Stromal interacting molecule 1 (STIM1), reported to be an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca 2+ sensor controlling store-operated Ca 2+ entry, redistributes from a diffuse ER localization into puncta at the cell periphery after store depletion. STIM1 redistribution is proposed to be necessary for Ca 2+ release–activated Ca 2+ (CRAC) channel activation, but it is unclear whether redistribution is rapid enough to play a causal role. Furthermore, the location of STIM1 puncta is uncertain, with recent reports supporting retention in the ER as well as insertion into the plasma membrane (PM). Using total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and patch-clamp recording from single Jurkat cells, we show that STIM1 puncta form several seconds before CRAC channels open, supporting a causal role in channel activation. Fluorescence quenching and electron microscopy analysis reveal that puncta correspond to STIM1 accumulation in discrete subregions of junctional ER located 10–25 nm from the PM, without detectable insertion of STIM1 into the PM. Roughly one third of these ER–PM contacts form in response to store depletion. These studies identify an ER structure underlying store-operated Ca 2+ entry, whose extreme proximity to the PM may enable STIM1 to interact with CRAC channels or associated proteins.