Monday Business Briefing: Milk & Baby grows, partners with The New Blak; Red Twig’s $54M project; Old 502 Winery releases Singria; and more

Welcome to the May 29 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Catering to nursing mothers leads to success for local business

Milk & Baby owners Kim Inge, center, and Beth Knockwafel, right, shown with The New Blak co-owner Amanda Dougherty. | Courtesy of Milk & Baby

About five years ago, Kim Inge and Beth Knockwafel were working out of Knockwafel’s home selling fashionable nursing bras to breastfeeding moms online. Last year, they sold almost $400,000 in products, ranging from nursing bras to stylish labor gowns.

Now, the pair has moved their online company, Milk & Baby, into a space that is more than triple the size of their current office and are adding a new line of dresses.

“We are just growing and hope to keep growing,” Inge said, adding that the company’s sales have increased about 18 percent each year.

Milk & Baby recently moved into a 3,000-square-foot space at the Bluegrass Industrial Park in Jeffersontown and out of a 700-square-foot office in St. Matthews. They also hired a part-time shipper and may add one more employee, she said.

Milk & Baby sells to customers across the United States, with about 10 percent of their sales coming from international customers.

The goal of Milk & Baby from the beginning has been to sell items that are functional and fashionable.

“We were both nursing moms and just the lack of choices for attractive bras led to this idea” for the company, Knockwafel said, adding that she stopped breastfeeding in part because of the nursing bra options she found. “I maybe would have stuck it out longer if I didn’t feel gross.”

Everything Milk & Baby sells is targeted toward babies and nursing mothers. For its newest product launch, Milk & Baby has partnered with another local business, The New Blak, to design and fabricate dresses that moms want to wear but also have a discreet opening to make it easy for mothers to nurse.

It’s “stylish nursing wear that doesn’t look like nursing wear that is flattering and you would wear later,” Inge said, adding that they are still working with The New Blak to figure out the right sizing and the first dresses will be available for shipping in the next few weeks. “We wanted to make sure they fit the postpartum body well.” —Caitlin Bowling

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series goes a-rye this summer

Rye whiskey lovers are in for a treat this summer, as Woodford Reserve releases three rye-based expressions as part of its Distillery Series throughout the next couple of months. The top-shelf bourbon brand has dabbled in rye mash since 2004’s Master’s Collection release.

First up is a Blended Rye Whiskey, which was created from a blend of two rye recipes — the 100 percent rye from the Master’s Collection in 2004, and a whiskey with 53 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 14 percent malted barley from 2005’s Distiller’s Select offering.

The whiskeys have been aging in Woodford Reserve barrels ever since those two expressions were released.

“The opportunity to blend two outstanding rye whiskey profiles was too good to pass up,” said Chris Morris, master distiller of Woodford Reserve, in a press release. “Since the entire Woodford Reserve Distillery Series concept is about flavor innovation, this whiskey series expression is sure to impress whiskey aficionados.”

The Blended Rye is 90.4 proof and retails for $49.99.

In June, Woodford will release a Toasted Oak Rye, which is a rye recipe matured in used Woodford barrels and then finished in new Woodford Double Oaked barrels for two years. The unique finishing process should produce a spicy whiskey with hints of sweetness from the Double Oaked process. We’re looking forward to this one, for sure.

And lastly, there will be another specialty barrel finished rye released later this summer, but details haven’t been released.

You can find Woodford Reserve Distillery Series bottles at the distillery in Versailles, Ky., and also at select retailers throughout the state. Keep your eye on the p-rye-ze. Too much? —Sara Havens

Developer constructing nearly $54 million building at Renaissance South Business Park

Renaissance South Business Park is 680 acres. | Courtesy of the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp.

A property developer plans to erect a nearly 1.5 million-square-foot building at Renaissance South Business Park near the Louisville International Airport.

Back in September, a company called Red Twig bought roughly 110 acres from the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corp., which oversees the 680-acre business park, with plans to build on the property.

The city just issued a building permit last week detailing Red Twig’s plans to construct the gargantuan building on Minors Lane at a staggering cost of $53.9 million.

Insider reached out to a representative for Red Twig for more details but did not immediately hear back.

The building permit says it will have an S-1 use. According to the International Code Council‘s building code, the classification means the building will be used for moderately hazardous storage, which could include an aircraft repair hanger, boat storage or storage for items like burlap, grains, glue, soaps and shoes. —Caitlin Bowling

Yum Brands plans international expansion of Taco Bell

Taco Bell took Glen Bell’s vision of sharing Mexican-inspired food to one of the world’s largest markets — São Paulo, Brazil — in 2016. | Photo by Business Wire

The popular fast-food chain Taco Bell wants to see if it can repeat its success on the international stage.

Taco Bell’s parent company Yum Brands wants to operate 9,000 Taco Bell stores globally by 2022, according to a report by Bloomberg. That includes at least 100 new stores each in China, Brazil, Canada and India during the next five years.

“They’re big economies, they’re youthful populations,” Melissa Lora, president of Taco Bell International, told Bloomberg.

Compared to its sister companies KFC and Pizza Hut, Taco Bell is new to the international market. In 2015, the chain had only 250 stores internationally.

Taco Bell previously announced that it hopes to grow its global system sales to $15 billion by 2022 and that international expansion was a big part of that. —Caitlin Bowling

Old 502 Winery releases Singria, first new wine in three years

Just in time for summer, Old 502 Winery has a sweet treat that is essentially sangria in a bottle. Singria — a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and fruit flavors — is the first new release from the Louisville winery in three years.

