Updates added at 7:00 a.m., April 21.
After nearly 63 years of service to the Tech community, Junior’s Grill closed its doors for the last time on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The facility has been a Tech tradition since 1948, when it was known as “Pilgrim’s” and located at the corner of Techwood Drive and North Ave. Following several different moves, Junior’s Grill has been located in central campus since 1994.
“Old traditions sometimes need to pass away because new traditions are beginning and I feel the campus has been growing in such a wonderful way over the many, many years, and I think it is time to let new traditions begin,” said Tommy Klemis, the operator of Junior’s Grill and son of one of the cofounders.
According to Klemis, the decline in business in recent years was one of the primary factors resulting in the decision. Since its move to the current location, Tech has greatly expanded its variety of dining options, including facilities in the Student Center and Tech Square.
“Business has changed a lot in recent years, and that aspect of Junior’s has not been as strong as it has in the past. Because that part of it is diminishing, I think it’s time to yield to new directions for the school,” Klemis said.
Klemis said that he hoped to close without much fanfare, but word of it spread around the campus.
“We’ve been serving Tech students for many, many years, and we’ve made a lot of memories. It’s been a blessing to all of us. I wish we could go on, but I think I’m going to enjoy watching the campus going forward. I’m so proud of the direction it’s going,” Klemis said.
Junior’s Grill is currently located in the Bradley Building, an annex of the Evans Administration Building. Because of the poor business, Klemis said that it would be difficult to find a replacement. It is unclear what will happen to the space in the coming months.
Rich Steele, the acting executive director for Auxiliary Services said, “There is so much dynamic change on campus with the Clough Commons Starbucks and the new North Ave. Dining Hall which makes this a challenging conversation. We will have to think about the brand and tradition of Junior’s Grill for the long term without Tommy Klemis running it.”
Steele said that the decision to close Junior’s Grill was ultimately made by Kleims. “The agreement was renewed year-to-year, and Tommy could’ve chosen to stay for many years if he wanted to,” Steele said.
Students and other members of the Tech community expressed their sentiments about the diner’s closing. For many, Junior’s was an introduction into both Southern and Tech culture.
“This is such a huge Tech tradition. We’ve been talking about what they’re going to do with this space. We’d like to see it preserved but we’re not sure what it could be used for… maybe they could use to teach a Tech traditions class two or three times a week,” said Zach Dicke, a third-year ChBE major.
“Dr. Suess once said ‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’ That’s the attitude we must bring to this event. It’s a loss for Tech but we must look at the memories we’ve made over all the years,” said Billiee Pendleton-Parker, the assistant director of the President’s Scholarship Program.
“Sixty-three years has been a rich time. We’re all really sad. We wish this wasn’t the case, but times change and we’re willing to accept that,” Klemis said.