Monday Business Briefing: Gus Goldsmith leaving for more ‘forward-thinking’ city; Aetna commits to Louisville, not Hartford; KFC pressured to ditch antibiotics; and more

Welcome to the May 23 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Businessman selling prominent downtown lot, ‘cutting a lot of ties’ with the city

The Action Loan property sits at Second and Market streets. | Courtesy of Google Maps

The Action Loan property sits at Second and Market streets. | Courtesy of Google Maps

Although he’ll maintain some real estate holdings in Louisville, businessman Gus Goldsmith is, for the most part, saying sayonara to Louisville.

“I am really cutting a lot of ties with Louisville because of the rapid expansion we have in South Florida,” Goldsmith told IL. “I’m gonna spend 90 percent of my time developing business we have in South Florida.”

Goldsmith offers high-interest loans to people who can’t qualify for a traditional bank loan. His company Goldsmith Equity Group, formerly Action Loan, is known for its slogan: “When the banks say no, we say yes.”

He recently listed two large properties in Louisville — the Action Loan building at Second and Market streets and the 29,000-square-foot Goldsmith Center at 18th Street and West Broadway.

Goldsmith said he decided to sell the 0.87-acre Action Loan property because of the increased development downtown. The property includes Subway and Saffron’s Persian Restaurant, which are currently operating on short-term leases.

“With the recent expansion of the convention center and all the new hotels opening up, I think my corner is one of the strongest corners in Louisville,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for a major company to make their headquarters there.”

The listing price is $5.5 million. It will take a large company to buy the property, Goldsmith admitted, but he thinks it will sell quickly given the lot’s location.

And the planned Walmart development across the street from his other property on West Broadway should help Goldsmith secure a buyer for the retail strip center, he said, adding that he loaned “a few million” to NewBridge Development to help with costs related to the Walmart project. The development is currently stalled because of litigation, but Goldsmith said he thinks NewBridge Development will prevail.

Goldsmith is a somewhat controversial figure in Louisville, initially making money through payday lending. Goldsmith said he now mostly gives out larger loans — $1 million or more.

He also made the news locally in 2014 after suing Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson for allegedly failing to repay a loan, and after a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune tied Goldsmith to Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura, who was under investigation for bribery.

Goldsmith said South Florida has accepted him more readily than Louisville ever did, which is why he’s now stepping away.

“Miami is much more forward-thinking, and there’s bigger opportunities,” Goldsmith said. “I’ve done a lot for this city, just like (developer) Todd Blue did a lot, but I wasn’t recognized.” —Caitlin Bowling

Aetna CEO commits to Louisville — but Hartford, not so much


Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has declined to give Connecticut folks some reassurances about whether the health insurer’s headquarters will remain in Hartford.

Aetna wants to buy Louisville-based rival Humana and has made a commitment to only one location: Louisville.

Bertolini said at Aetna’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday that the company’s HQ remains in Hartford “until further notice,” according to a story in the Hartford Courant.

Folks in Hartford have worried for months that Aetna will emulate Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric and leave the state. Aetna leaders have stubbornly refused to say where they will locate the headquarters of the combined company.

Bertolini also said Friday that without the commitment to Louisville, Aetna’s attempts to merge with Humana would have been rebuffed.

“We had to make that commitment in order to get the merger done,” Bertolini said, according to the Courant. “Having said that, the rest of all of our real estate is under review.”

Shareholders and some state regulators have approved the merger, but it still is being reviewed by federal antitrust regulators. –Boris Ladwig

Husband-and-wife artist duo to open Cook Studio & Gallery in Clifton

Andy and Kelly Cook in front of their new Cook Studio & Gallery in Clifton. | Courtesy of Cook Creative

Andy and Kelly Cook in front of their new Cook Studio & Gallery in Clifton. | Courtesy of Cook Creative

Andy and Kelly Cook have been operating Cook Creative online for some time now, and on June 1, they are making the leap to a brick-and-mortar establishment where they can expand their artistic services to the Clifton community and beyond.

Cook Studio & Gallery — located at 1832 Frankfort Ave. across from the American Printing House for the Blind — will specialize in art, books, music and, in the future, beauty services.