“Singria is our summertime gift to Old 502 fans in Kentucky and Indiana,” says Old 502 president Jon Ryan Neace in a press release. “It is a fantastic seasonal wine that pairs perfectly with food. We say it’s ripe with temptation because, sometimes, it’s good to be bad — especially in the summer.”

Singria joins Old 502 favorites like Bourbon Barrel Red, White Noise, Kentucky Lady and Run for the Rosé, and it will be available starting Thursday, June 1, in stores across the city, as well as the Old 502 Tasting Room at 120 S. 10th St. There’s a special release event on Friday from 3-8 p.m.

While we haven’t tried the wine for ourselves yet, we’re guessing it’s best served chilled and would be a great addition to a sangria recipe. Just add fruit and a splash of soda, and it’ll be an instant party. —Sara Havens

NOVA Salon is a finalist for highly competitive North American Hairstyling Awards

NOVA Salon is making waves. | Photo by Thomas Cannon

Louisville’s NOVA Salon recently nabbed one of five spots in the North American Hairstyling Awards‘ “Salon Design of the Year” competition. Business partners Bennie Pollard and Lindsay Reeves opened the salon, formerly known as Hair by Bennie & Friends, in January at 2346 Frankfort Ave.

The NAHA awards are highly competitive and open to salons and hairstylists in the United States, Canada and Mexico. NOVA is the only Kentucky salon featured in the entire competition. Winners will be announced on July 9 in Las Vegas.

And along with being featured in the “Design of the Year” category, NOVA also is up for a “People’s Choice Award,” which you can vote for online. —Sara Havens

UofL’s new pediatrics facility is now at full height

Construction on a new pediatric medicine facility at the University of Louisville has reached a milestone, with the 171,000-square-foot, $80 million project now reaching its full height.

The Pediatrics Medical Office Building, scheduled to open in July 2018, will consolidate general pediatrics and other University Medical Center children’s programs. The facility, at 410 E. Chestnut, also will house infusion, laboratory and other services for Norton Children’s Hospital, which is less than two blocks east of the PMOB. Construction began in 2016. The institution told Insider that the project is being funded through patient revenue.

The university said in a press release that the building would be inhabited by about 500 employees and learners and brings the institution’s team approach from the classroom to pediatric services.

“We no longer provide information in very discrete silos, but rather integrate the information in a multidisciplinary manner. This is applicable not only in the classroom, but also with our clinical training,” said Dr. Toni Ganzel, interim executive dean for the UofL Health Sciences Center.

“We have come to understand how important it is for the surgeon to talk with the general physician and the nursing staff and nutritionists so that we have a team approach to patient-centered care,” Ganzel said.

Dr. Gerard Rabalais, interim chief executive of UofL Physicians and a former chair of the Department of Pediatrics, said the PMOB represents “the future of health care delivery, especially for our children.”

Interim UofL President Dr. Greg Postel said that the breadth of services the institution provides has grown “to the point that it makes sense for us to have our own facility, as opposed to locations scattered throughout the Louisville Medical Center.”

UofL on Friday celebrated the topping of the building by placing a final, signed beam. —Boris Ladwig

Out-of-town developer buys Louisville apartment complex for $6.65 million

Guardian Court Apartments is located near the airport. | Courtesy of Jefferson County PVA

National company Vitus this month purchased its first Kentucky property, Guardian Court Apartments, for $6.65 million and plans to invest more money in renovations.

“We’ve been keeping an eye on Louisville for a bit,” said Vitus development director Scott Langan. And “this was a good opportunity for us.”

Langan joked that he wanted to move into the market because My Morning Jacket is his favorite band.

Guardian Court Apartments is a 128-unit affordable housing apartment complex located off Preston Highway near the airport. The buildings are nearly 50 years old, and Langan wasn’t sure when it last underwent a renovation.

Vitus will invest $5 million in exterior and interior renovations. Work will start in September and finish a year later.

“It gives the 120 or so families a little bit of pride and ownership,” Langan said.

All the apartments will get new finishes and kitchen appliances, and eight units will be refit for ADA accessibility. Outside, Guardian Court Apartments will get new landscaping, bike racks, an updated playground, updated exterior lighting and covered outdoor gathering spaces, “where I sincerely hope Jim James will come play a concert,” Langan said.

The company should be able to do all the renovations without moving the residents out of their apartments, he said, noting that Guardian Court Apartments only has a couple of vacancies.

Vitus, owns 11,000 affordable housing units in the United States, is already looking for its next Louisville investment.

“It’s not typical for us to come to a neighborhood or town or city and do one deal,” Langan said. —Caitlin Bowling

Yafa Cafe to re-open downtown 

Yafa Cafe in Theatre Square | Facebook

617 S. Fifth Street has been home to a number of short-lived eateries. Now downtown denizens are hoping that the new tenant sticks. Yafa Cafe, formerly located in Theatre Square, is reopening soon at the former locations of Savory, the Lunch Box, and others.

The Mediterranean cafe consistently earned rave reviews on Yelp and other social media. It was a solid example of a locally owned downtown restaurant that was delicious, fast and inexpensive. It also offered hookahs if you’re into that sort of thing.

And oh, that hummus. Friends who work in Theatre Square used to always pick up some of Yafa’s hummus on their way to parties.

No word on an opening date yet. Yafa was one of several businesses that were forced to close when Kindred snapped up a huge swath of Theatre Square. –Melissa Chipman