The Maker City monthly blog takes a look at locations where Makers are found in The Maker City and features some of Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters and so much more. This month’s blog features the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center and its Gift Shop located in the heart of downtown. The Gift Shop is where you can find many local and regional makers, and one of those includes confectioner Sarah Loebner of Towns Toffee.
Featured Shop: Visit Knoxville Visitors Center Gift Shop
Answers provided by Monica Armstrong, Senior Director of Visitor & Retail Services at Visit Knoxville
With its natural beauty, convenient location, local history and thriving cultural and sports scene, Knoxville has become a real tourist destination. Why should visitors make a stop at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center?
The Visitors Center is more than just a place to gather information about Knoxville. In addition to our large brochure wall, we offer visual aids by streaming video content from all over Knoxville, highlighting a wide range of offerings. From mountain biking to local brews, art galleries to live entertainment, there is always something to do in this town. The Visitor Center is also home to a near-daily live radio show in partnership with WDVX radio station. Come shake hands and say howdy and enjoy some FREE live music from 12-1PM Monday-Thursday and Saturday!
What about the gift shop?
The Visitors Center Gift Shop highlights the vast Maker community here in Knoxville, partnering with over 80 local/regional makers to date. We make shopping local easy and has items that you won’t find other places. Paris Woodhull of Paris Woodhull Illustrations has created some custom pieces for us; Georgia Vogel of Honeymouth Leather has incorporated our hashtag #KNOXROCKS into glasses, keychains, beanies and koozies; Molly English, owner of English Rose Farm, creates seasonal items like Sunsphere Bath Bombs, Tri-Star Soaps, Peppermint Sugar Scrubs. And there’s lots more – come see us at 301 S. Gay Street or shop online!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I have been here a little over two years now and love promoting my hometown. I went to the University of Tennessee and received my Bachelor of Science in Retail, Hospitality. I love the city’s walkability and pet friendliness, and the wide range of cuisine the local restaurants bless us with. At the Visitors Center, we always hear the comment “everyone is so friendly here”. It makes me proud to be from a place where visitors notice that.
Featured Maker: Sarah Loebner of Towns Toffee
How did you get started in such a delicious occupation?
It began in childhood, when my dad - a schoolteacher - brought home a little white box full of toffee made and sold by the school’s custodian and his wife to raise money for their holiday gift shopping. When the couple were no longer able to continue, my mom Cindy and I vowed to develop the recipe in honor of the family that had shared the delicious gift with us.
Towns Toffee started as a side gig; I worked full-time as an art director/graphic designer. I had just left a very intense agency job for a slower-paced in-house designer position to improve my work/life balance, but that job was also all-consuming. I knew I needed to work for myself if I ever wanted to be fully in charge of my schedule.
My husband and I were working at home, making toffee to sell in order to finance an overseas trip. I was blown away by the outpouring of support and love for my toffee. We started out as Tennessee Toffee Co. and later adopted our present name.
Lots of businesses sell candy. What sets you apart?
We’re a small business making hand-crafted, artisanal toffee in various classic, specialty, and seasonal flavors. Our toffee is made with simple ingredients made the old-fashioned way, and it doesn’t hurt your teeth but melts in your mouth. We’ve worked with food scientists to perfect our line of flavors and are so proud of our products. We do all we can to support other small businesses and offer our toffee wholesale to them. While it’s not as profitable for us, small businesses are our nation’s backbone, and if we can help them be more profitable, then we have to do that.
In addition to the Downtown Knoxville Visitor Center Gift Shop, you can find Towns Toffee online at: