Thursday, September 05, 2002

Stalking Jungle Jim

Another safari to Fairfield

        Jungle Jim's International Food Market is a long haul from where I live, but I am making another safari. What I really want isn't a Jungle Jim kumquat. I want the impresario of this grocery store/amusement park/salvage yard to open another location.

        Nearer to me.

        About 50,000 people shop at his place in Fairfield every week. I think Mr. Jim could lure at least another 50,000 to a second location in a very nice neighboring city.

        “Love the store. Hate the trip,” writes Tom Jones from Delhi. “I live in Louisville, and getting to downtown Cincinnati is very easy for Louisvillians, but up where Jungle Jim's is now is impossible,” agrees Kraig D. Taylor.

        Gary Templeton, a Walnut Hills resident, worries about “a negative impact on Findlay Market.”

        Businessman Ray Carr, who has been talking up the idea for months, says, “If foodies come to Jungle's on Broadway, they will also find their way to Findlay Market. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Logical location

        The logical location, according Mayor Charlie Luken, is Broadway Commons. In a letter to Jungle Jim Bonaminio dated May 21, the mayor promised, “I would be willing to commit myself to a full-blown investigation of this opportunity.” Mr. Luken says he and Jungle Jim “continue to try options.”

        Fairfield resident Robert Marshall says “it would not be economically feasible. A recent large structure (a football stadium) cost taxpayers $465 million or about $46.5 million per day of usage per year.” Using this as a benchmark, Mr. Marshall calculates that a Jungle Jim's clone, open 365 per year, would cost $169,725,000,000. But, “this does include a roof.”

        Mr. Bonaminio, using his own money, is in the midst of a massive expansion, estimated to cost $8 million. So, it's possible that Mr. Marshall is simply indicating that we haven't been too careful with a buck lately.

        Hey, we may not be too smart. But we are educable. So, carrying a notebook and a stack of love notes from Enquirer readers, I went to see Jungle Jim himself.

        He greets me, shaking his head. I am wasting my time, he says. No can do. “Right now.” I interpret this as a “maybe.” He laughs. His building won't be finished for a year and a half. He shows me the monorail that will run through it. “I got it from Kings Island,” he says. “They weren't using it.”

        We walk under a huge fake tree. Sherwood Forest, he says, to display food from the British Empire. He salvaged it from a trade show display. “I buy the stuff people don't want,” he says, “and bring it back to life.”

        He plans a video department with movies from India and Italy and Spain and Germany. If it works, he'll make it bigger. A little of this, a lot of that. Whatever his customers pull off the shelves.

        Wouldn't it be nice if Cincinnati found itself with 2.6 million visitors every year, some from Delhi Township and some from New Delhi? We might find ourselves looking for kumquats in the wrong aisle and asking directions from somebody who isn't just like us. Maybe we'll call it diversity.

        Or coming back to life.

        e-mail or phone 768-8393.



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