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.
Fourth Street Live gets new head honcho, new vision
Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. has hired Ed Hartless to transform its Louisville entertainment district Fourth Street Live from a late-night drinking spot into a dining destination.
Hartless worked for airport restaurant company SSP America for about seven years and has experience working with a wide array of restaurants, from quick service to fine dining. During the last three years, he opened 22 restaurants in the San Diego airport.
Hartless started as president of Fourth Street Live about a month ago, taking over for Brad Pernaw, who served as Fourth Street Live’s general manager. As president, Hartless is responsible for leasing, property management and all operations.
Cordish approached him about the job opening in Louisville, said Hartless, who worked for Cordish Cos. in Raleigh prior to taking a job at SSP America.
“I said yes because they really gave me a vision of what they wanted to do,” said Hartless, who is in the process of moving his family to Louisville. “A lot of it had to do with looking at the restaurant side of it, the quality of restaurants they want to bring in, getting away from the nightlife, and (creating) more of a family-oriented restaurant dining district.”
Bourbon Raw, a Southern farm-to-table restaurant and raw bar, opened last October in the former Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge location, and former NBA player and humble businessman Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman plans to open Italian restaurant BirraCibo at the end of this month.
The former Sully’s Restaurant & Saloon and The Pub Restaurant spaces are still vacant; Hartless hopes to have tenants for those spots this year and is considering splitting The Pub space into two restaurants.
In recent years, Cordish has been the target of criticism for alleged discriminatory practices, and last year the company came under heavy fire from patrons and activists who accused Fourth Street Live of racial profiling.
Tiffany Wakeley, Fourth Street Live’s marketing director, said the district is trying to improve its reputation, but it’s an ongoing process that includes beefing up its restaurant scene and promoting unique events. For example, last year, Fourth Street Live hosted yoga classes in the street and brought in food trucks during lunch on Wednesdays.
This summer, Fourth Street Live plans to partner with the YMCA downtown to offer more fitness events, Wakeley said. It will expand its Thirsty Thursday promotion, where bands play at Fourth Street Live after every Thursday home game for the Louisville Bats minor league baseball team. This year, each band will throw out the first pitch.
A big bash also is in the works for when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament comes to town in late March. While it’s disappointing the University of Louisville won’t be in the tournament this year, Wakeley said, Fourth Street Live is focusing on attracting some of the estimated 20,000 visitors coming to Louisville for tournament games in late March.
“This is really about making their experience a great one,” she said.
As part of that, the venue will host “a big national,” non-country musical act on March 25, Wakeley said, though she declined to reveal who it is just yet.
“It’s a lot of taking the things we started last year and adding more support behind them and making them better and bigger,” Wakeley said.
Fourth Street Live representatives also have met with the Louisville Orchestra and Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts about possible events.
“It creates more of an experience, a night out. They are coming here. They are eating dinner, then they stay for this show,” Wakeley said. People can still stick around for a drink afterward, but the late-night scene is “not the focus anymore.” —Caitlin Bowling
Alchemy, we hardly knew ye…
Alchemy Emporium on Market Street near the Nucleus building is closing its doors, citing nearby bridge-related construction and parking woes as the reason.
The Facebook post reads:
“March 2016, Alchemy Emporium on Market Street will lock its doors for the last time. The furthering 18 months of Market street road closures, parking and eminent (sic) sidewalk closures by the city of Louisville have assured us that it is time to take the magic elsewhere. We are conducting business as usual up until closing, but we will be packing items for Alchemy’s new destination. So stop in and stock up on your Alchemy favorites before they’re gone. And take advantage of remaining Last Chance sale items up to 90 percent off. Please note, there will be no store wide liquidation sale. We will confirm our March closing day asap and sincere thanks for your continued support!”
In the comments section on Facebook they confirm that they will not be re-opening in Louisville.
While it’s indisputable that bridge construction has temporarily harmed at least some businesses along the East Market/Main Street area, the location of Alchemy was always a bit of a head-scratcher. It existed as a little retail island at 415 E. Market. A quick poll of the IL editorial team reveals we all “always meant to check it out” but never did.
However, many months of lane closures and gridlock along Market Street surely didn’t help matters.
The “Magical Olde World Emporium” is beloved by Yelpers and is a must-visit shop for those who love all things Harry Potter, steam punk and Day of the Dead. Check it out while you still can — and enjoy the sales. –Melissa Chipman
Department of Justice wants more antitrust muscle
The U.S. Department of Justice expects its antitrust division to have a busy year, and it wants to hire 152 additional employees to bolster the unit’s capabilities.
That could have repercussions for folks in Louisville, as the DoJ is reviewing the proposed merger between Aetna and Humana, which employs more than 12,000 here.
Aetna wants to buy Humana for $37 billion. Shareholders of both companies have given their approval. Officials of both companies said they expect the deal to be completed this year.
The DoJ said it is requesting a funding increase of $15 million, or about 9 percent, “to address the increase in workload for (the antitrust division) in both its civil merger enforcement and criminal cartel enforcement programs.
“With merger and cartel enforcement work expected to increase in FY 2016 and FY 2017, the requested program enhancement will … enable the division to continue protecting American consumers from anticompetitive merger deals … that harm U.S. consumers and businesses.”
The DoJ last year sued to stop the acquisition of General Electric’s Louisville-based appliances division by Sweden-based AB Electrolux, saying it would reduce competition and harm consumers. GE killed the deal before the trial concluded. —Boris Ladwig
Manufacturing company planning for future expansion
Auto parts manufacturer Dynacraft is thinking ahead.
