Monday Business Briefing: Pho Cafe to open in Tom+Chee space; city bike share, LouVelo, ready to roll; dog bowls for the elderly; and more

Welcome to the April 17 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Veteran chef opening new Bardstown Road restaurant

Tuan Phan | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Tuan Phan is not a name that many everyday Louisvillians would know, but he’s got an impressive resume.

He served as chef de cuisine at Asiatique for 18 years, as well as worked at Dish on Market, Hiko-a-mon and other local eateries. Phan also has cooked at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and the James Beard House.

After more than 30 years of cooking, Phan is finally opening his own restaurant.

“It’s about time,” he told Insider, noting that it’s been his dream to own his own place for many years. “It’s every chef’s dream.”

Phan hopes to open Pho Cafe at 1704 Bardstown Road — the same space SuperChefs and Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi are located — in June. It will fill the former Tom+Chee spot.

“This is a great neighborhood, and people around here love different cuisines,” he told Insider.

Pho Cafe will serve Vietnamese food comfort food and pho. Phan, a native of Saigon, said the restaurant would specialize in noodle dishes. Entrees will run $11 to $13 a piece, with most appetizers costing $4 to $6.

“Right now, I’m still fighting about what I want to put on the menu,” he said. “I want something extremely simple but extremely good.”

The restaurant, which will seat 60, is about to undergo renovations, including repainting, to make it look more modern, hip and slick, Phan said.

Should things take off at Pho Cafe, Phan said additional locations could pop up around Louisville in the future. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville to introduce its bike share program, LouVelo, later this spring

As IL reported in early MarchLouVelo, the city’s bike share program, will kick off later this spring, with 300 bikes at 28 stations and another 15 more stations to come. The city has partnered with nine local businesses to bring the program to Old Louisville, Downtown, Waterfront Park, NuLu and neighborhoods in between.

The city is working with the University of Louisville and other neighborhoods like the Highlands and Russell to add more bikes and stations.

Costs for the program were funded through a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant of $1.1 million matched with $273,000 from Louisville Metro. The city will pay provider CycleHop, a company that handles bike shares in other cities, $50,000 a year to operate LouVelo.

Bikers signing up for the program before the start are being offered a special $99 a year introductory rate for unlimited 60-minute rides throughout the year. The city will release daily, monthly and yearly membership costs at the launch.

“We are excited to offer a new mode of public transportation to the residents and visitors of Louisville, Dave Nelson, chief operating officer of CycleHop, said in a news release. “Providing healthy, sustainable and fun transit alternatives is at the core of CycleHop’s mission. We are very grateful to Mayor Fischer, our sponsors and everyone in Louisville Metro who has made this mission a reality.”

LouVelo sponsors include Norton Healthcare, JP Morgan Chase & Co., UPS, Main & Clay, Genscape Inc., The Brown Hotel, KentuckyOne Health, Atria Senior Living and The Eye Care Institute.

“These great community partners know that quality of life is a critical factor in maintaining and growing a talented workforce in Louisville,” Mayor Fischer said in a release. “LouVelo is one of the many things we’re doing to enhance quality of life in our city.” —Melissa Chipman

Two Louisville apartment complexes sell to out-of-town groups

This apartment complex at West Magnolia Avenue and South Third Street sold. | Courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

Two apartment complexes — one in Old Louisville and another in Phoenix Hill — sold in the last two weeks.

The Old Louisville apartments, at 224 W. Magnolia Ave., sold for $1.2 million, according to property records. A company called Magnolia Partners bought the two-building, 21-unit complex on April 6.

James and Ruth Cox of Harold, Ky., own Magnolia Partners, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State. James Cox also owns Cox Laboratory & Allergy Testing in Booneville, Ky., Cox’s Creekside Farms and several Marquee Cinemas locations, among other ventures.

Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Kentucky represented the seller, Edgeware LC.

Closer to the Central Business District, a larger apartment development has sold — this one owned by prominent development company Weyland Ventures.

Mariah Gratz, CEO of Weyland Ventures, told Insider in a phone interview that a family-owned company out of Indiana, Pithos, bought 310 @ NuLu, a 173-unit market-rate apartment complex at Hancock and Jefferson streets. She declined to disclose the sale price.

Pithos approached Weyland Ventures, Gratz said, adding that the company had just refinanced in September and had plans to hold onto the property. The money from the sale will allow Weyland Ventures to reinvest in other projects.

“It was opportunistic for us,” she said. “We have a lot of projects on the horizon.”

Given that the property just opened in 2015, the new owners don’t plan to make any changes, Gratz told Insider. Sheehan Property Management will continue to manage 310 @ NuLu, where rents range from about $750 to just over $1,7000 a month.

While the name implies that the apartments are located in the fashionable NuLu neighborhood, it is, in reality, part of the more, let’s say, down-to-earth Phoenix Hill neighborhood. (Full disclosure: I live in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood.)

