Welcome to the Aug. 24 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Bourbon & Belles opening soon at Bardstown Road ‘Tom Drexler’ building

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 12.47.04 PM
Rendering of the Bourbon & Belles, Pantry & Libations store.

When IL first wrote about a possible new liquor-related business coming to the former Tom Drexler Building at 2232 Bardstown Road, there weren’t too many details available. At the time, we had learned the Douglas Loop/Belknap-area business would be a drive-up/drive-through liquor store tentatively called Highlands Drive Thru. And it wasn’t even completely clear it would happen, with some neighbors voicing skepticism, and Metro Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, saying at the time, “I’m not anxious to see another drive-through liquor store on Bardstown Road.”

But that was then, and now it looks like this store is definitely going to open, though in a somewhat different form and now with the approval of Owen.

The store is going to be called Bourbon & Belles, Pantry & Libations. It will, as noted, be in the Drexler building and will occupy 6,000 square feet. It will indeed be a drive-through liquor store, meaning you will literally drive your vehicle into the building. Once inside, there will be two lanes — with a massive fan whisking motor exhaust outside — and you will get your order brought to you while you wait in your car. There also will be a small retail space you can walk into if you choose.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 12.45.48 PMOwner Jennifer Stetson said B&B is going to open in mid September, and it won’t be just liquor, but will sell pantry items like milk, bread, and even diapers. The space also will carry “Kentucky Proud” brands. 

Also, there will be two lanes inside the building, not just one. One will be an express lane for people who use an app to pre-order, up to a week in advance. “It generates a pickup time, and (your order will) be ready, boxed-up, and already paid for,” she said.

The business also has applied for a sampling license to allow tastings. Ultimately, Stetson said, B&B will create 25 jobs — 10 full-time, including include health care — and will pay from $8 to $12 per hour.

As for Councilman Owen, he’s now on board. Though he’s away on vacation, his legislative assistant, Terra Long, said Owen initially misunderstood the store’s concept and his views softened when he learned B&B will sell things in addition to liquor. He also liked that Stetson joined the Belknap Neighborhood Association, where she is now one of the directors of the board. “She’s a very vivacious young entrepreneur,” Long said of Stetson. “We hope she does well.”

For more information on Bourbon & Belles, log onto their website at www.502bourbon.com. —David Serchuk

Calvary Lutheran Church in the Highlands officially for sale

Calvalry Lutheran Church
Calvalry Lutheran Church

Last April we wrote about how the Calvary Lutheran Church at 1838 Bardstown Road., at the corner of Roanoke in Deer Park, could be up for sale in the near future. Well, that future has arrived. The stone building officially went on the market Friday for $950,000. That price includes the 17,234-square-foot building and its 30-car parking lot.

The site is zoned for C-2 commercial use, which listing agent Tyler Smith of PRG Commercial Property said is a valuable classification, adding the property’s owner, the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is motivated to sell.

“This is a trophy property in the hottest neighborhood in the city, and I’m already getting a lot of interest,” Smith said. “It’s nearly impossible to find a building this size on a corner lot zoned C-2 with a stand-alone parking lot.”

The building hasn’t been used by the ELCA for religious purposes since 2014, and subsequent renters, including Redeemer Presbyterian Church and St. Christopher Ecumenical Catholic Church, have both stopped using the site. 

“It’s a corner lot, and over 23,000 cars drive by there a day,” Smith said. He added that the 40205 ZIP code recently was cited as one of the hottest in the U.S., another big plus.

Smith said the difference maker in this deal is the quarter-acre parking lot. “That’s very rare in the Highlands,” he said. While the structure dates from 1927, it is not part of a historic registry, Smith said. Documents from PRG highlight the former church building could be used in any number of ways, including restaurant, retail, nightclub, or bar.

Inside the Calvary Lutheran Church
Inside the Calvary Lutheran Church

The stained glass inside the building is “unbelievable,” said Smith, who sent a pamphlet to IL that described the windows when they were installed following a 1979 fire that destroyed several of the church’s original windows: “The new stained glass windows of Calvary Lutheran church are contemporary, light and energetic. The radiance of the windows is meant to convey a spirit of uplifting joy.” —David Serchuk

Property owners, neighborhood leaders have high hopes for Costco

Costco is building a store on the site of the former Showcase Cinemas. | By Caitlin Bowling
Costco is building a store on the site of the former Showcase Cinemas. | By Caitlin Bowling

The stretch of Bardstown Road just after Interstate 264 isn’t desolate. Within a short distance, there’s a Starbucks, Lowe’s, Target, Kroger, Walmart, Thorntons, several fast-food options, a medical plaza and office buildings.

