A Look at Knoxville’s Newest Sweet

Go to college, become a speech pathologist, marry a commercial construction manager, quit your jobs, and open a bakery. Wait, what? Meredith and Scott Layton aren’t what one might expect when it comes to members of the foodservice industry, but they are part of a fast-growing population of entrepreneurs that are breaking into the foodservice industry as a second or third career.

Meredith, originally from Memphis, Tenn., and Scott, who was raised on his family’s farm in Southeast Missouri are no strangers to good home cooking. In fact, their entire concept is built on their love of home-cooked meals and several enhanced family recipes.

The Concept

Seven years ago, the couple began their journey into the food world when they launched their cupcake shop: The Cupcakery. As the business grew, so did the competition. Their passion for an entrepreneurial lifestyle combined with the need to differentiate in a market saturated with cupcake shops led to a new plan: They decided to grow their offerings.

Though they weren’t entirely certain what the new concept would look like, they knew they would keep a “mini” option on the menu. The Laytons realized the value of individually sized servings from their cupcake shop business. Customers enjoyed having the ability to experiment with various flavors and also liked that they could take a variety home to share with guests.

After much debate, the Laytons settled on pies. With recipes from Scott’s Granny and Meredith’s Nanny, the couple went to work perfecting their old family recipes. They spent countless hours in the kitchen of the Cupcakery refining their pie crust recipe and ultimately came up with just the right mix to yield both miniature and full-sized pies. This was crucial, as they wanted a consistent flavor and texture for all of their products because, as mentioned before, Meredith believes, “You can bring four mini pies home just as easily as you can bring one. Guests want options and the ability to experiment with different flavors.”

Nanny's Pecan Pie

As work continued on their pie recipes, Scott decided to focus on the development of the perfect Southern biscuit to reel in the breakfast crowds. According to Meredith, it was important that it be, “crusty on the outside with a good mix of butter, while light and fluffy on the inside.” She reminisced about the countless evenings spent tasting biscuit after biscuit while they worked to find the right combination.

Once the biscuit was finalized, it was on to the spreads. Yes, those are also house-made. Having grown up on a farm, Scott was well versed in fruit sourcing. Meredith had also spent quite a bit of time learning to can veggies and fruit from her mother-in-law, so the two went to work creating the spreads that top their oversized biscuits. According to Meredith, “You just can’t put store-bought jam on a homemade biscuit.”

If you visit Buttermilk Sky, you’re in for a treat. The spreads rotate, but you will have a varied selection of fruit jams, flavored butters, and their rich chocolate gravy. If the logistics work out, the strawberries for the strawberry jam will soon come from Scott’s family’s farm. And along those lines, the bakery does make the greatest effort to source anything it can from local establishments.

The Opening

With their recipes in place, the Laytons were ready to get the shop open. Their original plan was to open in August and slowly introduce their recipes to the community, but August came and went with no pie. In fact, the shop didn’t actually open its doors until a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

The takeaway: Construction almost always takes longer than anticipated. Also, there are multiple certifications and licenses required before you can start serving food to the public, and each of those can take weeks to obtain.

The day the shop opened, the Laytons realized they were tremendously undersized and underprepared. They sold out of pies hours before their planned closing time and had to close early just to prepare for the next morning. In a matter of just a few days, they began planning for their next location.

Mini Pie Selection Buttermilk Sky

The Second Location

After careful consideration, the Laytons decided it would be best to convert one of their existing cupcake shops into a pie mega shop. The second location took five short days to flip from a merchandising location to a full-blown pie shop. To keep up with the demand at their first location, they needed more space to store their goods and a full-scale production kitchen. In those five days, they redecorated, installed a kitchen hoodchen, outfitted the kitchen with the equipment needed for bakeries, and rebranded the entire establishment.

Just days before Christmas, their second location opened and was immediately slammed with customers. The converted facilityproved incredibly beneficial to their operations, as it already had a much-needed walk-in cooler and more ingredient storage space. Upon its completion, the second location became the staging store, and the Laytons now make daily ingredient runs between their two locations.

The Future

The Buttermilk Sky team has big plans for the future. The Laytons are working with a consulting team to plan a franchise rollout. Though Meredith is concerned about capturing all the processes involved in the concept, her chief focus is on putting quality measures in place.

Of course, the most exciting rollout for this team will be the introduction of their new, lighter pies for warmer days. Guests can expect refreshing pies like key lime and lemon meringue to hit the menu as the weather warms.

As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Meredith to describe her recipe for success.

“It’s a balance of high demand and high quality,” she said. “You have to have a great recipe, the right location, and the team in place to keep up.”

For a taste of the Laytons’ scratch-made menu, visit Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop the next time you are in Knoxville and be sure to keep an eye out for the next location in your community. Who knows, you just may be the one opening the doors to the first Buttermilk Sky franchise.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.