Welcome to the June 6 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Kindred making moves in nursing home portfolio

Kindred Healthcare announced last week it will close its nursing and rehabilitation facility on Bardstown Road, which has 110 residents and 153 employees. And though the company declined to elaborate on the motivation behind the closure, a review of Kindred’s portfolio reveals a series of recent sales and swaps to create “financial value” by unloading facilities that aren’t generating solid returns.

In an emailed statement about the Bardstown Road facility, the company said it made a “strategic decision” not to renew its lease (which says essentially nothing, given one would hope any decision involves at least a modicum of strategy).

Kindred did not respond to follow-up emails that sought a rationale for the action.

KindredHealthcare.The company operates six such nursing and rehabilitation centers in Louisville and Southern Indiana. The company says on its website that they “care for difficult-to-treat, chronically critically ill patients who require specialized and aggressive goal-directed care over an extended recovery period.”

Kindred recently has made lots of moves in its portfolio of such facilities, called long-term acute care hospitals, or LTACs.

In April, the company said it had signed an agreement to sell 12 LTACs to a private investment fund. The company said at the time that it expected those 12 facilities to break even this year, on operating earnings of about $215 million.

Last week, Kindred sold two more LTACs, to Select Medical Holdings Corp., but also bought four LTACs from the same company. Kindred essentially swapped two of its hospitals in Cleveland, with a combined 183 beds, with four SMHC facilities in Houston, Colorado Springs, Denver and Indianapolis, with a combined 189 beds. Kindred also paid the Pennsylvania-based company $800,000.

Benjamin Breier

Benjamin Breier

Kindred President and CEO Benjamin Breier said the transactions would create “strategic and financial value for Kindred” and would help it optimize its LTAC hospital portfolio.

As for the patients of the Bardstown Road facility, Kindred said it is working with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to help find them a new hospital.

“We will meet with residents and their families to discuss alternative placement options, (which) will be based on a resident’s needs and preferences,” the company said. “We will help arrange for residents and their families to visit other facilities and we will also cover the moving expenses.”

Kindred also said it will help employees find new jobs, including at other Kindred facilities. According to the website, the facility’s staff includes physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers and dieticians.

Kindred, which has about 100,000 employees, generated revenues of about $7 billion last year, but recorded a net loss of $93 million. Shares traded for about $12.50 last week, little changed from the end of last year, but down from about $22 a year ago.

The 1.8-acre Bardstown Road property, which includes the 33,000-square-foot hospital, is available for lease or sale. Its sale price is $3.3 million.

Interesting tidbit: The building is the same one in which Louisville attorneys David A. Jones Sr. and the late Wendell Cherry in 1961 launched the nursing home business that later would become health insurance giant Humana. IL confirmed the property’s storied history through Courier-Journal archives. —Boris Ladwig

Miniature golf course could be headed to west Louisville

This rough rendering shows where the course would be set up. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

This rough rendering shows where the course would be set up. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

West Louisville is lacking many things — upscale retail, more than a couple sit-down restaurants, a quality grocery store — but pending city approvals, residents won’t be without a putt-putt course.

The family-friendly amenity can’t currently be found in any of the West End’s nine neighborhoods, but a proposal by the Louisville Urban League could change that.

The nonprofit has filed paperwork with the city asking for a conditional use permit that, if approved, would allow the League to set up a nine-hole course at 1535 W. Broadway, next to its headquarters.

The property, which is owned by the Louisville Urban League, is currently vacant green space.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity,” Kevin Dunlap, interim director of the nonprofit’s Center for Housing & Financial Empowerment and “miniature golf course project manager,” said in a letter to Louisville Metro Planning & Design Services staff. “Currently there are no recreation facilities of this type within a 10 mile radius. The feedback that we’ve received has been overwhelmingly in favor of miniature golf course (sic).” —Caitlin Bowling

Big things happening at Interapt

“What’s next for Interapt? One word: scale.”

That’s what Ankur Gopal, founder and CEO of Interapt, told IL during a recent chat at their offices in the Nucleus Building. For around six months now, he’s been quietly setting Interapt up for big growth. That means lots of new hires and a new executive team.

Interapt creates enterprise solution products that include a mix of mobile apps for smartphones, tablets, Google Glass, and wearables. Two years ago, Interapt was more of a services company, but now Gopal has the business focused on products. Their products help physicians communicate via mobile without violating HIPPA regulations, and radio stations and entertainment venues create and manage mobile apps with calendars and push notifications, among other things.

Now Gopal has help steering the ship. At the beginning of the year he hired Eric Seto as chief operating officer and Doug Jones as senior advisor to expand Interapt’s executive team.

Jones moved back to Louisville from Los Angeles where he was working at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as chief information officer. His background is in health care IT, and he spent 34 years in the field, including as CIO of KentuckyOne Health.

Jones said startups “lean on hustle versus process,” and that process is important when you want to scale on the level that Interapt wants to.

“Doug could see where there were major gaps” in their operations, said Gopal.

Seto was director of major gifts at Norton Healthcare and was also a private consultant.

“So guidance and leadership has increased now,” said Gopal. “I never wanted to be a solo captain.”

He said he’s having a lot of fun. “I like the leadership role better than the operations side of thing.”

Part of the plan for growth is a new branding initiative, with a sleek simple geometric new logo.

He also told me, “I hired a bunch of people and I’m gonna hire a bunch more.” In this case “a bunch” is 14, which was announced last week. We’ll have news about the “bunch more” later today, so stay tuned. –Melissa Chipman

New coffee shop opens in the Highlands, delivers to area businesses

The Coffee Zone is located at 1052 Bardstown Road. | Photo by Sara Havens

The Coffee Zone is located at 1052 Bardstown Road. | Photo by Sara Havens

Asheville, N.C., natives Craig Bishop and his partner Diana Phillips have relocated to Louisville and brought with them their passion for serving great coffee and pastries. They quietly opened The Coffee Zone in the Highlands (at 1052 Bardstown Road) on May 11; it’s situated in an old shotgun next to the soon-to-open beer behemoth Hop Cat and across the street from Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings.

The quaint little coffee shop offers all the staples of its nearby competitors (Starbucks and Highland Coffee Co.), plus homemade pastries and goods including the popular Blackberry Wine Muffin. There are a handful of tables and chairs inside (free wi-fi is offered) and a couple on the patio facing bustling Bardstown Road.

During a recent afternoon when Insider stopped by, Phillips was happy to point out what makes them unique. She said they not only deliver to nearby businesses, but they have an automatic barista machine on standby in case customers come in and don’t want to wait in line. They’re open seven days a week from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., and she and Bishop take turns manning the shop, which isn’t too tough since they live upstairs from the business.

Phillips said that while they’re currently serving Bean Werks coffee, one of their favorites from Asheville, they plan on offering local coffees like Good Folks and possibly Sunergos in the future. They also are attempting to source local ingredients for their bakery items and drink syrups, and it just so happened that on the day we stopped by, Bishop was at Huber’s Orchard & Winery researching locally grown fruits and probably trying out their Blackberry Wine, Phillips said.

So far business has been good, according to Phillips, and while they have to be patient with the Hop Cat construction, she wants people to know they have parking in the back as well. —Sara Havens

PriceWeber named Kentucky Science Center’s agency of record

Kentucky Science Center

Kentucky Science Center

The Kentucky Science Center has hired PriceWeber as its agency of record to help with branding, creative, media planning and buying, and website development. The state’s largest hands-on science center joins other major PriceWeber Clients like Brown-Forman, The Hershey Co. and Cummins Inc.

“We are thrilled to be working with PriceWeber,” said Lisa Resnik, director of external affairs for Kentucky Science Center. “There are many exciting initiatives on the horizon for Kentucky Science Center, and PriceWeber will support our efforts to highlight and share the many hands-on opportunities and experiences that we offer in the community and throughout Kentucky and Indiana.”

Fred Weber, CEO of PriceWeber, said that members of the marketing and branding team that will work with the Kentucky Science Center have education and technology backgrounds. –Melissa Chipman

Louisville chefs headed to Cuba this fall for culinary exchange

Havana Culinary exchangeCuban chef Fernando Martinez, his business partner Yaniel Martinez and Louisville chef Dean Corbett are hopping a plane to Cuba in September.

The three local culinary experts are taking part in an event sponsored by Food & Wine magazine called Havana Culinary Exchange from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1. They are among nine other chefs who are making the trip.

Fernando Martinez said most the chefs will likely arrive a few days before the trip is set to begin to search for ingredients for their meals. “It will be a huge task in Cuba,” he said, because of the longtime embargo the United States placed on Cuba.

