The building at 514 S. 5th St. has received considerable attention for its unique tenant, a bar/barber shop, but it’s just one of numerous properties that casual real estate investor Griffin Meredith, along with various partners, has purchased and renovated in Louisville.
“We aren’t big time,” said Meredith, president and owner of Louisville health care brokerage firm Commonwealth Insurance Partners.
After moving back to Louisville from Danville, Ky. where he attended Centre College, Meredith started investing in residential real estate because his older brothers were already doing the same. He’s worked with his aunt, his brothers and staff at his company who were interested in delving into the market.
“It diversifies your financial well-being,” he said.
And although insurance sales is his full-time gig, Meredith employs three construction workers, including his own contractor.
“If I don’t have something going on, they don’t have a job,” he said. “We try to make sure that when we see one thing winding down, (we) start another one.”
Meredith said he rents a mixture of single-family and multi-family homes to 90 people. Most of the properties are located in Old Louisville and near Churchill Downs. Rates range from $1,300 to $1,800, depending on the property.
The South Fifth Street property, however, was his first foray into commercial real estate. He, his brother Andy Meredith and attorney Tanner Watkins partnered on the project.
“I live downtown. I work downtown. I like downtown, and it was fun,” he said of the decision to branch into commercial real estate in the Central Business District.
In 2012, they bought the property for $113,000 from Republic Bank & Trust Co., which had purchased it on the courthouse steps. That same year, they received a Louisville Metropolitan Business Development Corp. facade loan of $50,000.
The property previously had sat empty for more than 10 years, Meredith said, adding that they found newspapers from the 1960s left in the building.
“It was pretty run down,” he said. Meredith declined to disclose how much they spent to build out three apartments on the second and third floor and two commercial spaces on the first floor.
After renovating the building, it took a while to find viable commercial tenants, Meredith said, noting residential property moves much quicker.
“There’s only so many businesses, but everybody’s got to have a place to stay. You see (commercial) places that are always available for rent,” Meredith said. “You can make a lot more money on them, but they also can sit for a lot longer.”
Restaurants and bars expressed interest in space at 514 S. 5th St., but neither side was ever fully committed, said E.P. Scherer, a Realtor with Commercial Kentucky who handled leasing for the property. Negotiations got pretty far with a doctor’s office but fell through.
Pending approval of its liquor license permit application, Beards & Beers will serve customers bottled craft brews and provide them with close shaves. Its grand opening is March 31.
Owners and veteran barbers Lindsay Doogs and Melissa Gray plan to partner with local breweries to create “a unique and redefined barbershop experience,” according to the business’s website. Services include straight razor shaves, hair cuts, beard trims, facials, beard treatments, facial hair tinting and facial waxing.
Last year, Meredith also bought and renovated a first-floor suite at 550 S. 5th St. to house his insurance company. Commonwealth Insurance Partners’ 10 employees moved there from their previous offices above Atlantic No. 5.
Meredith currently is looking for another property to develop but is cautiously figuring the return on investment for each space he sees since property prices have risen; he’d like his next project to be roughly the same size as 514 S. Fifth St.