Now that a pharmacy is on the way to downtown, I haven’t heard a consensus for what we need next. I have heard doughnuts mentioned more than once and, while it might not be the most essential downtown need, it is certainly a nice amenity to add to the mix. I’m also excited about the area of downtown slated for Maker’s Donuts: 800 Tyson. You may not immediately recognize the address, but long-time readers will recognize the building. It belongs to “P,” one of everybody’s favorite downtown veterans and I stumbled across (and wrote about) both the building and P when I wrote about Bar Marley, which sits just down the hill (I haven’t heard anything new on that front).
At the time, I fell in love with the oddly shaped building beside the beautiful Old Gray Cemetery, as well as that whole section of the city. It’s sort an in-between area adjacent to downtown, Old North and Happy Holler. I think it’s an area poised to explode. All the building needed, I felt, was the right idea. Maybe that delicious concoction we all know and love will be just that.
Sean and Sara Alsobrooks are no strangers to people in and around downtown. Sean is the minister for Knoxlife Church, which he and Sara describe as “church for non-church people.” They moved to Knoxville from San Diego in 2007 and opened Remedy Coffee in the Old City as a part of the ministry (it’s a non-profit) and the church began meeting in the back room. After about two years, the congregation grew to the point it had to move. After a year in the Regal Cinema, it moved to the Bijou Theatre where it continues to meet each Sunday.
Sean also works with a web design company, Third & Grand Design, which he helped open. Sara pointed out that “Sean likes to start things.” Apparently a church with a related business and a design company aren’t enough. The couple has had their eye on artisanal doughnuts for a while. They’ve traveled to San Francisco, Portland and Austin noting local institutions that are known for their unique versions of the pastry. All the while they pondered the fact that no one has brought the concept to downtown Knoxville. As downtown residents – five years above Remedy, and now living in the Old North neighborhood – they are tuned in to what their neighbors are interested in having for the city.
I asked about the name and the connections to the church. I assumed, incorrectly as it turns out, that the “Maker” was a religious reference and that the new enterprise would be, like Remedy, similarly affiliated with the church. Neither is the case. “Maker” in this case refers to a crafts-person or a person who shapes and makes things from common elements. Additionally, the shop will be a completely separate enterprise from the church and will be a for-profit business.
What can we expect? Fresh, local ingredients like, hopefully Cruze Farm milk and more where possible and doughnuts with a twist. There will likely be not only sweet, but savory doughnuts. Check out the Maker’s Donut Facebook Page (and “like” it while you’re there) and you’ll see examples from other doughnut shops that will give you an idea of the kind of concept they are planning. Maple Bacon doughnuts from a shop in Massachusetts make me drool just a bit. You’ll also find more traditional versions. Sean also promises excellent coffee, possibly locally sourced. He plans to use a different vendor from the Intelligentsia Coffee served at Remedy.
The building is currently undergoing renovations and plans are still tentative, awaiting city approval among other things, but it’s really coming along. Sean noted that the ceiling inside was opened up to expose the beams and windows are set to be added. A large patio will be filled with chairs and a baker/pastry chef is being sought. If you are a well-qualified creative pastry chef and you are interested, you may want to contact them via the Facebook page.
I have to mention that the grease interceptor requirement again has reared its head and forced them to consider whether to pursue the project when they learned they would be required to install a 2,000 gallon version. Apparently there are alternatives which seem to work in other cities, but are not acceptable to KUB. At about $10,000, it turned out to be their biggest expenses required to open the shop.
The hope is to open by July or August, with hours likely to run from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Thursday through Sunday. Ten to twelve different doughnuts will be featured at a given time and rotated with others. They also may operate a cart to sell the doughnuts at events or farmers’ markets and delivery is something they will likely offer. In short, the two said they wanted it to be a “shop full of happiness.”
One final note: If you have a business idea you think might work in the larger, front space of this building – especially if it would be a complementary business to Maker’s Donuts, let me know and I’ll hook you up with “P.”