The Closing Bell: New B&B in Butchertown, big step forward for Hotel NuLu, and more

Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

Bed and breakfast coming soon to Butchertown

Photo by Stephen George

Photo by Stephen George

It took one walk-through for sisters Kim and Kate Lesak to fall for the house at 1417 Story Ave. in Butchertown that will soon open as the Guesthouse on Story. Built in 1870, the building was in decent shape, configured as a single-family home on the second and third floors with a business at ground level, and — to them — all potential.

So they bought it. That day.

And a month later, just after Christmas, the sisters — along with their contractor — embarked on a six-month renovation to turn the house into a bed and breakfast, with mid-century modern touches, Crosley record players in each room, and a commercial kitchen. When it opens this summer, there will be seven rooms — five with ensuite bathrooms, two with Jack-and-Jane style shared bathrooms — available for a range of $149 to $169 per night, which is competitive with downtown hotels. And on the second floor, there will be a common area with a living room set, a jukebox, and a connected dry pantry.

Some elements are reminiscent of traditional B&B’s, which are in a time of unease due to the explosion of house-sharing services such as Airbnb. But evolution is key, so don’t expect the Guesthouse to be static.

Kate (left) and Kim Lesak | Photo by Stephen George

Kate (left) and Kim Lesak | Photo by Stephen George

“It will change as we go,” Kim Lesak told TCB during a recent tour of the building, which is slated to open in June. “We’re really growing this into our own version of a B&B. I won’t be here cooking bacon every morning.”

When there is a chef in the kitchen, he or she will be cooking locally sourced foods, Kate Lesak said. In addition, the bathrooms will feature soaps made in Louisville. And whenever possible, the sisters said they’ll source materials from the Butchertown neighborhood. The byproduct will be a higher-quality experience for guests, they said.

“We’ve put money into beds and sheets, because that’s what’s going to keep people coming back,” Kate Lesak said.

Speaking of money, the sisters paid $235,000 for the building. They put $100,000 of their own capital into it and financed the rest. All in, they say their investment is in the $400,000 neighborhood.

Hotel NuLu signs manager, breaking ground in August

"Scenes from NuLu Fest 2014 (Photo by Marty Pearl)"

NuLu, doing its festival thing in 2014. | Photo by Marty Pearl

It appears the much-anticipated Hotel NuLu project just took a major step forward.

The $34 million proposed boutique hotel, which will be under the Marriott’s AC Hotels flag, has landed a manager: Winegardner & Hammons, the Cincinnati-based hotel management firm that manages Marriott hotels around the country. That’s according to a story in the Cincinnati Business Courier last month, about another possible AC Hotels project in Cincinnati. The story also notes an Aug. 1 groundbreaking for the project:

According to Winegardner & Hammons’ most recent company report, it also recently signed a contract to manage an AC Hotel in Louisville that is scheduled to break ground in August.

We’re told by neighborhood insiders that’s Hotel NuLu.

IL last reported on the 150-room planned hotel in February, when Ron Turnier, the Creation Gardens founder who owns the 1.4-acre plot at the corner of East Market and Shelby streets where the hotel would sit, told us plans were still moving ahead — albeit a little slower than he’d anticipated. Turnier didn’t respond to a request for an update on the project.

Local stock focus: Porter Bancorp and CafePress

1. Porter Bancorp (ticker: PBIB): In January, things looked pretty grim for Louisville’s Porter Bancorp. The bank holding company had just gotten notice from the Nasdaq that if it couldn’t get its stock to trade above $1 per share for 10 days in a row, it would be delisted from the exchange. At the time, Porter’s stock traded at close to $0.50 per share, and it looked like $1 per-share was just a dream.

But the dream has come true: Porter closed at north of $1 per share for 12 trading days in a row, warding off stock-listing exile. Even better, Porter’s been a great short-term investment, up 116.7 percent year-to-date.

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What changed? For starters, Porter has become profitable. Its most recent quarterly earnings, reported April 30, showed the firm eking out positive net income of $409,000 for the quarter, or $0.02 per share, for the first quarter of 2015. The firm had logged a loss of $976,000 for this same time period a year ago.

Another bullish sign: Porter Director Norman Satterthwaite has purchased close to 10,000 shares of the firm’s stock over the past few weeks.