The company filed plans to build a 100,500-square-foot warehouse and three separate 13,500-square-foot office buildings at 7205 Johnstown Road near its Louisville operations on Greenbelt Highway. But it’s not expanding just yet, explained Bill Bardenwerper, an attorney with Bardenwerper, Talbott & Roberts PLLC representing Dynacraft.
“They want to make sure that they have a plan approved, so that if and when the time comes they are able to immediately move on it,” Bardenwerper said.
The company would use the warehouse space and either fill the three-story offices with its own employees or sell them, he said.
There is no timeline for the expansion, but if the company is going through the trouble of seeking city approvals, it is only a matter of time. Dynacraft did not return emails asking for comment.
“They wanted to have the flexibility when the time might come,” Bardenwerper said. “A lot of times Louisville misses out on opportunities for business expansion because they take a little longer than in Bullitt County or Southern Indiana.” —Caitlin Bowling
Another historic Main Street building for sale
A 140-year-old building on West Main has hit the market.
Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has listed a 10,260-square-foot building at 639 W. Main St. for sale.
The building was constructed in 1875, according to county property records, and is owned by the estate of Julian S. Goldberg. Goldberg’s father founded shoe manufacturing company G&K Shoe Co., which operated on Main Street for decades. Goldberg died last year.
The structure is three stories tall, features a cast iron facade and is in walking distance to Museum Row, restaurants and many downtown offices.
The building currently is empty and was last valued at $261,630.
The property is a block from a 136-year-old building Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government listed last week. —Caitlin Bowling
New photography business setting up shop downtown
Ben Marcum, owner of Ben Marcum Photography, has opened a new studio downtown in the Heyburn Building, 332 W. Broadway, Suite 205.
Marcum started the business three years ago in his home, providing headshots for Louisville performers and business professionals, and now he plans to expand.
As part of the move, he also is launching a new segment of his business, digital headshots, or rather personal portraiture for clients who want professional photos for their Facebook, Twitter, dating profiles and personal branding.
“The new space is flexible and accommodating, and there are beautiful locations throughout the building that I cannot wait to shoot around,” Marcum wrote in a post about the move.
Sessions can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours depending on the client and his or her needs, according to his website. Costs range from $100 to $200 to begin. For an added charge, customers can have their makeup professionally done and receive additional photos.
Support Junior Achievement by buying cool stuff
Junior Achievement served more than 58,500 students in Kentuckiana last year, teaching kids leadership, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and other success skills. You can support this organization by bidding in their online auction; bidding opened today.
According to sponsor Greater Louisville Inc., the auction features “500 unique and high-quality items available for purchase, including vacations, a trip through McAlpine locks on a towboat, Weekend Get-A-Ways, Brighton jewelry and gift cards too.”
The auction runs through Feb. 26, so hop to it. Worldwide shipping is free, thanks to sponsor Genentech. —Melissa Chipman
Michter’s finally releases 10-Year Rye
It was a sad year for fans of Michter’s rye whiskey, as Master Distiller Willie Pratt decided to skip 2015 and let his barrels continue aging the precious liquid gold. But now, Pratt believes his 10-Year Rye is ready for the bottle. With a nickname of “Dr. No” due to his frequent refusal to release bourbon and whiskies before he believes they’re ready, Pratt says he doesn’t mind being a stickler for quality.
“I wasn’t very popular with the sales guys who had none to sell, but I held the 10-Year Rye stocks back for a bit more maturation,” he says in a press release. “I thought they would be just great with some more age, and I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.”
Ford sales fall in January, but sales price rises
Ford’s January sales fell nearly 3 percent from a year earlier, but a Ford sales analyst said the underlying data point to a pretty good month, nonetheless.
Last year’s January “had one extra ‘selling weekend,’” which makes a comparison to this January difficult, said Erich Merkle, the company’s U.S. sales analyst.
The industry as a whole recorded flat sales in January, and while Ford’s declined, Merkle said Ford saw significant gains in its average transaction price.
Fords ATP rose $1,800 year-over-year, almost triple the industry’s average gain in January.
“While sales were off slightly, the performance in context of the increase in our ATPs made a solid month,” he said.
A closer look at the sales figures also shows mixed news for Louisville’s roughly 10,000 Ford employees: While SUV sales increased 3 percent and had the best January since 2004, Ford F-Series sales fell 5 percent. The Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville makes the F-Series Super Duty, while the Louisville Assembly plant produces the Ford Escape.
The January sales figures also harbored some positive news for the economy as a whole: Ford said its commercial van business shot up 48 percent from a year earlier.
Louisville seeking resident input on improving reuse efforts
The city of Louisville wants to lessen the amount of waste going into its landfills and is asking residents to help.
The kickoff meeting for the new Reuse Collective Impact Committee is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Metro United Way, 334 E. Broadway, according to a news release
The ideas talked about at the meeting will become the foundation for the creation of a reuse plan that will help Louisville reach its goal of reducing landfill use by 90 percent by 2042.
The committee will look for ways to bridge the gap between businesses and groups looking to dispose of reusable goods and materials and those who can reuse them. It’s also charged with creating “a culture of reuse by households and individuals,” the release states. —Caitlin Bowling
NowSourcing creates presidential campaign infographic for El Toro
Nationally acclaimed infographics firm NowSourcing has created an infographic on presidential campaign-ad spending for IP targeting company El Toro. Both companies are based here in town. Louisvillians helping Louisvillians — you’ve got to love that.
El Toro also does work on a national scale, with a focus on matching IP addresses to physical addresses to allow advertisers to hyper-focus marketing efforts.
Frankly, the infographic is pretty depressing… that’s a lot of bucks for not very much bang.
Enjoy if you can. –Melissa Chipman