West Knox eatery opens to great fanfare
by Maggie Tharp
When it comes to doughnuts, it seems like there’s not much that hasn’t been attempted. They’ve been filled with foie gras, used to make burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches and even been the inspiration for ring-shaped spaghetti and sushi creations. While those off-the-wall creations are exciting (and I’d willingly try every one of them), sometimes the best way to stand out – if Knoxville’s new shop Status Dough is any indication – is just to focus on making a really, really good product.
Status Dough opened March 24 at 6535 Kingston Pike. The bright, cleanly decorated establishment offers an assortment of both yeast and cake options, including specialty doughnuts like apple fritters and paczkis. They also serve Intelligentsia coffee.
Jimmy Wooten, a co-owner of Status Dough, says that they’ve experienced great business since opening.
“From my perspective, it’s been fantastic. I think everything exceeded my expectations. We’ve been busier than I could ever hope to be,” Wooten says. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the community at large, and it seems like day in and day out, our business just continues to grow.”
Wooten and his co-owner, Joe Seiber, both University of Tennessee alumni, met in the early aughts and bartended together at Riverside Tavern.
“We became friends, 15 years passed and now we’re in business again,” Wooten says.
According to Wooten, he handles front-of-house and customer service matters, in addition to the coffee program while Seiber manages the kitchen and the doughnuts.
The hunt for a location for Status Dough began in the summer of 2016, and they found the Bearden Hill location that fall. Construction began in early January 2017, followed by their opening in March.
Nearly everyone’s had a doughnut in their lifetime, but not everyone’s been treated to a gourmet doughnut.
“The vast majority of people’s perception of doughnuts is fast food and/or gas station, grocery [store], commercial-made products, which certainly have their place and always will in the market, but the gourmet side of things is very underserviced,” Seiber says.
Status Dough makes their doughnuts by hand, in addition to hand-crafting other components – such as glazes and fillings – that are involved in making their doughnuts.
“It’s truly a scratch-made, truly a handcrafted doughnut,” Seiber says.
The effort that goes into their doughnuts pays off because they’re really quite good. Unbelievably good, in fact. Think pillowy paczkis (a traditional Polish pastry) filled with sugary strawberry cream. Think perfect, honey-glazed doughnuts as big as your hand. Think substantial cake doughnuts with a soft, almost biscuit-y interior and just the right amount of glaze, resulting in a subtle crunch on the exterior and an all-around amazing textural experience. Their bestsellers are the buttermilk old-fashioned (my favorite) and the apple fritter, but, really, any menu choice is a good one.
An interesting tidbit from my conversation with Seiber and Wooten is that they don’t spend money on advertising. Instead, they spend it on their product.
“The most important thing that you’re going to serve the public is your product. You can spend money on advertising, but you can’t consume advertising,” Wooten says.
As it turns out, when a doughnut is good enough, customers can’t help but spread the word.
“I think that most of our business has come from word-of-mouth referrals, people telling their friends and family, and that’s why I think we’ve been seeing an increase in business,” Seiber says.
Just look on Instagram for evidence of the budding social conversation around Status Dough. (On second thought, wait until you’re done with this article; once you’ve started scrolling through a feed of their delicious doughnuts, you might not want to stop.) From the amount of likes and tags on social media, it’s not surprising Status Dough’s customers are coming back for more.
“I see the same people at the shop every day. We have regulars that come in practically five mornings a week on their way to work to pick up dozens or half-dozens or have breakfast with us,” Wooten says. “Every weekend, it’s the same weekend crowd and these people are coming back, and the next time they come in they’re bringing their friends with them. So from that aspect, I think we’ve done a fairly decent job keeping a good customer base and then growing that over time.”
Wooten and Seiber say that they began the process of choosing a name months before they opened. Wooten says the name was borne from a burst of inspiration from his wife, Karen, as they were driving back from a vacation last fall. That was their “Eureka moment,” as Seiber calls it.
“We kind of bounced it around, Joe liked it, everybody liked it,” Wooten says. “Up until that point, every name we had come up with either was taken or there were too many nos.”
The meaning is somewhat a play on words, but it also alludes to the quality of their product, and the idea that a doughnut from Status Dough is more than just a sweet pastry.
“Status quo would be average, but Status Dough is more of a status symbol,” Wooten says.
As far as their Bearden Hill location is concerned, Wooten says that they’re glad to be in such a thriving area of Knoxville. (Fun fact: Seiber worked next door at Calhoun’s during college.)
“I love the Bearden district; I think it’s an area and part of town that’s definitely on the upswing,” Wooten says. “It seems like it’s a very vibrant local-restaurant scene, and that’s kind of where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the middle of that.”
Though Status Dough is only a few months old, Seiber and Wooten say that they plan to open another location in Tennessee. (The more Status Doughs the better, if you ask me.)
To sum up my feelings about Status Dough, there’s a quote from distinguished fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent that says it best: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
Status Dough produces a truly high-quality product, with the potential (I think) to gather a cult-like following around Knoxville and beyond. Food trends come and go, but a handmade, simply perfect doughnut will stand the test of time.
For more information on Status Dough, check out their website at www.statusdoughnuts.com or call them at (865) 999-0988.