But on the positive side, “Most of the ingredients that we are going to use are organic,” Martinez said, adding that the people are too poor to afford pesticides.

Though the two countries have normalized relations, travel to Cuba and trade between the two are still limited.

“I think a lot of this is good,” Martinez said of the improved relations. “The interaction, people to people, is a good thing. We have more things that unite us than divide us.”

Martinez said he is excited to “show the rest of the chefs what Cuba’s all about.”

When asked what he misses most about Cuba, Martinez said the ocean and his friends who still live there. “The beaches in Cuba are beautiful,” he said. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville IT company expands to Lexington

CisComA Louisville IT company has bought a Lexington rival as part of its strategy to grow through acquisitions.

CisCom Solutions LLC, based at 133 Evergreen Road, has acquired Lexington-based Missing Link Managed IT, which should add about 50 clients and $500,000 in annual sales.

CisCom, founded in 1996, provides IT services, including consulting, soft- and hardware purchasing, and business continuity planning, to small and medium businesses in Lexington, Louisville and Southern Indiana. It employs 18 and generated revenues of $2.3 million last year.

Founder and President David Ely said in a press release that acquisitions have played a significant role in the company’s growth strategy.

“We gain a lot of synergy when we add a subcontractor with years of experience because we can provide much better solutions to customers as a team,” Ely said. “It centralizes their helpdesk support and back-end office functions, which mean cost savings for them and additional technical expertise for us.”

Missing Link’s owner, Bob Ellison, will join Ciscom as technical support manager for the Lexington office.

CisCom said it “also has targeted other companies in both Louisville and Lexington for additional acquisitions in 2016.” —Boris Ladwig

Ford sales fall — but demand for Louisville-made Escape, F-Series increases

A 2017 Ford Escape with a 2-liter EcoBoost engine rests on a lookout on Kanan Dume Road near Malibu, Calif. Media including Car & Driver and Kelley Blue Book got a first look at the new Louisville-built Escapes this week. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

A 2017 Ford Escape with a 2-liter EcoBoost engine. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Ford Motor Co. said its sales in May fell 6 percent, primarily because of weak demand for cars — but vehicles made in Louisville saw a solid sales gain.

The automaker said it sold 234,000 vehicles in May, down from 251,000 a year earlier.

Truck sales, at nearly 91,000, improved 9 percent. The company’s top seller, The F-Series truck, posted a gain of 9 percent. That’s good news for the roughly 7,000 employees at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, which makes the F-Series Super Duty.

Ford said heavy truck sales improved 72 percent year-over-year, but the segment’s overall volume remains small, accounting for less than 2 percent of truck sales.

Sales of the company’s utility vehicles fell nearly 1 percent, but demand for the Escape climbed 5.5 percent, to nearly 31,000. The recently updated Escape is made at the Louisville Assembly Plant, which employs about 6,000. Sales for the Edge fell 14 percent, while demand for the Explorer dropped 5 percent.

Buyers also moved away from Ford cars. The segment saw sales decline 26 percent, to 63,600. Demand for the company’s best-selling car, the Fusion, fell 21.5 percent. Sales for the Focus fell 27 percent.

Fiat Chrysler said it sold more than 204,000 vehicles in May, up 1 percent from a year earlier.

General Motors said demand for its vehicles fell 13 percent, to just under 191,000. —Boris Ladwig

ZOFI Kombucha making the rounds

Zofi KombuchaZOFI Kombucha, the Louisville-founded organic non-alcoholic sparkling fermented (that’s a lot of adjectives) drink, was included in an exclusive Celebrity Chef Gift Bag at the National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago this month.

Only 20 bags were produced for the 20 celebrity chefs participating in the World Culinary Showcase at the Show, including Anne Burrell, Ingrid Hoffman, Rocco DiSpirito, and Robert Irvine.

At the show, ZOFI founder Chris Turner also had a booth for his product, which he launched in March.

Locally ZOFI is available to consumers at Rainbow Blossom, Keg Liquors in Southern Indiana, Lucky’s Market, and Good Foods in Lexington. It’s also included on the menu at Jack Fry’s and La Chasse restaurants.

We talked to Turner and tasted the drink back in December and can confirm that the tea-based drink is fizzy and sweet and faintly resembles champagne. —Melissa Chipman

New upcycled furniture store opening Middletown

The new store's grand opening is Saturday. | Courtesy of JN Brown's

The new store’s grand opening is Saturday. | Courtesy of JN Brown’s

A new home goods store is preparing to open in Middletown, but this one is a twist on the traditional.

