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 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 the variety of dining options on campus, 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.
Klemis does hope that Junior’s can make a comback, though.
“All I’m asking for is for someone to help me find a way to keep Junior’s going …,” Klemis told the Tech Daily Digest. “I would be a part of any initiative that gets us there.”
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 alumni expressed their sentiments about the diner’s closing. For many, Junior’s was an introduction into both Southern and Tech culture.
“The Junior’s [Grill] on North Avenue was close by and it gave us a great alternative to campus food. I probably did eat too much of it, but I learned what country fried steak was for the first time, coming from New Jersey. I’m sad to hear it’s closing,” said John Ghiz, IE ’89.
“This is such a huge Tech tradition. 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…” said Zach Dicke, a third-year ChBE major.