Cruze Farm Announces Opening of Permanent Downtown Location

Tennessee Marquee Announces the Coming of Cruze Farm to Gay Street, August 2018

It’s been an increasingly open secret in recent weeks that something was up with Cruze Farm and a possible downtown location. Given the success of two pop up shops in downtown the last couple of years, anticipation of an announcement has been high. I recently spoke with Colleen Cruze Bhatti to get the details and now they are ready to announce their new location at 445 South Gay Street, Suite 3. It’s close to the corner of Union and Gay.

It’s a special spot historically in Knoxville, as the building was completed in 1905 as the home for Miller’s Department Store, a business it housed for almost seventy years. R. F. Graf designed the six story building which was one of the tallest buildings in downtown Knoxville at the time of its construction. It was stripped of it’s distinctive masonry and covered with reflective glass to “modernize it.” In 1998 the building was saved from demolition by KUB and restored to its original appearance by Duane Grieve. (Information thanks to Knox Heritage)

New Location for Cruze Farm Ice Cream Shop, 455 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, August 2018

For Colleen, the building holds another historically significant designation: Her grandmother, Frances Louise Burkhart Cruze worked at the department store. Originally a teacher, she married the janitor, who also happened to be a farmer. She had to keep the marriage secret to keep her teaching job, ultimately giving it up to work on the farm. There she was known as a happy, loving woman who raised four children on a dairy farm, always working in her dress – a tradition continued by the Cruze family today in her honor.

She credits the current business successes to her partnership with her husband Manjit Bhatti. She says the two met at the Bistro at the B

ijou where, failing to get his attention, she paid $20 to another employee get his number. Now she says, “We are business partners, family and best friends. I don’t feel like this would be happening otherwise. I think it’s good to have a partner.”

Cruze Farm Milk Bar, 513 Union Avenue, Knoxville, June 2016

She says both his parents are great cooks and he has the same talent. He’s taken over improving and developing recipes which has given her the opportunity to focus on the people who matter: customers and employees. “I think you really should treat people the way you want to be treated. You can’t just love food and cooking, you have to love people and build community through business. I love building a team and we don’t have high turnover.”

The above comment played out as I heard her ask an eighteen-year-old member of the team for her opinion on making the announcement of the new store. She pointed out they’ve been working on a permanent location for a Gay Street store for over a year. In the meantime, of course, they also opened the successful Cruze Farm Pizza Barn.

Cruze Farm Pop Up Store, 412 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, May 2017

The new restaurant will have “fresh churned,” or soft serve ice cream. The mix for each flavor is made at the farm without the milk, which is added in store. Soft serve, she points out, has half the fat because it doesn’t need all the fat and sugar to achieve the consistency required for scooping.

Flavors out the gate will include sweet cream (their most popular), cookies and cream, coffee, chocolate and lavender honey. They’ll always have sorbet for people who are lactose intolerant or simply prefer it. They’ll also offer “churns” (think blizzard) and milkshakes, as well as floats. They’ll have affogatos, which involves pouring espresso over ice cream (I’m in!), as well as coffee, espresso and lattes.

Colleen Cruze Bhatti Getting Business Done Downtown, Knoxville, August 2018

You’ve probably already noticed the red awnings. There will be additional signage and the shop will feature a front area for ordering and prep, table seating and for Cruze Farm merchandise (including take-home ice cream and milk) while seating will be in a cozy area in the back with retro booths in bright colors. The walls will be decorated with chronological photographs featuring a day in the life of the farm. She wants people to know there is an actual farm – a question she gets often.

The store will have a main entrance on the street and handicapped accessibility through the atrium. The restaurant will employee thirty full and part-time workers, many of them UT students. Hours are projected to be Monday through Thursday, Noon to 11:00 PM, Friday and Saturday, Noon to Midnight and Sunday, Noon to 10:00 PM. The target date for opening is August 11.


  1. Sabrina Greene says

    It’s exciting to see so many local businesses open downtown!

  2. Best news ever! Will they bring pizza to the permanent location?

  3. No hand scoop? :/

  4. They ought to have some regular ice cream and not just soft serve………..

  5. Aaron Thompson says


  6. Art Wagner says

    I believe it was Majit who was responsible for the excellent Indian food that Cruze sold from their food truck one season at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. I was sad to see that go–illustrating that good Indian food is something still conspicuously missing from Downtown food choices. [Hint, hint]

  7. Blake Roller says

    I’m really let down that they continue to move away from their hand scooped ice cream that was at the Union pop up location. That ice cream stood out and was truly unique. I tried their new soft serve product and was very let down. I’ve not been back since the change and don’t see me coming to this new location for the same style product I can get at any fast food establishment

  8. I wish they would bring back the hand scooped ice cream but we are excited for the new permanent location.

  9. Loves me some Cruze Farm, but that’s three ice cream places on one block downtown. Hope they can all survive.

    • Most Kilwins store are in heavy tourist destinations and have 1/3 of the space the Kilwins in knoxville has. I can’t imagine that Kilwins can survive against 2 other local, independent ice cream places like Cruze Farm and the Phoenix pharmacy.

  10. Great news! Love how you break stuff before the Gannett News sentinel daily!

    • He didn’t break any news. Cruze Farm announced this on their Facebook page way before this post was even posted.

      • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

        Thanks for making sure no one had the impression I broke any news, Alex. Interesting though – find the details I gave about the backstory on their FB page. 🙂

  11. I was wondering what was going there! Great news that they’re opening up the street level of that building for more businesses the public can enjoy. Who owns the office part of that building again? Is it KUB?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      KUB owns the building, but leases out large parts of it. Regions bank is on the corner, now Cruze next to it and, just down the way in a part of the building added later, Bliss/Tori Mason.

  12. Hooray! I love the soft serve and I’ve been looking forward to this.

  13. Chris Eaker says

    I hope with all the requests for regular ice cream (not soft serve), they will add it back. Who cares about the fat? It’s ice cream. That’s obviously not on the top of people’s minds if they’re eating ice cream. Soft serve has just as much sugar though.

  14. Excited and looking forward to this! Winter offerings should include a good eggnog and hot chocolate recipes.

  15. “Cruze Dairy Farm of Tennessee is the Beyoncé of Buttermilk.”
    –Erika Council, of Bomb Biscuits in Atlanta, on NPR’s The Splendid Table yesterday.

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