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.
Magnolia Photo Booth owner opens children’s T-shirt store in NuLu
In front of Magnolia Photo Booth‘s office on East Market Street, a new-type of local store has opened.
Magnolia Photo Booth co-owner Peter Tower and his wife Emily Tower started a retail business called OSO Goods (pronounced OH SO). The store, located at 709 E. Market St., sells mostly custom children’s T-shirts, but it also stocks adult tees, tote bags, handmade bird mobiles and “other delights,” Peter Tower said. Prices range from $15 to $25.
He and his wife, an elementary school teacher, decided to open the store because it was a business they could run together. There also wasn’t any kid-specific stores in NuLu, he said. “Everything is super adult down here.”
OSO Goods opened April 30 with a limited stock. Tower said they plan to invest in more inventory after Derby but plan to keep the inventory pretty simple.
“You come inside, you are there for a specific thing,” he said.
The T-shirts are 100 percent American made and were designed by a friend, Tower said. Examples include a “K is for Kentucky” shirt with a horse and an “N is for NuLu shirt” with a bicycle.
“A big void was left after Why Louisville left in terms of eccentric T-shirts,” Tower said.
OSO Goods currently sells shirts similar to the NuLu one that represent seven different Louisville neighborhoods, and each include their own picture — The Highlands shirt has a record on it, for example. They plan to add more neighborhoods in the future.
Churchill Downs signed 10-year contract extension with Levy
Chicago-based Levy Restaurants will continue to manage dining and hospitality services at Churchill Downs through 2026.
Churchill Downs Racetrack renewed its contract with Levy this year, according to a news release. Levy has operated at the historic horse racing track since 2001, managing all food and beverage operations during more than 70 days of live horse racing each year as well as during special events.
Last year, the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby “attracted a record combined attendance of nearly 300,000 patrons, and a major part of the overall fan experience on those unforgettable days was the work of the Levy Restaurants team,” Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrac, said in the release.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“We look forward to continuing to evolve the hospitality experience through new culinary programs and technology enhancements that personalize ticketing, wagering, way-finding and ordering,” said Andy Lansing, president and CEO of Levy. “Spaces like the newly renovated Turf Club and Stakes Room will allow guests to socialize and enjoy racing in new ways and set a higher bar for the guest experience at Thoroughbred racing’s most iconic venue.”
Last year, Levy took over the contract for the Kentucky Exposition Center as well. Insider Louisville previously wrote about complaints and concerns food vendors at the center had about Levy’s leadership. —Caitlin Bowling
Kentucky Kingdom offers moms free admission on Mother’s Day
Nothing says “I love you” more than strapping Mom in a roller coaster and sending her through twists, turns and barrel rolls at 52 mph. Lucky for you, Kentucky Kingdom is offering all moms free admission this Mother’s Day, May 8.
General admission on Sunday is $39.95, and the park will be open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
New this year is Storm Chaser, the fifth coaster in the park, which Insider checked out just last week. One unique aspect of the frightening experience is its 10-story barrel roll drop, the only of its kind in the United States.
State hosting open houses for those interested in Grocer’s building
A 110-year-old downtown building is back on the market, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is hosting open houses so potential buyers can take a closer look.
IL reported last week that the 90,000-square-foot former Grocers Ice & Cold Storage property at 609 E. Main St. is up for sale. After failing to receive any acceptable bids, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is accepting a new round of bids, with a minimum bid requirement of $1.205 million.
All bids must be received by 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30.
The open houses are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 17, May 25, June 3, June 10 and June 21. For more information about the property and sales process, click here.
“We don’t need to look far to see what is possible when you breathe new life into these historic properties,” transportation cabinet project manager Andy Barber said in a news release. “The interstate view of a long-vacant building is being replaced with a stunning reminder of the bourbon boom and what it means to our city and state. I’m anxious to see what possibilities await Grocers Ice.” —Caitlin Bowling
GE Appliances exec receives industry award
A GE Appliances executive has been recognized for service to the appliance industry.
Kyran Hoff, technology manager in the dishwasher business, was one of three recipients of the Gordon Stauffer Liston Durden Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
The award, named after two former AHAM chairs, recognizes “significant contributions by virtue of longevity and quality of service to the association and the home appliance industry.”
Hoff, who joined GE in 1996, said that in her current role she leads the dishwasher engineering team as it builds products and focuses on continuous improvement.
“My team is focused on delivering quality with competitiveness, executing cost-out with quality, and developing innovative new products which outperform the competitors and ’wow’ customers and consumers,” Hoff told IL via email.
The association said that Hoff “has been involved in many AHAM efforts on dishwashers for the last 15 years” and highlighted her work on the DW-1 Dishwasher Performance Test Method Standard Task Force.
Hoff said she is passionate about her work and has enjoyed partnering with the association.
“It was a wonderful surprise and honor to be recognized with this award,” she said.
Hoff obtained a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Louisville. After joining GE as a design engineer, she took roles of increasing responsibility and acquired several patents. U of L recognized her as a distinguished alumna with a 2013 Professional Award in Engineering.
F-Series, Escape sales propel Ford to record April
Strong sales of the F-Series pickup and the Explorer boosted Ford Motor Co.’s April sales by 4 percent — but sales of the locally made Escape fell.
