By Kristin Bednarski
Jungle Jim’s International Market in Eastgate has come to life.
After a brief “vine cutting” ceremony in front of the entrance Sept. 25, Jungle Jim’s founder “Jungle” Jim Bonaminio released hundreds of eager shoppers into the new market, and for the first time ever, opened a store all at one time.
And as shoppers filed in through the entrance, took photos and browsed the aisles in awe, the store took on a whole new dynamic.
“It’s the same Jungle Jim’s, but a whole new experience,” Lauren White, of Batavia, said about the new location.
White said there are many aspects of the store that are similar to Fairfield, but the new store is also so different from the Fairfield location.
White and Andrew McCoy, both culinary students, said they came to check out the new market, which is much closer to home.
White and McCoy said they used to shop at the Fairfield market a lot and recently moved to Batavia.
They said they love the open feel of the new market and will enjoy exploring the thousands of products within the aisles.
“For a culinary student it’s like a theme park,” McCoy said about Jungle Jim’s.
For Darci Kathman, of Anderson, the experience was somewhat different because this was her first time ever shopping at Jungle Jim’s.
“I was excited to see what it’s all about,” Kathman said about coming to the opening. “It is overwhelming.”
Kathman said the store is huge and there is so much to look at and to take in. And even though she hadn’t left the store yet, she said she already can’t wait to come back again.
“It’s organized a lot better than regular grocery stores,” Kathman said about Jungle Jim’s. “And it has a lot more products.”
Kathman said the store is also great for children. She brought her son Cooper, 3, and a little boy she babysits, Henry, 2, who enjoyed looking at all the displays in Candy Land.
“They love all the visuals,” Kathman said.
Like the Fairfield location, Jungle Jim’s in Eastgate boasts a collection of unique food stands, and interactive displays.
From a boat to a 1940s U.S. Navy fire truck, to amusement park rides to parts of an airplane hanging from the ceiling, customers have plenty to see throughout the store.
“Jungle” Jim, who is known for “scrapping” cool, useful items, said almost 80 percent of the store, including the food stands and displays, come from re-used or recycled materials.
“It is a lot to look at,” Shawn Peters, of Amelia, said about the market.
Peters said this was her first experience at Jungle Jim’s as well. She said she decided to come explore the market for a change of scenery.
Peters said she will definitely be bringing her children and other family members back to the market and is glad that it is just 10 minutes from her house.
Many other shoppers who came out on opening day said they shop at the Fairfield location and were excited to see the second Jungle Jim’s.
“It’s fantastic,” Tom Zeigler, of Eastgate, said about the store. “It’s kind of awe-inspiring.”
Tom and his wife, Beverly, said they have been to the Fairfield store and said they like Jungle Jim’s because they have family members with food allergies and the store carries many organic foods that they buy.
The organic section, located toward the front of the store, includes several aisles filled with hundreds of products.
“We love Jungle Jim’s,” Dani Tigsma, of Batavia, said. “It’s the only place we can get a lot of things.”
Tigsma said this location is much closer to her home.
Tigsma said her husband’s family is from the Netherlands, and they are able to find many of the items from their country at Jungle Jim’s.
The enormous international section at the new stretches from the right of the entrance to the back of the store and is organized by country.
“We will probably shop here more often” Tigsma said about the new location.
Tigsma said she was excited to explore the new store and said she liked the layout and the space.
“It’s really nice,” Tigsma said. “It’s roomy.”
And as shoppers explored the 215,000 square-foot store, Jungle Jim’s staff spent time answering questions, showing customers around and taking in some of the reactions of customers as they explored.
“It’s great to see everyone’s smiling faces,” Jimmy Bonaminio, “Jungle” Jim’s son and director of creative marketing, said. “We are so excited to be able to share it.”
Phill Adams, director of development the Eastgate location, has been working on creating the store with “Jungle” Jim for years.
Adams said he didn’t realize it, but as he was imagining what the finished store would look like, he was seeing everything in black and white.
Now, Adams said the store is in color.
While “Jungle” Jim, and all of his staff would agree that opening a new store was definitely a challenge, and is still not completely finished, sharing products and creating an experience for customers is what “Jungle” Jim has done for years.
And from the time “Jungle” Jim was selling produce from a roadside stand until now, customers have always continued to be the focus.
“Jungle” Jim said he knew he was ready to open the doors of the new market because after so many individuals put their hearts into creating the store and once the store was built and the products were in place, the only thing left was to put some life in the store with real customers.
“I want to put a smile on people’s faces,” “Jungle” Jim said before opening the doors to the new market. “That’s what I want. That’s what this is all about.”
Jungle Jim’s is located at 4450 Eastgate South Drive. The store open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. For more information about Jungle Jim’s visit www.junglejims.com.