Supermarket Wars: Stores Use Dancing Animals, Size to Battle for Your Dollars

ByABC News via logo
January 12, 2007, 2:23 PM

Jan. 13, 2007 — -- Fifty years ago, a trip to the grocery store usually didn't have many surprises. The produce usually looked the same wherever you shopped. The clerks were friendly and the bag boys would even help you carry your groceries to the car.

The modern grocery shopping experience now includes bigger crowds, less personal attention and so many choices that it can be downright confusing.

"Supermarket shopping is a difficult experience. I never find what I am looking for. Places are busy all the time. It's frustrating," one shopper told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."

In recent years, many shoppers have abandoned their local grocery chains for bulk retailers like Costco, and Wal-Mart, who understand consumers like to buy more for less.

But now the race to build bigger and better has reached a new level.

Welcome to Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. A grocery store that looks more like a theme park, the sprawling mecca for foodies has over six acres of shopping under one roof.

Hosting more than 50,000 shoppers a week, it's a world tour of food fantasy from the Fabled Sherwood Forrest to Gilligan's Island. Displays include dancing animatronic animals, an authentic shrimp boat, aquariums, wine cellars and even a fire truck suspended over 1,000 different hot sauces.

Showmanship, excess and a sense of humor translate into big business for owner and creator Jim Bonaminio. Jungle Jim's raked in over $100 million in sales last year.

"People get lost. We're ready to give people beepers here, like a restaurant, they get lost for days," Bonaminio said.

Jungle Jim's has become such a phenomenon, shoppers are actually coming from hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away just to experience it.

Events like cooking classes, shows and wine tasting help shoppers make a day of it.

But in the end, it's the food that's the big draw. The produce section stretches for 1.5 acres. The store boasts one of the nation's largest wine collections. There are also cigars, more than 1,600 cheeses, a Titanic-sized seafood section and hundreds of honeys.