Andy and Kelly, both artists, met in 2010 and soon after started a partnership in both marriage and business. Andy works in fine art, music, poetry and welding, and Kelly is a published author, cosmetologist, artist and musician. They combined their various skills into one vision — Cook Creative — and have been creating and helping others create ever since.

Kelly says the gallery will feature fine art in the form of paintings, drawings, portraits, metal sculptures and functional art, as well as books, music, photography, jewelry, T-shirts, magnets and much more. It’ll host exhibits by the owners and other local artists. And once they open the doors — pending approval of a zone change from mixed use to commercial/residential — Kelly also would like to offer her cosmetology services.

A grand opening celebration is planned for Friday, June 24, at 6 p.m. —Sara Havens

Four Roses releases Elliott’s Select — a single barrel, barrel-strength bourbon

Elliott's Select

Barrel-strength bourbons are delectable treats for bourbon aficionados. It’s the closest you can come to actually inserting a straw into a barrel and taking a sip. No water is added, and it’s only been subjected to a filtering process, so you’re not chewing on burnt wood as you drink.

Joining the latest brands to release a barrel-strength, high-proof bourbon — recently there have been offerings by 1792 and Bulleit — is Four Roses, which today announced the addition of Elliott’s Select to its line of quality bourbons.

The special limited release marks master distiller Brent Elliott‘s first hand-chosen bourbon, a 14-year-old that comes in at a hefty 117 proof. In a press release, Elliott says he’s hoping Four Roses fans agree with his selection.

“I’ve always been happiest when I’m so deep into a project that I lose track of time, and that’s exactly what happened when we began the process of selecting barrels for Elliott’s Select,” he says. “There’s something unique about this 14-year-old bourbon, and now that it has been bottled, I’m looking forward to taking a step back and hearing what our fans think.”

I was fortunate to get a sample of the bourbon and can attest to Elliott’s superb palate. The high-rye mash bill of Four Roses puts up a strong, peppery sting, followed by the warm, sweet notes of caramel and vanilla common in a 14-year bourbon. The high proof didn’t make an uncomfortable finish, which I was expecting, but it did warm me up all the way down.

Four Roses is releasing 8,000 bottles of Elliott’s Select throughout the country. It retails for $125 a bottle. —Sara Havens

Taco Bell rolling out four new restaurant looks

The four designs are called Heritage, Modern Explorer, California Sol and Urban Edge. | Courtesy of Taco Bell

The four designs are called Heritage, Modern Explorer, California Sol and Urban Edge. | Courtesy of Taco Bell

California-based Taco Bell isn’t going for a single cookie-cutter store look anymore. The fast-food chain has added four new cookie-cutters to the mix.

As part of its plan to open 2,000 new Taco Bell locations by 2022, the Yum! Brands subsidiary has introduced four new designs — Heritage, Modern Explorer, California Sol and Urban Edge — that the company’s executives say will allow the brand to fit in more with its various environments, according to a news release.

“It’s no longer one size fits all,” Deborah Brand, Taco Bell’s vice president of development and design, said in the release. “Consumers are looking for a localized, customized and personalized experiences that reflect the diversity of their communities – the flexibility in bringing these four designs to life gives us just that.”

Heritage is “a modern interpretation of Taco Bell’s original Mission Revival style.” California Sol offers a laid-back beach feel with plenty of glass to bring the outside in. Urban Edge is an “eclectic mix of international and street style,” and Modern Explorer includes modern, rustic touches that fit a more suburban or rural setting, the release states.

The designs all incorporate LED lights and energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment.

“Building new restaurants is a key component to the overall growth and evolution of Taco Bell,” said Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol. “Great design, great food and great economics is at the heart of our growth.” —Caitlin Bowling

Environmental advocacy group calls for KFC to use antibiotic-free chicken

The $5 Fill-Up is a popular offering for the brand. | Courtesy of KFC Corp.

The $5 Fill-Up is a popular offering for the brand. | Courtesy of KFC Corp.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has asked Louisville-based fast-food chain KFC to abandon the use of chickens that are raised using human antibiotics.

“With fast food restaurants increasingly serving meat raised with better antibiotics practices, KFC is lagging behind competitors like Chick-Fil-A and its sister company, Taco Bell,” Lena Brook, the council’s food policy advocate, said in a news release. “As the nation’s largest fast food chicken chain, KFC has an opportunity and responsibility to help stem the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections by cleaning up its antibiotics policies.”

