Angelina Carilli and her now fiancé, Andrew Jackson, were on vacation in Carolina Beach, N.C., in 2017 when they spotted an old Volkswagen bus on the side of the road.
The couple from Forsyth County had always loved the idea of driving a similar vintage van up the West coast, loading up surfing gear and heading into California where Jackson used to live. They passed the van a few times while traveling the city on their vacation before curiosity got the best of them and they had to stop to check it out.
They found a logo on the bus and ended up looking it up online to find out what it was.
“I saw that it was a photo booth bus, and I thought that was a really interesting idea,” Jackson said. “I had never seen anyone do something like that before.”
Even after coming back home, the bus stuck with them both, and they started joking that a photo booth bus would make for a cool side business for them. Months went by, and Carilli said they still couldn’t quite shake the bus from their thoughts.
So in 2019, they found a 1978 Volkswagen bus in Colorado Springs that they fell in love with. They bought it without seeing it in person, and by August, they had finally launched their side business, Roll with Juniper.
The idea was for them to build a photo booth in the back of the bus and start taking Juniper, also known as Big June, to weddings. That way, guests can take home photos of them inside the vintage bus and the bride and groom can keep custom-made props as keepsakes.
When they first got Juniper in 2019, they started making plans for a makeover. They started creating designs for how to make the photo booth, what they wanted the ceiling and flooring to look like and how they wanted to paint the exterior of the van.
After their plans were made, they sent Juniper off to a shop about 15 minutes down the street for a paint job soon before their planned grand opening of the business at the start of April 2020. They got the bus back in late March and quickly felt their plans of opening drifting away.
“I don’t think they had officially locked us down yet, but things were really shutting down,” Andrew said. “That was right there at the end of March, so by the time we got the bus back, everything had shut down and we had gone into quarantine.”
Angie admitted that they were both scared at the time. They had just invested much of their savings into the van, and the weddings that they had tentatively booked had all either been postponed or cancelled.
But the couple kept a positive attitude and saw the time in quarantine as the perfect opportunity to completely renovate Juniper, ripping out the entirety of the interior of the van down to the bare metal.
Outside of the exterior paint job, they renovated everything themselves. They spent long hours figuring out how to make it work, watching YouTube videos on how to curve pieces of wood for the ceiling, building and rebuilding the photo booth until they had something they liked and making many, many visits to Home Depot.
“It was all by just trial and error,” Angie said.
In the end, they came out with a bus that they are proud of. It now has a completely white exterior, they can adjust the Volkswagen logo on the front for photos, the interior has vinyl wood flooring and a birchwood ceiling, and the inside of the bus features a photo booth where guests can immediately receive prints of their photos.
They booked their first wedding in September, and community members have been reaching out to them for bookings ever since. Andrew said they even met their original goal for 2020 despite the pandemic.
“[We said] if we could do an event per month, we’d be happy, and we ended up doing 12 even without really trying because of quarantine and lockdown,” Andrew said.
Especially with wedding season beginning to pick up, Andrew and Angie find themselves staying busy each weekend, working their full-time jobs during the week before heading off to a Saturday wedding and then maybe a Sunday photoshoot. With their growing business, they said they have also already surpassed the goal of booking 26 events that they set for themselves for 2021.
“We’ve been blessed to get to where we are now,” Andrew said.
The two of them even started taking Juniper out to events in the community last year, bringing the bus to Halcyon and NoFo Brewing Co. Angie said some families in the area have started to recognize them, and everyone always loves to see the bus and have their photo taken in the backseat.
She noted that Juniper just has a way of making people happy.
“Once you get to the event and get set up, when people walk up, there is never a person that doesn’t have a smile on their face,” Angie said.
Some of Andrew’s favorite moments when taking Juniper out into the community, however, are getting to hear other’s stories about their time in their own Volkswagen buses from back in the 1970s.
“Anyone that was over 12 years old anytime in the ‘70s or anytime before, they all have a story about, ‘Oh, I remember when I was 21 and we drove one of these across the country,’” Andrew said. “It brings back a lot of nostalgia for a lot of people, which is kind of cool …. I love hearing people’s stories about what they did with their bus. You’d be amazed how many people will tell you that they had one, too. I guess they were much more popular than I thought.”
Community members at Halcyon and NoFo Brewing loved the bus so much that Angie said they even started asking about them doing photoshoots for Christmas and other special occasions.
“Sure, why not?” Angie told them.
Angie has some experience in photography from school and a past job, but she said she is in no way a professional photographer. She immediately started reaching out to friends who are to get advice on what equipment to use and to learn more about shooting.
“She really stepped up her game, did her research and got herself educated on the subject, and she’s done a lot of the photography stuff herself …. She’s really come a long way with that,” Andrew said.
Now, she said photography is something that she will continue with and learn more about for the rest of her life.
The two of them also want to continue to grow Roll with Juniper as much as they can, hoping to one day turn it into a full-time job for them both. They are excited for the future of the business and to see how it will continue to impact the community.
As they think more about growth, they have also started to look for another Volkswagen bus to bring to even more events and keep Juniper company.
“If the right bus shows up, we’ll definitely make the move,” Andrew said.