Space Head, 24 Market Square, Knoxville, July 2019
A surprising buzz circulated around downtown yesterday afternoon as word spread that after only two months at 24 Market Square, Space Head had closed. Owned and operated by Mahasti Vafaie and Scott Partin, owners of Tomato Head and Flour Head, the restaurant offered a non-meat burger, a (very good imo) fried chicken sandwich and downtown’s only vegan ice cream.
It has to go down as one of the quickest closings on Market Square and one of the most surprising given the continued track record of the couple’s other enterprises. Tomato Head is one of the longest lived businesses downtown and the oldest on Market Square.
Additionally, the couple operates a second location in west Knoxville. Their spinoff bakery, Flour Head, has been a great success with their breads being used by a number of local restaurants. In addition, the couple is marketing a line of food products nationwide.
Contacted yesterday, Scott Partin said simply, “We just never drew enough customers to make it sustainable.” Regarding plans for the space, he said nothing has been decided and the couple will “assess in the coming days.” They own the building and could opt to use it themselves or lease it as they did to Bliss for many years.
It’s a reminder that opening and operating a business always carries risk. Even securing a location in the hottest spot in the city doesn’t offer certainty of success, nor does previous success mean it can be replicated. All of us who enjoy downtown or local businesses spread across the city owe a debt of gratitude to the people who, successfully or unsuccessfully, put themselves at risk to make the city better. If we want local businesses, we have to support them.