Barbara Toms stands with her pies on display at her Jefferson St. bakery. Photo by Russell Rivers, Jr.

By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — Music City is full of hidden gems, if you know where to look.

One of those jewels is tucked off busy Jefferson Street, a neon sign the only eye-catching decoration that Barbara Toms’s pie bakery, Sweet Creations, boasts outside its doors.

But upon entry, the senses of smell and taste become heightened and visitors quickly realize what’s behind the shop’s outstanding reputation.

Sweet Creations is a “known unknown” to Nashville residents, and it’s making headlines for its signature pies made fresh with natural ingredients.

Taste of Home magazine awarded her apple pie as best in the state and recently named her business the best pie bakery in the state. Her pecan pie was recognized in Travel & Leisure as one of the 25 best pies in the nation.

“That particular honor sort of capitalized what we’re trying to do. We say we’re baking pies with a purpose and that purpose is giving back to the community,” she said of the recent Taste of Home honor.

Her pies have made their way into homes across the nation—the bakery’s peach pie was featured in A&E’s “Unforgettable” and her pies got a spot on ABC’s “Nashville.” She laughed, noting her website crashed after the “Unforgettable” episode aired.

These accomplishments have certified her business as part of Jefferson Street’s history.

Memorable as the pies are, there’s more to this bakery than its revered sweet pastry.

For Toms, her faith and a side hobby rooted in the culinary experience of her parents were the perfect ingredients for realizing her purpose—helping people get another chance by creating jobs. “I tell people my pulpit is outside the walls of the church,” she said. 

Toms has experience in outreach, having completed the community development track at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in 2007 and acting as vice chair and chair of the board of her church’s nonprofit, 15th Avenue Baptist Community Development Corporation, that served to give back to the community. 

Toms, a Tennessee State University law graduate with experience in the public defender’s office and running a private practice, aided with economic stress following formerly incarcerated people by hiring them to work in the bakery she ran out of the church. “When I worked for the nonprofit I was the job training coordinator,” she said. “I saw how difficult it was to get a start after you’ve had that kind of detour and so I made a commitment that I was going to do something that would generate revenue to return to the community.” 

The bakery, operated and funded with a federal low-interest loan, took root on Jefferson St. via a chance encounter through a friend, now-councilwoman Sharon Hurt, who asked her to bake a pecan pie for someone. That person was senior vice president over snack sales of Mapco, and he loved her pie so much he asked to put them in his stores. 

Putting her pies into Mapco was a way of “putting feet” to her mission to create a revenue stream, she said. She no longer sells in Mapco due to product shelf life, but she partners with delivery services such as Uber and DoorDash in addition to shipping her products using individual private shippers across the U.S.

She said she’s chosen to be happy in her own backyard. 

She’s proud of her team, the quality of her product and customer service, she said. “What I have learned on this journey is that you have to deal with the good as well as the bad, and thankfully the good outweighs the bad. That’s the reason it cannot ever be about the money.”

“It’s the look on people’s faces when they know they’re tasting butter,” she beamed.

You can find Sweet Creations at 942 Jefferson St.,, Jack’s BBQ and Kroger on Monroe St. in Nashville. Her pies can also be found at BNA airport once renovations are finished.