Progress being made on Jungle Jim’s

The desolate shopping center, formerly biggs place, off Eastgate Boulevard, is slowly coming to life as construction crews make progress on the new Jungle Jim’s International Market that will soon transform the area.

It will only be the second Jungle Jim’s in existence, and the family-owned and operated grocery store, which began as a roadside market, will still stay true to its roots with its unique atmosphere and seemingly endless variety of food.

“This is going to have its own characteristics and personality,” Phill Adams, director of development for Jungle Jim’s, said about the Eastgate market.

Adams, who began working at the Fairfield Jungle Jim’s as a dish washer more than 20 years ago, designed the cooking school for the Fairfield Jungle Jim’s and is now in charge of designing the new store.

“Having the opportunity to build a new store is like a game,” Adams said.

Not only does Adams have to make everything fit and flow properly, but he also gets to have fun picking out some of the wild food displays and entertaining decorations that Jungle Jim’s has become known for.

Some of the biggest challenges Adams has had to overcome so far have been figuring out how to use the space he has available at the old shopping center. Although he is working with more than 400,000 square feet of space in the shopping center, he pointed out that some of the freezers, refrigerators and loading docks are smaller than those at Fairfield.

On the other hand, the large amount of floor space has allowed Adams to really create a consumer-friendly market. Adams said wanted to start with the local customers in the center of the store and then build around that.

“We tried to make it simple for them,” Adams said.

Customers will enter to the right and be directed into the American grocery section. The outer edges of the store will feature the international and non-traditional foods, including a special room just for hot sauces. Cash registers will be to the left of the entrance as well as some registers in the different specialty areas.

The beer, wine and cigar section will be larger than Fairfield’s with the outside designed to resemble a chateau and Cuban cigar factory. Adams said eventually the area will feature a bar and lounging area outside, but not by opening day.

The front of the store will be jungle-themed with an enormous sign that Adams said had to be constructed in pieces.

Adam’s couldn’t disclose what the restrooms will look like at the second Jungle Jim’s, but said he wants to be the first two-time winner for best restroom in America. The Fairfield restrooms give customers the illusion that they are walking into a port-o-john on the outside, but are normal restrooms inside.

From food stands that look like bumper cars to a colorfully-restored boat that will be used as the seafood department office, Jungle Jim’s new location will not be visually disappointing.

The market will not be disappointing when it comes to selection, either. The Fairfield location offers over 150,000 food items from over 75 countries. The Eastgate location will be similar.

“If we had a schedule, we’re right on target,” Adams said about the construction progress.

But they don’t have a set schedule. Adams said this is because they want to do the work at their own pace and make sure it is done properly.

Much of the early part of the year was spent renovating the building and re-designing and improving different areas. Now, materials lie in their proper locations and construction has begun to give the store its personality both inside and out.

“Early 2012 is what I tell everyone,” Adams said about when the store will open.

And while Adams said he is a bit terrified about how smoothly opening day will go, he also knows it marks an historical event for the company, which has grown from the roadside market, run by owner Jim Bonaminio, to a store that people travel hours to see.

“There are going to be so many people here!” Adams said about the opening. “For us to open a store has never happened before. There has never been a grand opening before.”

Adams said he will continue posting construction updates on Jungle Jim’s Facebook page;