Welcome to the Sept. 14 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
First, some news about Insider Louisville: We’ve moved!
As IL’s intrepid editorial staff toiled away on Friday to bring you the news, a team of movers packed up all the stuff in our NuLu office and trucked it on over to our new home 10 blocks west. Insider Louisville HQ now is located in the historic First Trust Centre at the corner of Fifth and West Market streets.
And while we’ll desperately miss the coffee and treats at Please & Thank You, we’re looking forward to getting to know the fine baristas at Sunergos on South Fifth. (Sometimes adrenaline alone isn’t enough to churn out news on deadline, hence the importance of quality coffee in close proximity.)
Behind the scenes at Aloft hotel and Corner bar, both set to open Nov. 3
After about three and a half years of development and construction, the Aloft at First and Main streets in downtown Louisville is set to open on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In anticipation of the grand opening, Insider Louisville sat down with developer Steve Poe to discuss the project, followed by an exclusive tour of the near-finished hotel.
Poe tells IL he first decided to build a local Aloft after visiting the one in Asheville, N.C.
“On a trip to Asheville with my daughter riding horses is what convinced me to do Aloft in Louisville,” said Poe, who spent part of the trip people-watching at the hotel. “This really, really works in this urban-type (atmosphere).”
Poe Companies and White Lodging Services, the hotel property management company running the Aloft, expect to take control of the building from the contractor on Oct. 1. Then they will start furnishing the common areas and hotel rooms as well as training its 45 full-time employees and additional part-time staff.
“There is nothing that we can foresee that will slow us down or stop us,” Poe said.
Right now, the hotel is coming together with wallpaper already in the rooms and carpet being laid on the final floor. The furniture is expected to arrive in the next couple weeks, according to Mark Batchik, the Aloft’s general manager.
“It’s really becoming like a real hotel,” Batchik said during IL’s tour.
The biggest work left to do is finishing the lobby, where the walls are a mixture of brick and wood, and drop wood ceilings expose some of the hotel pipes and inner workings. The lobby will include a fireplace, lounge, pool table and easy access to the first-floor bar.
As the opening date inches closer after more than three years of planning and construction, Poe said he’s relieved, adding, “By the time you get through all the stuff and all the things and you get to that big moment where you get to cut the ribbon, you’re sort of exhausted.”
When the Aloft’s 175 rooms are ready for guests on Nov. 3, visitors and locals alike also will be able to visit the hotel’s unique bar.
In addition to the neon colors associated with a typical Aloft Bar, the local version — called Corner — will feature old brick walls, more in line with historic Louisville buildings. The first floor bar also will have a wall of glass that can be opened on warm days.
The bar will be modeled after Corner Restaurant, located in the JW Marriot in Austin, but have a local feel.
“We can let the bar roll right out on the street, and people on the street can roll right on in to the bar,” Poe said. “We hope at the end of the day people look at it as a cool, local bar on Main Street.”
The bar fits in among the restaurants and watering holes that line the stretch of Main between the KFC Yum! Center and First Street, Poe added, and will benefit from high pedestrian traffic counts.
The Aloft is one of many hotel projects underway in downtown Louisville. Last November, the 162-room Hilton Garden Inn opened at Fourth and West Chestnut streets, and earlier this year, the 304-room Embassy Suites opened at the corner of Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. The 600-room Omni Hotel and Residences, bound by Second, Third, and Liberty streets and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, is moving forward as well. (There’s also an unrelated Aloft hotel being constructed at Indian Lake Drive and Westport Road in the East End.)
Poe said the need for the additional rooms is there.
“There are many nights a year that all hotels downtown are sold out,” he said. “Downtown continues to thrive.”
Increased supply as well as the $180 million renovation of the Louisville International Convention Center will create further demand for downtown rooms, Poe said, adding that bourbonism is a real driver of tourism business for the city.
Originals Highlands leaders want to create plan for the next 100 years
As the Original Highlands prepares to celebrate its 200-year history, Jim Schorch, vice president of the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association, wants to create a plan illustrating how the residents and business owners want to see the area grow during the remainder of the 21st century.
The idea for a master plan of sorts came from Metro Councilman Tom Owen, Schorch told Insider Louisville. “We thought that might be a good idea for the future.”
In an editorial written for The Original Highlands Newsletter, Schorch noted that one proposal for improvement suggests converting the intersection of Baxter Avenue and Broadway into a roundabout, which would be mostly surrounded by mixed-use buildings.
