & Wine section, a huge (of course) Cigar Humidor with lined walls containing thousands of different cigars from the budget priced (my style) to the expensive brands appreciated by real cigar aficionados.
Most kids don't like going to the "Grocery" store, they complain, whine and attempt to throw every box of sugar coated cereal into your cart whenever you're not looking, that's just what kids do. However at Jungle Jim's you now have a new enemy attempting to invade your cart, aside from the onsite Toy Store, there is also one of the biggest Candy sections i've personally seen in a store.
What has to be the largest selection of PEZ this side of some 45 year old nerds bedroom, all the dispensers and rainbow colored candy rectangles you remember from your childhood line a whole wall, paying homage to those days in the 80s where you could eat a whole pack quicker than you could refill the despenser!
In this section you will find 2 things that call for your attention, first is "Elvis", an amatronic bear (?) from Showbiz / Chuck E. Cheese fame that gives performances every few minutes and "Don", an 8 foot long, 27 pound GUMMY SNAKE! Yea man, you can't make this stuff up!
Seriously, a 27 pound Gummy Snake... Hold on a second, my dentist is calling me.....
Yea, this humongous labyrinth of a market has porta-pots for the restrooms. Kinda unbelievable really, like is this even legal?
Well you should know by now that the only thing ordinary about this place is the fact they use concrete for the floors because these aren't your average porta-pots, just the entrance looks like this and will definitely fool you. I stood here for about 5 minutes and watched people wait outside thinking this was a single john! It's a real clever entrance, so much in fact that they won an award for its design! Now I would show you inside but I didn't want to be that guy escorted out in cuffs because he was taking photos inside the restroom. You'll just have to take my word for it here.
Being a huge history buff and very intrigued at the way Jungle Jim grew his fruit cart into this world renown market, I couldn't help but to stop and watch "The Jungle Jim Story" inside the Cinema. This is a cool idea and really gives you an appreciation for this man's story and determination, I highly suggest you take a few moments and watch it as well. Don't worry, there's ample cart parking out front.
"It's a bird, Its a plane! Nah Dog, It's a MONORAIL!"
The first time I passed Jungle Jim's some 15 years ago, what caught my attention was the Monorail train seemingly poised to run off the track and collide with the adjacent road I was traveling on. For years I wondered about this and never had a chance to research it (15 years ago, "Ask Jeeves" was the Google of the day, and high speed internet was still in the dial up, AOL "300 Hours Free" CD-Rom stage, so there wasn't as much information out there as there is today). So thanks to Butler County, I now had the chance to explore this more.
Around the exterior of the building you will notice overhead, a single grey rail with an orange inset and the curious minds will follow it way around the back of the parking lot to a mysterious jungle themed building topped with a very large, rather fierce looking Snake that seems to be keeping guard of something.
As you follow the rail, it starts to slope downward into the building where you'll find a very real, very functional Monorail car seemingly hibernating in the shadows of aforementioned Snake. Further research will tell you that this train (and the accompanying ones behind the building on the transfer track) are the actual trains that used to run thru the Safari.
Safari? As in an African Safari?
Image used courtesy of John Keeter, see more of his excellent work HERE!
Yes, but a little closer to home!
In 1974, Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio debuted "Lion Country Safari", Where visitors would board trains to be whisked away from the fantasyland made famous at the time by "The Brady Bunch", to an African Safari, complete with Lions, Elephants, Baboons (The ones that didn't infamously escape), Zebras, Giraffes and many other species of animals that were naturally foreign to middle america.
Operating in various incarnations thru the 80's and early 90's until a new park owner, none other than Paramount Movie Studios, purchased the park and shuttered the attraction. The trains would remain dormant for several years until none other than Jungle Jim purchased them and gave them new life at his store!
The trains were refurbished, equipped with clean air engines (prior to, they ran similar to a subway train with a 3rd rail supplying the electricity), given new paint jobs and upgraded with televisions and new PA systems. There are 4 trains in all I believe with one located at the smaller Eastgate store and used as part of the sign (it is actually designed to look as if it busting thru the sign), the remaining 3 are here at the international market, one being the one that initially caught my attention many years back (visible in the first photo). The 2 remaining are the ones located in the station and on the transfer track behind the building.
Currently they only run on special occasion to shuttle guest from the rear of the parking lot to the Oscar events center located at the front of the store on the 2nd floor.
In closing, Jungle Jim's is more than just a grocery store and honestly how could I write THIS much about just a grocery store? This place is an experience, a Wonder Of The World, somewhere you can go equally as a tourist or a shopper and and the amazement never ceases. I had so much fun in this place that I lost my ole lady for a solid hour and when we joined back up, her cart was full and so was my brand new 64GB memory card!
Definitely a must see when you visit Butler County!