JN Brown’s focuses on upcycled and repurposed furniture and goods. The new retail shop is hosting a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 11, according to a Facebook event. The store will be offering discounts and giveaways to celebrate.

Louisville resident Jessica Nicole Brown owns the store, which is located at 12902 Shelbyville Road. And in addition to the retail store, Brown offers interior redesign services. —Caitlin Bowling

New Norton Commons restaurant opening in early July

The 502 logoThe 502 Bar and Bistro is inching closer to completion.

Tasks still on the to-do list include pouring concrete for the patio, hiring more employees, getting a liquor license and staining the floors, but the Norton Commons restaurant is on track to open in early July, according to co-owner Scott Cheatham.

IL first reported on The 502 Bar and Bistro back in August 2015, but at the time, Cheatham and wife Jennifer Yarmuth Cheatham didn’t have a name for the restaurant. Now, they’ve recently completed the menu and are looking to hire servers, cooks and bartenders.

“Right now, we are on pretty good pace,” Scott Cheatham said.

The 502 is an upscale but casual restaurant, he said, adding that they want it to be a date night-type place as well as somewhere to grab a beer and watch sports. The menu includes a myriad of dishes from wings and sliders to beet salad and filet mignon. Appetizers start at $8 or $9, and the most expensive dish comes in at $44, Cheatham said.

The restaurant snagged chef Ming Pu as its executive chef. Pu studied under chef Peng Looi of Asiatique. Looi also is serving as a consultant for The 502.

“(Pu)’s been above and beyond our expectations,” Cheatham said. “He’s really been the backbone of the entire restaurant.”

The 502 will be a large restaurant, with 6,452 square feet of space inside and seating for 60 on its outdoor patio. The patio also will feature two fire pits.

“It’s a big joint. It’s not just your typical Norton Commons regular bar,” Cheatham said, adding that he wants The 502 to draw people to Norton Commons. —Caitlin Bowling

UPS leader to keynote 100 Wise Women event

Laura Lane

Laura Lane

The first Leadership Louisville 100 Wise Women event of 2016 is June 14 and will feature Laura Lane, president of global public affairs for UPS. Lane is the former economic and political-military affairs officer at the American Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, where she had to evacuate American citizens from Rwanda during the outbreak of civil war.

Proceeds from 100 Wise Women go to the Joan Riehm Women’s Leadership Fund, created to allow women to participate in Leadership Louisville Center programs.

The event is at The Olmsted on Frankfort Avenue. It begins at 8 a.m. and admission is $35. Register here. —Melissa Chipman

Local oncologist, others to be recognized at Doctor’s Ball

Dr. Kelly McMasters

Dr. Kelly McMasters

Louisville oncologist Dr. Kelly M. McMasters will be named the Ephraim McDowell Physician of the Year at the 2016 Doctor’s Ball.

The event, hosted by Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation, part of KentuckyOne Health, will be held on Oct. 15 at the Marriott Louisville Downtown, 280 W. Jefferson St. The ball for more than two decades has served to honor “the service of area physicians and community leaders,” KentuckyOne Health said in a press release.

McMasters is professor and chairman of the University of Louisville’s Department of Surgery, director of the Multidisciplinary Melanoma Clinic, and associate director of the J. Graham Brown Cancer Center. His clinical areas of interest include melanoma, pancreatic and breast cancers.

Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation on Oc. 15 also will recognize:

  • Local philanthropists (and the mayor’s parents) George and Mary Lee Fischer, community leaders of the year.
  • Dr. Manuel Grimaldi, compassionate physician award. A retired physician, Grimaldi has given hundreds of hours of free care to patients at the Family Community Clinic, which provides services to the uninsured.
  • Dr. Ronald Levine, a retired OB/GYN and professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, excellence in education.
  • Dr. Erica Sutton, excellence in community. Sutton, assistant professor of surgery at UofL’s School of Medicine, specializes in advanced minimally invasive procedures and surgical endoscopy.

Proceeds from the ball will go to Frazier Rehab Institute’s Pulmonary Rehab Center, which has plans for an $825,000 expansion and renovation.

Tickets for the ball, a black tie event that will include cocktails, a silent auction, dinner and live entertainment, cost $300. —Boris Ladwig