Flour Head Bakery (and Brewery) Coming to Central Street

Future Home of Flour Head Bakery and Brewery, Corner of Central and Bernard, Knoxville, August 2016

Future Home of Flour Head Bakery and Brewery, Corner of Central and Bernard, Knoxville, August 2016

Tomato Head, co-owned by Mahasti Vafaie and Scott Partin, has long been a staple of downtown. Eventually, the couple opened another Tomato Head restaurant in Maryville, then moved it to west Knoxville. Subsequently, the kitchen at the downtown Tomato Head wasn’t enough to contain Mahasti’s ambitions and the couple opened a bakery on Middlebrook Pike in 2012.

The 1800 square foot production space allowed Flour Head, which they named the bakery component of the business, to not only bake goods for their restaurants. They expanded to providing their fresh-baked international breads to a number of large and specialty grocery stores. The business grew – and ultimately needed a larger space.

MPC Meeting, Knoxville, August 2016

MPC Meeting, Knoxville, August 2016

The couple found that space back in the downtown area where it all started for them. The couple is poised to purchase the Brown Appliance Parts Company building at 857 N. Central Street, on the corner of Central and Bernard. It’s just across from the Hive and just a few yards from Schulz Brau Brewing Company. Zoning limits the size of a craft bakery to 3,000 square feet. The building is about 20,000 square feet, plus a basement. What to do with that extra space?

I spoke to Scott Partin who told me he’s “always want to make beer,” and the new building will offer the couple the opportunity to do just that. Initial plans call for producing beer only for their restaurants – but the idea seems open-ended. Whether a tasting room or other businesses might be included in the space remains for discussion, but Mr. Partin made it clear the couple doesn’t plan to purchase the building only to have most of it remain dormant.

The news became public because of a routine MPC hearing in which their proposed use was approved at yesterday’s meeting. That was the first step of a lengthy process. Months of planning and design (by Sanders Pace) will follow and the building is still occupied by the previous business. After some months of planning, the renovations to the building will begin, with a target of late 2017, for opening. The bakery will likely open before any other pieces of the business. After the transition, the Middlebrook Pike facility will be closed.

Scott Partin, Co-Owner of Flour Head Bakery and Tomato Head, Knoxville, August 2016

Scott Partin, Co-Owner of Flour Head Bakery and Tomato Head, Knoxville, August 2016

Interestingly, the allowance for 3,000 square foot craft bakeries was approved by the Metropolitan Planning Commission following its decision that C-3 zoning would allow for up to 3,000 square foot breweries. In a sense, craft breweries made this craft bakery possible in this location which, in turn will produces a craft brewery.

This continues the development of this corridor as, among other things, a small production corridor. Given Scott and Mahasti’s record, this promises to be another successful enterprise stretching downtown out Central Street. And it makes clear that we haven’t seen the end of craft breweries just yet, as this represents the latest announced expansion of Knoxville’s fastest growing industry.


  1. Always good to see the downtown area expand northward. With all these businesses opening up I wouldn’t be surprised if a parking garage or two gets built up on central.

  2. We still miss them dearly out in Maryville! 🙁
    Sadness aside, Mahasti has always been such a wonderful supporter of so many programs in Knoxville, especially the library. Always glad to see them succeed!!

  3. I love everything Tomato Head. So glad to see them moving back downtown.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Just to be clear, they haven’t ever left Market Square and, in fact, expanded a while back.

      • Yup. They ever redid the TH interior making the former front the back door! Great instincts at TH and always improving Knoxville. Bread is still a challenge in Knoxville but Mahastie will definitely find ways to succeed.

  4. What’s going to happen to Brown Appliance?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      You are the third person to ask me that this morning. I’m not sure. I just got this story late yesterday. I’ll try to find out.

      • Please do! Got 20 places to buy craft beer; Brown is the only place to find much of what they sell.

        • S Carpenter says

          I was told Brown Appliance will continue to operate for 6 months then move to a more Westerly location. Brown Appliance (the business) was bought out by a regional larger enterprise in the recent past.

  5. I was curious about the zoning and found this on the MPC site:

    Uses permitted. The following uses shall be permitted in the C-3 general commercial district:
    1. Retail establishments including incidental manufacturing of goods for sale at retail on the premises; provided, however, that the space devoted to manufacturing does not exceed twenty (20) percent of the gross floor area of the establishment; sale and display rooms and lots, not including yards for storage of new or used building materials or yards for any scrap or salvage operations, or for storage or display of any scrap, salvage, or secondhand materials.

    Craft breweries are permitted upon review.

    All other manufacturing is prohibited, which is unfortunate considering that neighborhood is turning into a “maker” hub.

    An update of the zoning to allow light manufacturing/studios in all of the commercial buildings on Central would be a step in the right direction. If the city gets out of the way, it looks like very good things will continue to happen there.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I agree. I’m not sure how High Resolutions has such a large production facility, just a couple of blocks away. Maybe it has different zoning.

      • Nope – High Resolutions has exactly the same C-3 Zoning. C-3 is a legacy zone still representing the best urban planning ideals of the 1960s. Having it imposed on huge swaths of the center city is nonsense, since it only cursorily addresses development of any property other than greenfields in suburbia.

        Here’s the explanation of the zone from the Knoxville Zoning Ordinance: “Districts in this category are intended to include areas where commercial development has displaced or is displacing residential development, or is moving in on vacant lands.” It’s worth noting that there are at least a couple dozen houses in the surrounding few blocks that also share the same C-3 zoning, despite the fact that the entire zone prohibits residential uses, with only very limited exceptions. Want the Central St. corridor to become a mixed use neighborhood with an emphasis on “craft?” That’s not allowed under the zoning that was imposed on it decades ago when Knoxville’s zoning districts were used as a method of future land-use planning.

        “But wait,” you say. “What about North Central Village, the apartment building just a block to the north? That was allowed.” Only by the property being spot rezoned as O-2, an “Office” district, since that zone doesn’t have the same proscription against residential use. In order to get the mixed use redevelopment that all the planners and urbanites would agree in 2016 is the best scenario, N. Central St. will have to become a complete patchwork of unrelated zoning districts parcel by parcel — which seems to fly in the face of the ostensible purpose of zoning in the first place.

        • A fine mess.

          But it’s a real opportunity too. The sections of Central and Broadway close to downtown are the perfect places to create a new zoning category that allows mixed uses including light manufacturing, retail, entertainment and dwellings.

          I assume the city is already working on it, because if they aren’t they’re asleep at the wheel.

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

          Or we need to consider form-based zoning, which will be considered locally in the near future.

  6. Lauren Rider says

    For those with zoning concerns, it is a difficult fit for some great uses. The good news- City Council and MPC have a review in the works. The entire code will be examined over the coming months. Mixed Use has also been a topic of frequent discussion (think urban areas with retail/office on the bottom, residential above). We are past ready for some mixed use in areas of North Knoxville… the zoning is just written for 1960’s suburbia. The city knows this, council knows this and MPC knows this. Let council know you support the coming zoning changes.

  7. G. Mitchell says

    Tomato Head has the best bread ever! It’s the only whole wheat bread that our entire family eats and raves about. If their beer is as good as their bread they’ll be a huge hit. Fantastic! Can’t wait

  8. Michael Orlando says

    Any update on this?

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