2. CafePress (ticker: PRSS): CafePress is still losing money, just not as much as it had been. PRSS reported revenues of $27.4 million, down 11 percent versus the same quarter a year ago. It also reported a net loss of $3.1 million for the quarter. This was actually good, though, or at least better: The year before, the net loss had been $6.4 million.

Investors initially liked this trend, and shares of PRSS took an immediate bump, although they fell in the following trading days:

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In a post-earnings conference call with analysts, PRSS execs shared some thoughts as to where the firm is headed. The most exciting news? Its mobile traffic is now even with its desktop traffic. A year ago, desktop still generated 60 percent of the firm’s total traffic.

“People are more willing to transact every day on mobile device(s), versus what they were in the past,” said CEO Fred Durham. He also noted the firm’s customer satisfaction scores are up, the number of calls to the call center are down, and customers are getting packages faster.

CafePress also reported it has $51.4 million in cash and cash equivalents. Durham said the plan is to use this cash for future investments, though nothing is planned. —David Serchuk

In Brief

Earlier this month, we broke the news that James Reddish, GLI’s VP of economic and workforce development, was leaving the chamber for Chicago. He wasn’t the only one who left. Around the same time, GLI also lost Steve Luckett, VP of investor development, and Nicole Eovino, a former assistant director at EnterpriseCorp. The three big-time departures come as the one-year anniversary of Mayor Greg Fischer’s takeover of economic development efforts from GLI approaches this summer. In a statement, GLI president and CEO Kent Oyler said the chamber continues to attract “top talent” and is actively recruiting replacements. 

It’s been a good spring for OOHology. On the heels of a February expansion into Indianapolis, and two weeks after announcing it had picked off two creative directors from Power Creative, the firm tells IL it has hired Lindsay Carter as director of client services. Carter, most recently of red7e, will lead a team of account managers and also work on business development. Her first day on the job was May 11.

Argo Sons Coffee is moving to Shelby Park. The East End small-batch roasters have been sharing space with Music-Go-Round out on Hurstbourne Lane, but they’ve got their own digs now at 1151 S. Shelby St. Working in partnership with Access Ventures, the impact-investment firm based in The Park, the co-working space the group also developed in the neighborhood. Access bought the building for $65,000 in November. Argo Sons says it needs the additional space to accommodate its growing wholesale and subscription services. Scarlet’s Bakery, another Access-backed venture, is due to open across the street later this year.

While storage spaces may be the very definition of unsexy real estate, they can be profitable, as shown by a recent sale brokered by Louisville’s Grisanti Group. The firm sold the former Storage Solutions (now Extra Space), a 776-unit, 110,000-square-foot storage facility located at 11440 Blankenbaker Access Dr., to New York-based real estate investment trust W.P. Carey, Inc. for $10.2 million. The property is one of the largest storage facilities in Kentucky and generates more than $1 million annually in rent. The sale was completed April 29. Storage Solutions had been owned by John Shaheen. —DS

The Week that Was

From the It’s-hard-to-stand-in-a-stiff-wind Department, we learned this week that the Property Valuation Administrator will extend the deadline for appealing the latest round of property tax assessments to May 29 at 4 p.m. The agency, which has been under fire for reassessments that in some cases increased home values by more than 150 percent, told IL earlier this week it would review all assessments with a 30 percent increase or higher. The agency also confirmed it’s seeing an unusually large volume of appeals, which will likely more than double the previous average. Before announcing the extension, PVA Chief of Staff Colleen Younger told IL the agency expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 appeals — 10 percent of the total number of assessments conducted this round.

Speaking of numbers that caught our attention: $683.4 million. That’s how much the University of Louisville Foundation plans to spend on new development at the Belknap Campus downtown by 2020. The projects, demoed before the university’s board of trustees on Thursday, would change the complexion of the university’s main campus. They include a new “visitors’ center” and roundabout at Floyd Street and Brandeis Avenue, near the I-65 campus entrance. On Arthur Street, U of L plans to build the “Institute for Product Realization” incubator. And behind Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the university plans a multi-building “research park” — tied to the Speed School — that will house work focused on logistics and distribution, computer technology, renewable energy and additive manufacturing.

On the Shelby Campus, U of L will also build a hotel and mixed-use commercial development that it expects will include restaurants, according to President James Ramsey. “We’re going to be real crass,” he said as he introduced the idea to the trustees, a nod to the Foundation’s desire for a competitive return on its ongoing ShelbyHurst investment.