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Jungle Jim's adds wholesale department to its popular retail destination

by Christina DiMartino | April 15, 2010
Since its founding in 1974, Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, OH, has been a one-stop retail destination for just about anything one would need. Now it is also a wholesale operation for a full line of produce items.

"The company's reasoning behind adding a wholesale division to Jungle Jim's was to give it more buying power," said Curt Rhodus, who, along with Doug Caminiti, manages the wholesale division, which opened late last year. "We are wholesaling a full line of fresh produce and everything else the store stocks with the exception of alcohol and tobacco. And we deliver to our wholesale customers anywhere from northern Kentucky to Dayton, Ohio."

"Everything else" the store stocks is a proverbial mouthful, attesting to why the retailer has caught the attention of media worldwide. The over 80,000- square-foot store has more than 22 shops within it, which include a full line of food items, gifts and personal services.

The one-acre fresh produce department resembles an international marketplace, with over 500 different kinds of fruits and vegetables including locally grown, regional, domestic, imported and organic products that cover the full range of conventional, specialty, exotic and ethnic items. The department also features a demo station where both conventional and unusual items may be sampled.

Visitors entering the produce department view three to five rows -- depending on the season -- each 100 feet long. At any given time of the year, the department offers over 100 varieties of apples, oranges, pears and other fruits for sale. Each section is arranged by color and category in eye- appealing configurations. A fresh takeout section encompasses two 125-foot long aisles. Another row is a wet wall with a misting system, which holds between 150 and 175 varieties of vegetables, including lettuces, leafy greens and onions.

Shoppers can choose from over 1,400 different cheeses in the International Cheese Shoppe. Jungle Jim's carries 12,000 wine labels and 1,200 beer labels. Its cigar humidor boasts over 70 different cigars from all over the world.

Regarding the services available at Jungle Jim's, think of a circus, carnival, business complex and mall combined. It has Jim's Olde Fashioned Pharmacy, a U.S. Post Office, an urgent-care facility, a dentist's office, an eye doctor, a bank, a credit union, a Starbucks and six restaurants.

Because Jungle Jim's is a destination attraction rather than just a shopping experience, it offers store tours for $5 per person. Participants receive a $2 gift certificate and get to sample 12 products. In a typical year, approximately 10,000 people take the two-hour tour of the facility.

Jim Bonaminio, owner of Jungle Jim's, and his son, Jimmy, are hands-on proprietors who often walk through the produce department, stop in front of the apple display, for example, and take a bite out of eight or 10 varieties. If they feel one isn't delicious enough, they will order it off the shelves. Employees are instructed to do the same thing throughout the day. They taste because they want the Jungle Jim's experience to continue with consumers all the way to their own kitchens.

Mr. Rhodus said that the new wholesale division is open to a wide range of customers.

"We sell to anyone from roadside stand owners to major chainstores, and to the full range of foodservice operations," he said. "Any business that wants to buy in bulk is welcome. Besides call-in orders, which we will deliver, customers can come to the warehouse to shop."

Mr. Rhodus added that the wholesale warehouse is 40,000 square feet in size and is equipped with new coolers, dry space and loading docks that offer an unbroken cold chain. Businesses must pay for their purchases by checks or cash, as no credit cards are accepted, and there are no monthly or annual fees such as some big box stores charge.

"This year, we have been meeting with farmers across the country to develop relationships that will enable us to buy as much produce as possible directly from them," said Mr. Rhodus. "We also go offshore to arrange direct-buy programs. The demand in the warehouse division has been outstanding, and we expect business to increase as more people find out about our offerings and services."