Public restrooms are generally places to avoid, but at Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio, the facilities are a spot of honor.
Jungle Jim's received the Cintas "America's Best Restroom" award in August for their unique approach to a common convenience.
Visitors to the store encounter what appears to be a handicapped-size portable toilet in the middle of the store. According to Phill Adams, director of development for Jungle Jim's, newcomers to the market are quite evident. When they stand in front of the doors waiting for their turn to use the restroom, he said they are seen with confused looks when multiple people leave the bathroom at a time. When they enter the restroom however, the reaction is fairly unanimous.
"Usually, it's a look of 'you've got to be kidding me,'" Adams said. "It's very deceiving."
Miami University junior and Fairfield resident Heather Reed is a Jungle Jim's fan and visited the contest Web site to help support the store. She agrees that it is humorous to see people's reactions to what they think are portable restrooms.
"It's fun to watch people's reactions as you leave the restroom and they enter it," Reed said. "It's a clever idea."
Guests find that the primitive outside of the facilities is actually a facade, as the "portable toilet" doors lead down a hallway to a spacious, jungle-themed bathroom.
"When I first went to Jungle Jim's, I wouldn't use the bathroom because it looked like a port-a-potty," first-year Joel Thompson said. "It's just a really nice bathroom. It was surprising."
Jim Bonaminio, the owner of Jungle Jim's and a Miami University business school graduate, came up with the idea for the lavatory design.
According to Adams, the theme dates back to Bonaminio's years spent running a roadside fruit stand, where the only restrooms were portable toilets. When he opened his international market, he wanted to carry over what Adams describes as "the construction look."
The restroom layout proved so memorable for some that when Cintas, a Cincinnati-based company that provides commercial services to businesses, asked for nominations for their "America's Best Restroom Award," people from around the country remembered their one-of-a-kind experience with Jungle Jim's. According to Chris Carsten, Miami graduate of 1994 and marketing manager of hygiene at Cintas, the number of nominees for the contest was at a record number.
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"We came up with this award to recognize businesses that realized that a clean, well-stocked, fun restroom is good for business," Carsten said.
After being nominated for the award along with 250 other restrooms across America, Carsten and other Cintas representatives chose the top five for the vote based off of cleanliness and originality.
"To get to the finals, you have to be pretty creative," Carsten said.
After making the cut, Jungle Jim's-along with four contenders'
restrooms-were featured on the Web site for Cintas for two and a half months of voting. According to Carsten, more than 10,000 votes were cast, and Jungle Jim's was voted as having the best restroom in the country.
Adams hopes that the award will bring more people to the store. According to Adams, the publicity that the market is receiving as a result of the award is huge.
He estimates that there have been 24,000 hits on the store's Web site since the announcement of the honor, and 6 hours 38 minutes of news time devoted to the award-winning lavatory. The staff plans to have fun with the award as well, with T-shirts and signs representing their win in the making.
"(The staff) just had an absolute blast with it," Carsten said.
According to Adams, the only downside to the award is it means one thing: "a lot more bathroom cleaning."