Welcome to the May 15 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
Buffalo Trace releases experimental Organic Six Grain Whiskey
As we speak, there are more than 14,000 experimental barrels resting at Buffalo Trace Distillery, a distillery known for its fine bourbons as well as its penchant for innovation.
They didn’t sink $1 million into Warehouse X — a building dedicated to experimenting with aging barrels — for nothing.
The latest Frankenbourbon to come out of the distillery is called Organic Six Grain Whiskey, and its mashbill contains — you guessed it — an assortment of six grains: corn, buckwheat, brown rice, sorghum, wheat and rice. Your everyday bourbon has three: corn, rye or wheat, and barley.
Oddly enough, the spirit technically qualifies as a bourbon, because distillers used at least 51 percent corn and followed all the other rules. However, because the extra grains changed up the flavor profile so much, they decided to label it a whiskey so as not to piss off any tried-and-true bourbon drinkers.
Prospect restaurant owner retiring, closing down brick-and-mortar store
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the owner’s last name. It is Michael Smith.
Michael Smith, owner of Burning Bush Grille and Mediterranean Cafe, said he’s been retired on paper for a year, but now, it’s time retire for real.
The restaurant’s lease at 13206 U.S. Highway 42 in Prospect ended in April, and Smith, 63, said he decide not to renew it.
“I always joked that they would pry my cold dead hands off a kebob,” Smith said, adding that workers have become harder to find during Burning Bush Grille’s seven years operating, and he wants to spend time with his one-year-old granddaughter.
The lease on the space was continued an extra month to allow Smith to say goodbye to regulars.
“The interaction with the people have been the most pleasurable,” he said.
Burning Bush Grille will close at the end of business on May 27. That day the restaurant will host a fundraising event where 100 percent of donations will go to charity. Smith said they haven’t settled on which charity or charities it will donate to yet.
Although he is retiring, Smith said he won’t shut the door on Burning Bush Grille entirely and plans to offer popular menu items at festivals and private parties “at my leisure and pleasure.” —Caitlin Bowling
Hagan Properties hires new chief operating officer
Local real estate development and management firm Hagan Properties has named James Mueller as its new chief operating officer.
He will oversee daily operations for the company, which owns and manages Shelbyville Road Plaza, Middletown Station and Taylorhurst shopping centers. Hagan Properties also has three apartment project in development or under construction — a 356 unit community adjacent to E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park called 9910 Sawyer Apartments; Victory Knoll Apartments at Interstate 64 and Blankenbaker Parkway; and the commercial and multifamily development Providence Point at Herr Lane and Highway 22.
Goldman Sachs upgrades Yum Brands stock after first-quarter earnings release
Yum Brands’ overall positive first quarter report – including a particularly good performance from Taco Bell – has prompted Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs to upgrade its view on the Louisville-based restaurant giant’s stock.
The investment firm upped its rating from sell to neutral and increased its price target on the restaurant stock to $65, according to Seeking Alpha.
Of 22 analysts following Yum Brands’ stock, 11 rated the stock as “hold” and seven rated it “buy.”
Although Yum subsidiaries Taco Bell and KFC reported better than expected same-store sales growth, Pizza Hut continues to lag. While that didn’t put some analysts off, at least one has suggested that Yum should sell off Pizza Hut, noting it has lost market share the past two decades. That seem unlikely though as Yum Brands has pledged to invest $130 million to turn the Pizza Hut brand around.
Art Eatables opens second location inside Frazier History Museum
First, they put bourbon inside of chocolate, now they’re putting chocolate inside of bourbon, so to speak. Art Eatables, a Louisville chocolate shop on South Fourth Street known for its bourbon-infused truffles, is opening a second location downtown, fittingly at the starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail — also known as the Frazier History Museum.
Mayor Greg Fischer, Art Eatables owners Kelly and Forest Ramsey and staff from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the Frazier Museum celebrated the news Friday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“In Louisville, bourbon is more than just our signature drink — it’s a critical part of our history and culture,” said Fischer, welcoming the new business to the bourbon district. “Art Eatables is known for tying together bourbon and food — and it’s easy for visitors to take their chocolates home with them. That’s bourbonism in action.”
Art Eatables is an official sponsor of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and co-owner Kelly Ramsey was one of the first people to earn bourbon certification from the Stave & Thief Society. The Ramseys mix just about every brand of Kentucky bourbon with their chocolates, making their creations an ideal gift for bourbon lovers with a sweet tooth.
“We are incredibly excited to be part of Main Street,” said Kelly Ramsey. “We think we bring something unique to this area that will fit well with our new neighbors and show our ongoing commitment to promoting our commonwealth’s bourbon culture.”
Jeffersontown Magazine debuts
There’s a new monthly periodical in town that caters to the residents of Jeffersontown. Jeffersontown Magazine was introduced this month as part of the Towne Post Network out of Indianapolis. It’s Towne Post’s first foray into the Louisville market; the company has nine other magazines in Indy.
