Students might recognize Junior’s Beer and Wine, the junky shack on 29th Street. But the history of the 31-year-old business remains mysterious even today.
A man, simply known as Junior, opened a craft beer and wine store on the fringes of West Campus in 1982.
Five years later, John Zamora came to Austin from the Midwest. Even with a college degree, Zamora couldn’t find work, which is when he decided to drive a beer truck. The job entailed transporting beer from breweries to retailers. Zamora worked as a beer truck driver for almost two years.
As a driver, Zamora was in regular contact with nearly all of the beer retailers in Austin. One day, he got a delivery order for a place in West Campus. That was when he met Junior.
Junior’s was known among the drivers for carrying several little-known craft brews that larger retailers did not sell. From the start, Zamora knew that Junior was a guy he could be friends with.
“He was one of the most likeable guys I’ve ever met,” Zamora said. “He was an all around awesome guy. Everybody who’d met him had nothing but good things to say about him.”
Zamora continued to deliver to Junior, and they became well-acquainted. But he began to see less and less of the beer shack’s namesake until one day, Junior disappeared completely.
Zamora became the proprietor of Junior’s in the original owner’s absence. Nobody knew where Junior was, but business went back to normal for the next five years.
“But one day, Junior was found dead,” Zamora said.
Jason Wiggins, cashier at Junior’s and boyfriend of current owner Tiffany Bollum, remembered the discovery of Junior’s body.
“They were clearing out some property for an H-E-B up north somewhere,” Wiggins said. “He was dead in his car. They had to bring somebody in to identify the body.”
Bollum said that everybody had a different story about how Junior died.
“Somebody always would come by here saying that his death was drug-related,” Bollum said. “Somebody else would say it was an estranged girlfriend or the mob. Nobody knows for sure.”
Bollum added that, out of curiosity, she and Wiggins ask everybody with a Junior story what his real name was.
“Nobody knows that either,” Bollum said. “All they know is that he’s a Junior. That’s it.”
Unable to run the business the way he wanted to, Zamora left Junior’s in 2004. The store changed hands a couple of times before Bollum purchased the beer shack in 2011.
“I looked into it and just said, ‘I gotta do this,’” Bollum said.
Today, Bollum carries over 250 beers and takes requests from customers if the beer they want can’t be found on the shelves. One of the store’s biggest draws is a mixed six-pack deal that allows customers to create their own six-packs of craft beer.
Hardly anything has changed since Junior’s tenure. If the founder were to stop by his old store today, almost everything would be the same except for the sign.
“When we got rid of the old sign, people were so bummed that they stole the broken-up original,” Bollum said. “I haven’t changed anything else, though. I dusted a few times.”
From the cash register, Wiggins motioned to the dozens of fading posters of ’80s beer girls plastered on the walls.
“She even kept those,” Wiggins said. “And they’re probably older than me.”
Bollum checked the long rows of refrigerators to make sure nothing was amiss.
“The funny thing is, I’ve tried googling this case,” Bollum said. “Nothing comes up. It might as well not have happened.”
It is possible that the mystery will never be solved. But one fact remains: For UT students, Junior’s is one hell of a place to buy beer.