Brother Juniper’s quietly closes doors

Author: J. K. Wall
Date Published: 12/06/2003

Eatery that had its roots in religion fell victim to declining business

Friday’s lunch was the last for Brother Juniper’s, ending a 25-year run as an outreach-mission-turned-restaurant-chain in Indianapolis.

Owner Steve Grube decided to close his store at 339 Massachusetts Ave. as he neared the close of a third straight unprofitable year. He said his catering business had been mostly wiped out after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Traffic during breakfast and lunch — the restaurant did not serve dinner — couldn’t pick up the slack, Grube said.

”Over the last three years, it’s been a decline each year in business,” Grube said.

Grube’s store opened in 1980 as the second Brother Juniper’s location. The original had opened two years earlier in the basement of a building at Delaware and 16th streets.

It was started by the Holy Order of Mans, a nondenominational Christian order whose members lived semimonastic lives and attended the Joy of All Who Sorrow church.

”We opened it up as a mission to the neighborhood. And lo and behold, there was a line going out the door and around the block,” said Theresa Brunton, a former manager at Brother Juniper’s and member of the church. ”We weren’t planning on making money at it. We didn’t do it as a business.”

But Brother Juniper’s business mushroomed. It added a third restaurant at 615 N. Alabama St., a fourth at 44 W. Washington St. and a bake house at 429 Massachusetts Ave. Also, members of the order took the idea around the country, opening independent Brother Juniper’s stores in Atlanta, San Francisco and Memphis, Tenn., Brunton said.

”It was profitable — in many ways — because there were a lot of people that we hired that really changed their lives,” Brunton said. The church joined the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1988.

Brunton was not sure when the stores on Washington and Alabama streets closed. But by 1998, the church decided it did not want to remain in the restaurant business, she said. Around that time, it closed the 16th Street location and the bake house and sold the only remaining Indianapolis location to Grube.

The Memphis store is the only one that remains open, Brunton said.

Grube, who started working for Brother Juniper’s in 1988, said he was sad to close it down. But the bigger loss, he said, is to lose the regular customers who had become his friends.

”I’ve had customers coming here longer than I’ve been here,” Grube said.

One of those is Paul Kluemper, an accountant for Fouts & Co. across the street. He has been going to Brother Juniper’s for nearly 16 years.

”I go there almost every Thursday for meatloaf,” Kluemper said. He and Fouts’ secretary, Joanne McCleery, grabbed bacon and egg sandwiches there for breakfast three times weekly.

”The atmosphere, I just was comfortable there,” McCleery said. ”We’ll miss it.”

Call Star reporter J.K. Wall at 1-317-444-6287.