The area has developed slowly, with many of the trappings of a quality retail and office hub. However, unlike the Highlands, St. Matthews or Hurstbourne, the Bon Air and Bashford Manor neighborhoods surrounding that particular stretch of Bardstown Road are not a destination. It’s not highly sought-after real estate — yet.

Some property owners and neighborhood leaders are hopeful the opening of the members-only discount store Costco at the former Showcase Cinema’s site will fast-track development along the corridor.

“Probably in five years, you won’t even recognize this stretch,” said Dana Delsignore, co-owner of the Bardstown Road Centre, a nearly 40,000-square-foot retail and office space across the street from the future Costco.

Unlike other popular retailers such as Target and Walmart, Costco is known for attracting consumers from a much larger radius. There also is only one other Costco in the city, and it’s located deep in the East End near The Summit.

The new Costco will be a closer alternative for many residents inside the Watterson.

“(Costco) is a destination for a higher socioeconomic group,” said Frank Weisberg, a partner with FRA Investments LLC, which owns several properties in the area, including the medical plaza. “It is going to be a boon to retail. It is going to be a boon to office space.”

After declining in the last 10 to 15 years, Weisberg said, the area has started to bounce back.

“With the addition of Costco, I think that is a real game changer,” he said. “If we can get rid of the Economy Inn, that would be terrific because that is the only thing holding it down.” The Economy Inn is a known haven for criminal activity, including underage prostitution and drugs, as previously reported by IL.

Adding a Costco and subtracting the Economy Inn aren’t the last piece of the puzzle. There are other businesses that stakeholders would like to see, such as more sit-down restaurants, retail and quality hotels.

The Costco project, which includes a 153,000-square-foot store, is still moving through Metro government approval but hasn’t faced opposition thus far.

The company had to ask the city to rezone a portion of the property. After sailing through Metro Council’s Planning/Zoning, Land Design and Development Committee earlier this week, the matter is headed to the full council this Thursday.

Metro Councilman Steve Magre, D-10, said he’s heard nothing but positive feedback from constituents. “The parcel has been vacant so long,” he said. “And now it is going to have this rebirth.”

Costco was a best-case scenario, said Patrick Carrico, president of the Bon Air Neighborhood Association. “It is a place that will bring a lot of traffic.”

Not only is it expected to bring people and additional investment, but some existing property owners believe it will create higher demand for leased space.

Delsignore with the Bardstown Road Centre noted the road is heavily traveled and sits just off the interstate, making it a quick shot to downtown. With Costco, Delsignore said, they will be able to draw even more quality companies to the center, which is nearly 80 percent leased. The Bardstown Road Centre fetches about $10 to $15 a square foot in monthly rent, but Delsignore said that could easily move up to $15 to $20 a square foot.

“We are in the land of development,” he said. — Caitlin Bowling

Mert’s Cakes owner cuts business in two, brings on business partner

Virginia Rankin, founder of Mert’s Cakes, has spun off a portion of her longtime business into a new company called Mert’s Kitchen.

Louie's Derby Cake is a butter praline cake moistened with bourbon and drizzled with chocolate. | Courtesy of Mert's Kitchen's Facebook
Louie’s Derby Cake is a butter praline cake moistened with bourbon and drizzled with chocolate. | Courtesy of Mert’s Kitchen’s Facebook

Mert’s Cakes will encompass her wedding cake business, while Mert’s Kitchen will focus on growing her spirited praline cake business, which started about 15 years ago thanks to the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs commissioned Rankin to make a cake for the Derby. She created Louie’s Derby Cake, a butter praline cake moistened with bourbon and drizzled with chocolate, which she now sells along with two rum praline cakes.

To help run Mert’s Kitchen and market her praline cakes, Rankin brought on co-owner Lauren West.

West, who formerly handled marketing for Wild Eggs, bought a 40 percent ownership stake in Mert’s Kitchen. She declined to say how much she paid.

Rankin owns the remaining 60 percent and retains full ownership in Mert’s Cakes.

West told IL that she’s known Rankin since she was young. Her dad’s business, Henson Construction, used to be located next door to Mert’s Cakes. She even traded Rankin consulting services for her wedding cake.

