Enjoying Tholen harbour...





Juna is a restaurant that lives up to the concept of “affordable luxury”. An asset to Tholen but what a story this young restaurant carries with it! It is a story of tremendous setbacks, friendships, resilience and love. Although JuNa is originally a contraction of founders Judith and Nathalie, the name Juna in Latin means “youngster” and that meaning is particularly apt. Judith was only 26 when the first serious ideas for her own hotel restaurant bubbled up in her head.

A good idea needs to be shared and philosophised over, and girlfriends Judith and Nathalie turned out to be very good at that. So good, in fact, that both partners were involved and convinced. It resulted in the two couples deciding to embark on the adventure together. The plan was that the men would keep their jobs for the necessary financial stability and the ladies would go all out. Money was freed up, a property and a renovation followed. Careers were sacrificed for a dream that kept taking shape. And finally the operational tasks were divided.

Judith is from Tholen and has always been attracted to the hospitality industry. For years, she had a side job at The Sixties, the popular eatery in Tholen and then located on the same square where Juna is now located. But Judith also worked and gained experience at bistro De Stadsburger in Bergen op Zoom alongside her job in childcare.

After all the preparations, it was finally going to happen, the staff had been recruited and the menu was at the printer’s. 15 October 2020 they were supposed to open! But then a press conference came on 13 October and the first lockdown was announced. The menus could be shelved and the dreamed rush did not materialise. As did the promised support measures because without a running business, no money came from The Hague.

What did go ahead were the costs but fortunately the support of lots of Tholen residents. Many knew the situation and called the ladies for the take-away menu that was being marketed as an alternative. Although fortunately the hotel was running quite nicely and was allowed to stay open, things continued to suck for JuNa in 2021. Fortunately, the situation improved and it looked like everything could be open by Christmas. So there was a lot of buying again and the tables were quickly booked full. Unfortunately, just before Christmas, another press conference came and threw a spanner in the works. And so came Christmas boxes and later even picnic boxes. Giving up was just not an option.

Then, in February, the corona period came to an end. Relieved that they were still around and could start accelerating again, preparations were made for a restart. But disaster struck mercilessly. The chef went into cardiac arrest and died. A shock for the entire team, which at the time consisted mainly of young people under 21. The man of experience who was just so much needed and loved was taken away from them. Neighbour Marja of the Hof van Holland restaurant became a huge support . It was she who eventually recruited Jop as the new cook for JuNa. A great move and you would think that would turn the tide.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Judith’s relationship ended and Nathalie was faced with a very difficult choice. Her partner was offered a job abroad and so she had to choose. Love won and so it could be that in the summer of 2022, Judith was suddenly the only founder who wanted to continue. The support of all the people in the team but also her parents and friends have been of indescribable value in keeping her course.

Fortunately, Chef Jop proved to be a perfect match. In the kitchen, he was given every opportunity to develop further and he did so with verve. For instance, he smokes his own meat and enjoys experimenting with new recipes and fresh ingredients. Previously, he worked in the kitchen at the former neighbours “Hotel Restaurant Zeeland”. Here he learned the trade from Paul van Tatenhove and his love for preparing special dishes grew. What also grew was his love for Judith. The two are now a couple and each other’s support and companion. So it seems life is smiling on Judith again.

When I ask if Judith can take it a bit easier this season, her eyes begin to shine because she already has new plans for Tholen’s braderie this summer. Together with her catering colleagues, she is organising this popular event in August. If it’s up to Judith, it will be one big party again and she can finally have a real blast this summer. So no slowing down, gas up!
Except on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you can visit JuNa every day for a bite to eat and a drink, and don’t forget to ask for the now famous nut cake made by Judith’s mother😉


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location_onKaaij 2 Tholen