“We invite all interested parties to come to the table to work with our neighborhood to bring these exciting ideas to fruition,” he wrote.
No meetings have been held yet, but Schorch told IL he hopes to get started soon after a historical marker is placed on the island at Baxter and Winter avenues. The marker, noting the Original Highlands anniversary, will be dedicated at a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Sept. 20.
“We hope that will be a kind of jumping off point,” Schorch said.
In his editorial, Schorch also pointed out that several businesses have closed or moved out of the neighborhood in the last couple years, including Spindletop Draperies, Phoenix Hill Tavern, KFC Eleven and ISCO Industries. While those are concerning, he wrote, “all indications are that the area is growing vibrant and will continue to attract diverse businesses and patrons.”
“There have been some signs of hope lately,” Schorch said. “We are continuing to be optimistic.”
He specifically noted plans to turn the former Mercy Academy high school on Broadway into 195-unit upscale apartment complex. The school has sat vacant for nearly nine years.
Church takes over East End coffee shop
Northeast Christian Church is now in the coffee biz following the acquisition of Meeting Street Coffeehouse in Norton Commons.
“It actually wasn’t an acquisition in the traditional sense,” said Jenna Burns, the church’s director of marketing and communication. The coffeehouse’s owners, Kenny Hilpp and Barry Oxley, who are members at Northeast Christian, “gifted the coffee shop to the church as a means of outreach.”
A coffee shop is quite the tithe.
“Our end goal is not to necessarily to make a profit,” Burns said.
The church plans to reinvest profits back into the business as well as donate a portion to charities with a connection to Norton Commons. The first nonprofit to benefit will be the Bill Meadows Foundation, which helps families and people who’ve been impacted by illness. Meadows helped build part of Norton Commons and died last year from acute myeloid leukemia.
Patrons won’t notice much difference at the shop, according to Burns. The décor will change to make the coffeehouse “homey,” but the menu and name will remain the same.
The coffee cups do have the Northeast Christian logo on them, but Burns said there won’t be large signs that Meeting Street Coffeehouse is church owned and operated.
“While we are not ashamed or not hiding the fact, you don’t see and won’t see a lot of things referencing Northeast,” she said. “We want people to patronize the shop whether they believe in what we believe in or not.”
However, one Yelp user going by the name David O. commented last week that he noticed and wasn’t happy. “I knew about the new ownership and generally didn’t have a problem with it until yesterday,” he wrote, pointing out the Northeast Christian logo and tagline on the sleeve of the coffee cup. “Felt a bit uncomfortable with the Church literature on the tables and in the napkin holders too.”
Goss Avenue Kroger gets growler system
Finally, my Kroger has become cool. While we don’t have fancy local art or even a great gourmet cheese section, the Goss Avenue Kroger is getting a 12-tap growler fill station in its liquor store located next door. Construction is underway and should be finished in a few days.
Similar growler beer taps have been installed at the Prospect, Middletown and Breckenridge Lane Kroger locations.
Insider got a peek at the tap list from a source in-the-know, and the first round will include BBC Bourbon Barrel Stout, West Sixth Oktoberfest, Flat 12 Flat Jack Pumpkin, Goodwood Pale Ale, Tap Room 21 Pumpkin, Lagunitas IPA, Country Boy Shotgun Wedding, Country Boy Half Way Home, Shock Top Pretzel, Rhinegeist, Great Lakes Oktoberfest, and Ciderboys Pineapple Hula (my favorite).
Renovation begins on Mid City Mall
The outdated Mid City Mall in the heart of the Highlands finally is getting a much-needed facelift. IL wrote in January that plans were approved for an estimated $600,000 façade renovation, and now the work has begun.
The entrance will be replaced with brick, illuminated frosted glass, parapets, a metal roof and brick columns, according to the plans. The remainder of the 148,000-square-foot façade also will have brick columns as well as black metal awnings.
Mid City Mall owner Sandra Metts told IL Thursday that the renovation will take up to 90 days. But hopefully fewer, she said.
Although the front looks cordoned off, people will be able to access the Bardstown Road entrance and all Mid City Mall businesses throughout the construction process, Metts said. “I do want to stress that all the businesses are open.” —Caitlin Bowling
Do502 launches free app
Do502.com is a comprehensive listing service for area residents, and many media outlets, including Insider, use their services to populate our calendar event listings. Now the nearly year-old free service is offering a mobile-friendly app, which includes everything you get on the site, plus some bonus app-only features.
