Bringing International Fare to the Local Market
Photography by Wes Battoclette
LEAD Cincinnati talked to some Jungle Jim's employees to get a sense of what it takes to make the place so... unique.
Then we followed around some local foodies to find out what draws so many people (admit it, that includes you) to the store every week. Check out that gallery here!
Allison Beel, Front End Manager at Jungle Jim’s Eastgate for two years.
LEAD Cincinnati: How do you have a hand in making Jungle Jim’s Eastgate what it is?
AB: As a manager I have the opportunity to make my own decisions. In the front end we strive to have customer service that you won’t find anywhere else. If you were to go to a big box location you would have to stand in a line, but here it is a quick in and out. Customers are always complimentary on the type of service they get here. They love our cashiers and baggers who go out of their way to help the customer. This isn’t a corporate environment, we get to do everything here ourselves.
LC: What is something customers don’t know about Jungle Jim’s Eastgate?
AB: In the bakery there is a hand with a piping bag. The watch on the wrist has a real dial, a picture of Jungle’s face and it is a real clock that keeps time. I don’t think a lot of people know it is here, or if they do, they don’t realize that it is a real clock.
Phill Adams, Store Development, at Jungle Jim’s for 28 years.
LC: What is something that has shocked people about the Eastgate store?
PA: At the Eastgate location people never expected this store to be their number one shopping store for basic American groceries. They perceived us to be a specialty grocery store where they could only get crazy items and only go a few times a year. When they started shopping here they realized that we have brand names that they recognized, we had quality and good prices. It shocked people.
Willie Adams, Store Manager at Jungle Jim’s Eastgate for three years.
LC: What do you look for when hiring a new employee?
WA: Hiring people of different ethnic origins is a part of the diversity hiring that we have to do here. We have to target certain backgrounds because of our international department. For example, the Middle Eastern department – it is a very diverse section so we have to find the right person who knows the product, can read the product and speak the language. That isn’t an everyday Joe. So I have to keep these needs in mind when hiring. It can be a challenge. A lot of times we don’t find people who have a background in the department we’re hiring for but they have retail experience and certain qualifications. So we have an opportunity to train our employees to become who we want them to be. I often hire people based on their qualities like leadership and what they have done in the past that could benefit Jungle Jim’s. Leadership, all my life I’ve been in a leadership role. I was a lieutenant in the military which has influenced my life.
Mike Adkins, American Grocery Manager, at Jungle Jim’s for 24 years.
LC: Can customers make product requests?
MA: At the customer service desk we have a customer request form. We encourage customers to fill out the form because as they say, ‘If Jungle Jim’s doesn’t have it, then no one does.’ If we don’t have it we will try to get it for you. Once a form has been filled out it goes to the buyer of the department. We search the shelves to make sure we don’t have it. And if we don’t we’ll work with our vendors to get the item. It’s fun to call the customers to let them know we have the item they requested. I don’t think there is another store that takes product requests.
LC: How does the customer service at Jungle Jim’s differ from other grocers?
MA: We go out of our way to help our customers. At other stores it can be a challenge to find anyone to help you. If a customer can’t find an employee, they can pick up one of the many phones throughout the store to call the department they need.
Dennis Ante, Produce Manager, at Jungle Jim’s for 44 years.
LC: You started working for Jungle when you were 11 years old, how have you seen Jungle Jim’s evolve?
DA: As a kid I started stocking fruit at the tent off of High Street in Hamilton. Jungle’s mother actually hired me. Eventually he moved to Fairfield so my brother and I started working for him at the new location. As time went on, I grew with the company, but I’ve always come back to produce. Now I am the Produce Manager at the Eastgate location.
LC: Is it safe to say that Jungle Jim’s carries the best produce?
DA: You have to remember that Jungle bought produce for years. He knows produce more than any other department, so he watches the produce department very closely. If Jungle comes in and he sees some- thing wrong, he lets us know. His attitude towards produce helps keep the quality of our produce at the highest standard