Shopping Is Always an Experience at Jungle Jim’s

Once a produce stand, this international market is now a local institution.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

In 1971, James O. Bonaminio set up a humble little produce stand in Hamilton, Ohio. As the now-legendary story goes, Bonaminio worked 21-hour days, slept on the premises, and even showered under a hose behind the building. Four years later, the entrepreneur opened a 4,200-square-foot “market” in Fairfield, bringing a world of flavors (and cheese!) to our corner of the Buckeye State.

With two locations in Southwest Ohio that boast more than 500,000 square feet combined, hundreds of thousands of products, and more than 70 countries represented, Jungle Jim’s International Market bills itself as “locally grown, but internationally known”—and indeed, it is.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

Visiting Jungle Jim’s isn’t merely going shopping; it’s an all-inclusive, total sensory experience. Everyone who walks through the doors of this massive market can shop without borders. It’s a place to embrace global cuisine and try new things, two things I’m big on exposing my kids to.

My husband and I recently took an afternoon off to spend with our youngest, a precocious and spunky 5 year old who embodies the whole “yes and” rule of improv. She also has the cutest saying—calling places or desserts “too fun” or “too delicious”—so of course, she loved Jungle Jim’s, which she called “too big” and “too spicy” and “too cheesy” and “too fun!”

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

Jungle Jim’s is, indeed, all of those superlatives. If “trying a new variety of hot sauce” is on your shopping list, the Fiery Foods department at Jungle Jim’s boasts more than 1,500 hot sauces and hundreds of BBQ sauces, spices, and rubs.

If cheese is your love language, you’ll be smiling all the cheesy smiles at Jungle Jim’s. The Cheese Shop carries more than 1,400 cheeses from across the country and around the world, plus a huge selection of jams and crackers to create the charcuterie board of your dreams.

Photograph by Sarah McCosham

Of course, the international grocer also gives a lot of love to local farmers and businesses, too, with everything from Breadsmith loaves and Amish-made pies to Ohio-grown tomatoes and sweet corn.

Speaking of sweets, the candy section is an Alice in Wonderland kind of experience, with an entire aisle of Pez dispensers and aisle upon aisle of candies and confections in every size, shape, and color. My husband, a big root beer fan, was in his element in the specialty soda section, which featured everything from Boylan’s and Fireman’s Brew to Jungle Jim’s very own line of craft sodas. And if you’re into puzzles like me, the robust section of puzzles and classic games and toys makes Jungle Jim’s a sleeper hit for holiday shopping.

Jungle Jim’s is proof positive that the wildest ideas are often the best ideas. That shopping local and going global aren’t mutually exclusive. And that, sometimes, the most epic adventures are the ones closest to home.

Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield and 4450 Eastgate S. Dr., Union Twp., Clermont County

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