These new features include a Map View where you can find out what’s going on nearby; a Discover Tab where you can check out recommendations and view curated guides; and a Redesigned Profile where you can manage a personal calendar and receive notifications about your favorite artists and show announcements.
Lookin’ sharp, Startup Louisville!
Late last week, StartupLouisville.com launched a website redesign by Austin Lopesilvero. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s a website with a calendar of local startup/tech activities and a resource listing assets to the local startup community.
The website is the collective effort of many in the startup community, including GLI’s EnterpriseCorp.
The plan is to complete the rebranding of the initiative and to relaunch at Startup Weekend Louisville in October. To that end, they’ve put out a call for portfolios from local designers who would be interested in designing a new #StartupLou campaign logo.
The call closes on Friday, Sept. 18, at noon. If you are interested in participating, submit a digital portfolio containing three to six pieces original logo work to [email protected]. Check here for more details. —Melissa Chipman
Louisville brunch restaurant hatching new location
A local breakfast/brunch spot is adding two new Louisville stores.
No, it’s not Wild Eggs but another homegrown restaurant called Zeggz Amazing Eggs.
Owners Bob Dotson, Bob Eberle, Christopher Harding and Jerry Wilson opened the first Zeggz at 4600 Chamberlain Lane earlier this year. Already they hope to open two more before Jan. 1, and four to five other stores in 2016.
“We have large aspirations, and we want to grow the chain regionally and nationally,” Harding said, noting that he and Wilson formerly owned Hooters restaurants in Louisville.
The first new Zeggz store will be located at 2400 Lime Kiln Lane in a 6,000-square-foot space next to Smoothie King, Harding said, and is expected to open in early December.
The other location will be in a 5,000-square-foot spot at Madison Station at the corner of North Madison Avenue and Shelbyville Road in Middletown. The small retail center’s only other tenant will be Coal’s Artisan Pizza, which is expected to open in that location this fall.
The Zeggz will open in mid-December “if we can hustle,” Harding said, but that could be delayed until January.
He declined to say how much the owners are investing in each location.
The new Zeggz locations each will employ anywhere from 10 to 30 people depending on demand and size of the space, Harding said.
Zeggz will start looking at franchising outside Louisville in a year.
“The breakfast/brunch concept is the hottest concept out there right now,” Harding said.“We felt like we could certainly compete.”
Wild Eggs set the bar high, he said, but they hope Zeggz will match or surpass that concept one day.
Zeggz sets itself apart because it is a fast-casual, rather than sit-down restaurant, Harding said. It also plans to maintain a vegetable garden at each location. The peppers, tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables grown in the garden are used at the restaurant.
Macaron Bar location revealed
Insider Louisville reported last week that Cincinnati-based bakery Macaron Bar is setting up a shop in Louisville’s NuLu neighborhood. However, co-owner Patrick Moloughney couldn’t say at the time where exactly in NuLu the macaron shop was going because of an agreement with the landlord
His required silence didn’t last long, though. Moloughney told IL that Macaron Bar is moving into 707 E. Market St.
The address most recently belonged to gift and home decor store Revolver, which announced last month that it was closing after four years in business.
U of L’s Hite Art Institute names new gallery director
The University of Louisville’s Department of Fine Arts’ Hite Art Institute has named Chris Reitz as its new gallery director. He’ll preside over the Cressman Center and Schneider galleries, which are the city’s leading teaching galleries, according to the press release.
Reitz was a project manager at the Public Art Fund in New York and also has a background as an independent curator. He comes to Louisville having just finished his dissertation at Princeton University.
“Dr. Reitz studied with Hal Foster and Molly Nesbit, two of the world’s most important art critics and curators, says Ying Kit Chan, chair of U of L’s Fine Arts Department. “His credentials, intelligence and abilities are top-notch. I have no doubt that he will be able to provide strong leadership and vision for our teaching galleries, and elevate the critical and curatorial program to the highest level.”
Reitz says he will focus on the galleries’ educational mission.
“It’s a laboratory space that engages other creative producers and collaborators and allows us to be one of the leaders of the contemporary arts conversation in the region,” he says in the release. —Sara Havens