The sole Louisville employee, Corey Boston, told IL that Jeffersontown was the first neighborhood chosen “because residents in this area have a strong sense of pride in Jeffersontown.” He also said that the area was prime because of the number of businesses in it as well.
Boston said that the plan is to start a second magazine in Louisville next year with an equal size distribution (18,000 – 20,000 copies mailed monthly). No neighborhood has been selected.
The team in Indy handles most of the nuts and bolts of putting together the magazine — layout, design, editing, etc. — but Boston uses local freelance writers and journalists.
The cover of the inaugural edition is the former University of Louisville basketball star Luke Hancock. The 48-page issue is ad-heavy. It includes a history of the neighborhood by the director of the Jeffersontown Historical Museum, an event calendar and the feature on Hancock. It also features articles that are not Jeffersontown-specific — gender reveal party planning, generic gardening advice, etc.
The magazine was mailed to almost 18,000 homes and businesses. You can also pick up a copy at businesses in the neighborhood.
Boston also owns and operate PinPointPERKS.com, which he says is Louisville’s largest online deals site. —Melissa Chipman
Local developer breaks ground on $10M storage facility
A Louisville developer has broken ground on a $10 million, 130,000-square-foot self-storage facility that features temperature and humidity control and state-of-the-art wine storage.
The three-story, 990-unit project is expected to open early next year.
Developer Allen Schubert, a principal with Louisville-based Andover Management Group, said in a press release, “The self storage industry has taken off and we wanted to be the first to design a unique and interesting facility that takes the trend to a new level in the region.”
Schubert is building a similar facility in Nashville, which is expected to open late this year and is looking for other locations.
Renovations underway on American Life Insurance Building plaza
Drivers and pedestrians may notice construction near the American Life Insurance Building downtown for as many as six months.
Piece by piece, landscape architecture firm CARMAN is tearing up the original terrazzo installed when the building was constructed in the 1970s. The building, located at 471 W. Main St., was the last building designed by renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The terrazzo will be replaced with a pervious surface made of stone, recycled glass and other materials that will reduce the amount of rainwater flowing into the sewers.
“The appearance will be very similar. It may look bit more grainy,” said John Carman, founder of CARMAN.
Carman added that they wanted to respect Mies van der Rohe’s design ideas.
Council gives final approval for tax incentive for NuLu apartments
In a vote of 20 to 1, Louisville Metro Council approved an incentive agreement that will allow a 270-unit apartment complex at the corner of Main and Shelby streets in NuLu.
In return for roughly $5 million in tax breaks, developer Flournoy Cos. will donate $634,000 to the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund and include six workforce housing units in its project, Insider previously reported. The company had originally agreed to 18 workforce units but backed down from that and requested the chance to make a one-time donation to LAHTF in lieu of the 12 additional units.
Outside of the agreement, Flournoy is donating five houses to Preservation Louisville, which has pledged to renovate them and sell them at an affordable price.
Insider reached out to Flournoy’s attorney, Jeffrey McKenzie, for comment but did not hear back.
The only dissenting vote was Councilman Brent Ackerson (D-26). Ackerson said tax incentives were great for projects proposed on brownfields or in economically struggling areas of the city, but the apartment project is not that.
“The problem is: This is primo real estate in NuLu,” Ackerson said. “This is area that is only going to go up higher.”
Veteran Louisville banker named president of Independence Bank
A longtime Louisville banker who has been involved with the financing of numerous well-known Louisville projects has been named president of Independence Bank.
Louis Straub told Insider that he took the new position because of Independence bank’s focus on customer service and because his new role allowed him to stay in his native Louisville.
Straub said that his previous job, with JP Morgan, required lots of travel as he was overseeing the company’s government business for 11 states. Eventually, that job likely would have required moving to Chicago, which would have meant uprooting his family, including his wife, Elizabeth, and two daughters.
“I really didn’t want to leave,” he said. “This is my home.”
Straub, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Kentucky, began his career in 1986 with Liberty National Bank, starting as a teller and working his way into management, where he helped finance some major Louisville projects.
Louisville Forward, the metro government’s economic development arm, praised Straub for his dedication to his hometown.
“Straub has been an outstanding citizen who has generously devoted time as past chairman of the board for Brightside and has assisted on several special projects, including LMPD, economic development, and other community initiatives,” the agency told Insider via email.
Straub said that after he was approached by Independence Bank, he became impressed with the institution’s growth, community service and dedication to customers and employees. The Owensboro-based bank has been named one of the state’s best places to work on numerous occasions, he said, most recently last month.
Independence Bank focuses primarily on commercial lending, has 24 locations in Kentucky, assets exceeding $2.1 billion and about 370 employees, including eight in Louisville. Independence operates a full-service bank at 2120 High Wickham Place and said in the press release that it plans to construct another location in the heart of St. Matthews, at the same site where Straub’s great uncle, Carl Straub, founded the Bank of St. Matthews. —Boris Ladwig