The campaign, whose spokesperson is a human-sized chicken covered in pills, notes that Taco Bell has committed to using antibiotics-free chicken by early 2017. The council also asks supporters to sign an online petition, which will be sent to KFC CEO Roger Eaton.

Earlier this year, Laurie Schalow, Yum’s global vice president of corporate social responsibility, told Insider Louisville that making policy changes, such as going antibiotic-free, is a process.

“They are definitely working on it,” she said when asked if KFC would ever use only antibiotic-free chicken. “Everybody is at a different place in the journey.”

In the meantime, KFC aims to eliminate the use of critically important antibiotics by end of this year, and the administration of other antibiotics will be overseen by veterinarians.

“They are looking at the supply chain to reduce the need to use them in the first place,” Schalow said. —Caitlin Bowling

Locally owned escape adventure business opening in Louisville

Countdown Louisville offers three rooms, including one where players must save a girl from a psychopath. | Courtesy of Countdown Louisville

Countdown Louisville offers three rooms, including one where players must save a girl from a psychopath. | Courtesy of Countdown Louisville

Escape adventure businesses may one day outnumber pizzerias in Louisville at the pace they seem to be opening.

The newest company to enter the game is Countdown Louisville, owned and created by Louisville resident Greg Butler.

“I created this on pen and paper,” he said.

The company, located at 1500 Envoy Circle in Suite 1501 off Hurstbourne Parkway, is already taking bookings for its three rooms. Ransom is already open. Electrovault will open May 27, and Survival is set to open the second week of June.

Survival is a twist on typical escape gaming, offering participants the chance to compete against each other to see which team can break through a wall first to escape.

“Folks that play these games are competitive,” Butler said. “They love the idea of having a competition room.”

Teams can range from two to eight people for Ransom and Eletrovault, and four to eight people for Survival. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

With Bluegrass Commerce Park nearby, Butler said he hopes to attract businesses interested in team-building exercises. Countdown Louisville has a conference room that can fit eight to 12 people, and the business can create custom packages for corporate clients.

Currently, Butler is running the business mostly by himself, but he is looking to hire four employees minimum to work 10 to 20 hours a week. Interested people can contact him at i[email protected] —Caitlin Bowling

GE to launch dishwashers with dedicated silverware jets

GE Appliances will launch new dishwashers next month that come with dedicated silverware jets. | Courtesy of GE.

GE Appliances will launch new dishwashers next month that come with dedicated silverware jets. | Courtesy of GE.

GE Appliances will launch new dishwashers next month that come with dedicated jets to clean silverware.

In June, all GE Profile and Cafe series dishwashers will come standard with 140 jets including 40 placed underneath the silverware basket.

“Silverware is one of the hardest things to get clean,” said Mike Nerdig, the company’s marketing manager for dishwasher products. “Consumers want a dishwasher than can provide table-ready silverware in one wash cycle, along with more loading and cleaning options.”

GE said the new dishwashers also will come with jets for “hard-to-clean containers like baby bottles, sports bottles and travel mugs.”

The dishwashers will cost between $899 and $1,599, the company said.

GE employs about 6,000 at Appliance Park in Louisville. General Electric has sold the division to China-based Qingdao Haier. The transition is expected to occur early next month. —Boris Ladwig

Heroes Comics & Gaming to host an art fair

Heroes Comics and Gaming | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Heroes Comics & Gaming | Photo by Melissa Chipman

“That’s Art” local artist spotlight will showcase all kinds of art at Heroes Comics & Gaming to help local artists expose their work to the community and show that great art comes in many forms.

Folk art, music, fine art, anime, comedy … anything goes. The event is noon-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 28.

Artists include:

  • Brian Rodman – Artist and writer of the comic “Memoirs of an Angel”
  • Becca Hamrin – Artist, metal smith and jewelry designer
  • Bhangaz Street Dance Crew
  • Zac Coomer – Stand-up comedian
  • Art created by the patients of Heartsong Memory Care & Adult Day Health Care
  • And many more …

Heroes Comics & Gaming is located at 361 Baxter Ave. —Melissa Chipman