Rankin has been searching for someone, West said, to work on sales and marketing because she doesn’t have enough time to devote to it. That’s where West fit.

Although she will still be a consultant for Wild Eggs, West’s main focus will be getting Louie’s Derby Cake featured in national publications, in restaurants and distilleries, and on store shelves.

“I think it has national legs,” she said. — Caitlin Bowling

Glasgow Electric partners with Louisville startup to conserve energy

The municipally owned Glasgow (Ky.) Electric Plant Board is taking strides to reduce emissions during peak demand times for its customers in southern Kentucky. One of the measures they are taking is partnering with Louisville startup Virtual Peakers.

Virtual Peaker was founded by engineer Bill Burke, formerly of the startup Calculingua. According to the Angel’s List listing, “It exists at the top of the Internet of Things stack to provide high performance control and scheduling for most connected devices. Virtual Peaker empowers its utility customers to reduce their peak loads, improve their load factor, and lower their costs while not upsetting their residential customers with obtrusive demand response events.”

Burke left his job at GE to start Calculingua. He went through the Velocity accelerator program. And eventually, he shuttered that startup. He explained why in an editorial that IL reprinted earlier this year. –– Melissa Chipman

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn discloses sizable holdings in Tegna, Gannett

Newly released financial information from billionaire investor Carl Icahn shows he has sizable positions in both Tegna and Gannett Inc., the two firms created in the wake of the breakup of the original Gannett, the media company that owned WHAS-11 and The Courier-Journal.

The original Gannett was split into Tegna and Gannett in June. Gannett officially spawned its broadcast and digital businesses into Tegna, which now owns WHAS, and Gannett Co. Inc., which owns the C-J.

As of June 30, 2015, Icahn disclosed he had taken a new ownership position in Tegna of more than 14.9 million shares valued at $480 million. This made Icahn the second-biggest owner of Tegna stock, owning 6.6 percent of shares outstanding.

Also, as of June 30, Icahn disclosed he owned 7.48 million shares of Gannett, valued at $105 million. Again, this made him the second-biggest shareholder of Gannett Co., as well, with his shares equal to 6.6 percent of the shares outstanding. —David Serchuk

Heaven Hill acquires Austin’s Deep Eddy Vodka brand

Deep Eddy Vodka
Deep Eddy Vodka

And here we thought the flavored vodka trend was coming to an end. Apparently, we were mistaken — Heaven Hill Brands announced late last week that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Deep Eddy Vodka, which, according to the press release, is the No. 1 fastest-growing spirits brand in the United States.

Deep Eddy, out of Austin, Texas, premiered in 2010 with the original Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, and a year later, it came out with the Deep Eddy Straight Vodka as well as a full line of flavors, including lemon, cranberry and grapefruit.

“This is a milestone day for Heaven Hill Brands as we add Deep Eddy Vodka and their entire team to our dynamic and innovative family,” said Max L. Shapira, president of Heaven Hill Brands, in the press release. “Deep Eddy Vodka is a star on the rise in the spirits industry and is redefining the premium vodka market with a quality product and iconic marketing programs. The brand is a perfect fit for our established portfolio of rapidly-growing products.”

Austin, the quintessential hipster town of Texas, is also known for the popular Tito’s Vodka. And much of Deep Eddy’s growth is the result of an innovate marketing and sales program that’s tied to the trend-setting, rich history of the city. Deep Eddy will continue to be produced in Austin, and its distillery’s Visitor’s Center will remain a hot attraction for both locals and tourists.

Looks like area bartenders will have to find additional shelf space for more flavored vodka. —Sara Havens

New event venue opening in Jeffersontown

National event venue chain Noah’s is opening a location in Louisville at 12451 Plantside Drive in Jeffersontown.

This photo shows a room within Noah's of Louisville, which was undergoing final touches at the time. | Courtesy of Noah's
This photo shows a room within Noah’s of Louisville, which was undergoing final touches at the time. | Courtesy of Noah’s

The new venue includes a main hall, outdoor patio, a bridal suite, a groom’s suite or game room, a ceremony room and a cocktail room. The latter two rooms also can be used for small receptions, according to Noah’s website.

Maximum capacity for any event is 325 people in the main hall and outdoor patio area. Capacity decreases from there depending on the use.

The ribbon cutting for Noah’s of Louisville’s is Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Noah’s operates 29 spaces across the United States. The company markets its spaces as perfect for weddings, business events and special occasions. —Caitlin Bowling

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