Gratz said Weyland Ventures isn’t looking to sell any of its other properties, which are a mix of just about everything.

“I think we are looking to hold on to what we have,” she said. —Caitlin Bowling

Local businesses turn to Kiva for business expansion needs

Three local businesses are seeking financial backers through the Kiva loan program to build their existing businesses. Kiva allows everyday people to loan money to a business owner, who then pays them back over time.

  • Nigerian restaurant Funmi’s Cafe is hoping to raise $10,000 in loans to update its furniture and fixtures, secure liquor licenses to boost sales and hire more employees. The investment will help the restaurant stay open longer and increase sales an estimated 25 percent. Owner Funmi Aderinokun opened the restaurant at in 2010.
  • LOVAFARE, a local vegan restaurant formerly called NOLAFARE, is hoping to add to the wellness side of its business and is asking for $2,000. The money will allow it to enhance its classes such as yoga, meditation, private energy healing and massage. LOVAFARE is at 2009 Highland Ave., just around the corner from Wick’s Pizza on Baxter Avenue.
  • Mid City Barbell is a local gym located in Mid City Mall that just changed owners last year. The new owners Dustin Stevens and Dave Theilen are looking for $9,000 to help them update equipment, renovate the bathrooms and get a sign to drive business to the gym, which is somewhat hidden within the mall.

Louisville became a Kiva city in 2014. The global program is expected to pass the billion-dollar mark of loans funded sometime this summer. —Caitlin Bowling

Voice your opinion about plans for the Urban Government Center

The Urban Government Center is located on Barret Avenue. | Courtesy of Google Maps

The city is hosting a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Louisville Free Public Library, 301 York St., where residents can ask questions and provide feedback on five plans for how to redevelop the Urban Government Center.

Five proposals were submitted for how developers would revitalize the 12-acre site along Barrett Avenue in the Paristown Pointe neighborhood.

Proposals came from Lifestyle Communities, The Marian Group, Louisville Stoneware owner Steve Smith, Underhill Associates and Weyland Ventures.

Plans varied but all included multiple types of housing from for-sale homes to luxury apartments, commercial space and green space. A few also included a boutique hotel, and one featured a modern Class A office building.

For more details, check out Insider Louisville’s story from last week that highlights each plan. —Caitlin Bowling

Homes sales up 11 percent during March

Following a dip in home sales in February, the number of homes sold in the Louisville MSA is once again on the rise.

Homes sales jumped 11 percent this March compared to the March prior, with 162 more homes sold, according to Greater Louisville Association of Realtors. Year to date, home sales also are up, increasing 4.67 percent year over year.

The average sale price for the first three months of 2017 rose 8.62 percent, to $193,389, from $178,047, GLAR reported.

Although the percentages are slightly different from the entire MSA, the facts and figures for Jefferson County alone tell a similar story.

Here’s a look at the numbers for Jefferson County only. | Courtesy of GLAR

As has become the common theme during the past couple of years, housing inventory remains low. In the Louisville MSA, there were 19.14 percent fewer homes on the market during the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period a year ago.

“Our members are still working in a very strong sellers’ market for homes up to $400,000,” GLAR President Allison Bartholomew said in a news release. —Caitlin Bowling

The ReachaBowl

Louisville inventor ships dog bowls for the elderly

Plenty of companies have zeroed in on how to make big money solving big problems for older Americans, but not as many have sought to solve the little problems. For example, if you’re older and mobility-restricted, how do you pick up your dog’s bowl from the floor so you can feed Fido?

Vadim Gordin’s Rise Assist Devices has come out with a product that will help Nana feed Rover (or Garfield— it’s not pet specific). It’s basically two pet bowls attached to a long handle that keeps the dog owner from having to lean over to fill the bowls. There’s a rim to help avoid sloshing. It all comes apart and is dishwasher safe.

This is the ReachaBowl — which is as cute of a pun as it comes.

Gordin told IL that most products designed to help the elderly are “harshly functional” and “institutional,” but the ReachaBowl is a cheery blue and white and is designed to be easy to grip. It’s made of the same materials the automotive industry uses to make headlights, so it can withstand bumps and smudges. The device comes in two sizes for small and medium pets. A large pet (35+pound) bowl is still in design stages.

He worked with Gil Cohen of Big In Design in Toronto on the industrial design.

Gordin shipped out the first orders this week.

Gordin came to the United States with his family as a Russian refugee at age 4. His family settled in Asbury Park, N.J. He majored in biomedical engineering and would have been a fourth-generation doctor but decided to pursue a law degree instead. He doesn’t practice law anymore. Lately, he’s been part of three different startups as what he calls a “co-founder for hire.”

“I want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Gordin said. He holds two patents for devices that provide stability for cane or walker users as they exit their car seat or other chairs. Gordin envisions his company having five or six different products geared to help older customers.

Small bowls are available for purchase now. Medium bowls will be available in May. —Melissa Chipman