Ford said it sold 231,316 vehicles last month, its best April since 2006.
“We saw strong consumer demand in April, especially for pickups,” Ford said in a press release. “F-Series has moved past the quarter million sales mark year to date – the strongest start for F-Series in a decade, while Ford brand SUVs are having their best year ever.”
Car sales fell 11.5 percent, with sales of the top two sellers, Fusion and Focus, dropping 17 percent and 12 percent.
SUV sales grew 4.4 percent. Ford sold 20,283 Explorers last month, up 22.3 percent compared to a year earlier. Escape sales, at 23,920, declined 7.2 percent. A Ford spokesman blamed the decline on “the timing of fleet orders.” The all-new Escape, made at the Louisville Assembly Plant, recently was shipped to showrooms.
Ford also sold 95,572 trucks last month, up nearly 15 percent. Customers drove more than 70,000 F-Series pickups off car lots in April, up 12.6 percent compared to a year earlier. Ford said it was the best F-Series sales month in 11 years.
Ford also recorded a 20 percent increase in Lincoln brand sales, with customers buying nearly twice as many MKX SUVs in April than a year earlier. However, Lincoln sales are a small part of the company, at about 4 percent of total sales.
Ford also said that customers are leaning more toward high-end series trucks and SUVs than last year, which has increased the company’s average transaction price by $1,500.
Ford’s shares on Tuesday, when the sales figures were announced, fell 1.4 percent. Shares of General Motors, which reported a sales decline, dropped 1.57 percent.The S&P 500 lost 0.87 percent. —Boris Ladwig
Louisville foundation supports Parkinson’s research
A Louisville-based foundation has awarded a $250,000 grant to help bring a stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease to the human trial stage within the next two years.
The National Stem Cell Foundation awarded the grant to Summit for Stem Cell, whose research project is being directed by Dr. Andrés Bratt-Leal in the lab of Dr. Jeanne Loring at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.
Parkinson’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that causes brain cells to die, which causes tremors and motor impairment. The condition is caused by a loss of dopamine-secreting neurons in the substantia nigra, an area of the midbrain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter that carries signals between areas of the brain. Loss of dopamine results in impaired movement.
The disease affects about 1 percent of people over age 60, and 60,000 cases are diagnosed each year.
Foundation chair Dr. Paula Grisanti, a dentist, told IL that the researchers have developed a therapy that can potentially halt or reverse the course of the disease.
The therapy involves removing some of the patient’s skin cells and using a virus to trick the cells into believing that they are young and directing them to turn into dopamine-producing nerve cells. The researchers hope to grow millions of such cells and introduce them into the brain to replace the once that the disease has killed.
Grisanti said Summit for Stem Cell will leverage the one-time grant to generate more funds to further the research, which already has been used in rodents. She hopes Phase 1 human trials can begin within 18 to 24 months.
While it will take years to make the therapy available to patients, Grisanti said, the research is promising.
The treatment of Parkinson’s costs an annual $25 billion, so a cure would help patients and significantly reduce health care spending.
The NSCF is a nonprofit that supports research in neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, regenerative repair and rare childhood disorders. It gets funding from individual and corporate donors and family foundations.
USA Today features fine Louisville fare
‘Tis the time of year for national media to serve up various permutations of “how to do Derby” if you’re not in Louisville. (Hint: It’s apparently all about the mason jars.)
USA Today, however, gives us all a break and suggests that the best way to get a “taste of Derby” is to get your fine self down to Louisville and indulge yourself in our delicious local fare.
Sure, the usual suspects are featured: Hot Browns, burgoo and the like. But they also highlight adult milkshakes at Sidebar, bourbon (and rye) cocktails at Rye and Muth’s Modjeskas.
Lexington’s Space Tango rubs shoulders with international leaders
Space Tango President and CEO Twyman Clements got a chance to share his company’s technology with President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology trade fair, in Hannover, Germany in late April.
Clements discussed the company’s important work in Exomedicine, the research and development of medical solutions in the microgravity environment of space for applications on Earth.
“New breakthroughs and innovation in space are being driven by continued advancements in microtechnology, software and imagination, as well as progressive strategies and policies by NASA and CASIS,” said Kris Kimel, Chairman of Space Tango and founder of IdeaFestival.
TangoLab-1, the company’s first platform, will be installed on the International Space Station in 2016. It allows multiple experiments to occur simultaneously, freeing up time for astronaut scientists. —Melissa Chipman
Barton 1792 master distiller Ken Pierce to retire after 30 years in the business
After 30 years in the beverage industry, witnessing both the drought and demand for bourbon, Barton 1792 master distiller Ken Pierce has announced his retirement from the business, effective May 13. Pierce is highly respected among his peers in the bourbon industry, and he was integral in the development of 1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and all the recent line extensions (including — my favorite — the Port Finish).
Pierce worked his way from a plant chemist and quality control manager at Barton Brands of Georgia (now closed) to senior chemist at the distillery in Bardstown, then chief chemist and director of distillation, and finally master distiller. He trained under three previous master distillers and even worked on the George Washington Distillery project in Virginia.
No word on who will replace Pierce. —Sara Havens