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

Investment firm executive explains why the company wanted to buy the Hyatt Regency

The Hyatt Regency Louisville has just under 400 rooms. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Pennsylvania-based Roch Capital bought the Hyatt Regency Louisville at the end of June, and in an exclusive interview with Insider, an executive with the company explained why and what they plan to do with the hotel.

“It’s a high-quality hotel in a very strong, urban location, probably the best corner in downtown Louisville,” said Carl Kruelle, senior vice president and director of real estate acquisitions of Roch Capital Real Estate Investment Group. He noted the changes to downtown, including the renovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The nearly 400-room Hyatt Regency sits along South Fourth Street between West Jefferson and West Liberty streets, across the street from the convention center and at the start of Fourth Street Live. Roch Capital purchased it for just under $50 million from Hyatt Hotels Corp.

This is the first purchase Roch Capital has made in Louisville, according to Kruelle.

“We’ve had Louisville on our map, and we’ve been there before to consider other opportunities,” he said.

Texas-based hotel investment and management firm Aimbridge Hospitality will manage the hotel on behalf of Roch Capital.

Aimbridge ran an advertisement indicating that it planned to take over the Hyatt Regency’s liquor license and listed itself as the owner of the hotel, leading Insider to run a story stating that it appeared that the Texas firm was in the process of buying the Hyatt Regency. Aimbridge is in some cases also a co-investor in properties it manages, but Kruelle said the company would have no ownership in the Hyatt Regency.

Kruelle said that Roch Capital planned to invest in the hotel’s appearance, but it had not decided how much or where the money would be spent. Less than two years ago, Hyatt put $16 million into renovating the Hyatt Regency, including new 65-inch flat-screen televisions, carpeting, wall coverings, drapes, bedding and indoor pool, according to the hotel company.

“The upgrades that were performed to the asset actually look great,” he said. “We are taking our time to review and think where we should make our additional improvements.”

Although Roch Capital only has four hotels in its portfolio currently, Kruelle said the company plans to acquire additional hotels.

“It’s becoming more of our main focus as we are working toward building a more sizeable hotel portfolio,” he said. “We like the business.”

Maybe they’d be interested in the 111-year-old historic Seelbach Hilton Hotel, which was listed last summer. —Caitlin Bowling

Home goods store opens in Westport Village

The home goods store held its grand opening last week. | Courtesy of Bliss Home

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Bliss Home has migrated north to Louisville’s Westport Village shopping center.

The furniture and home decor store opened its doors in the East End last week, occupying the 24,000-square-foot former Gattiland space.

“We have been so impressed with the Southern hospitality of the tenants at Westport Village. It’s one of the main reasons we chose this location,” owners Scott Schimmel and Lisa Sorensen said in an opening announcement. “Like our philosophy, Westport Village has a strong focus on a small store feel and a sense of community. This was an easy decision, and we knew this was a market where we could build on our success and support our new neighbors at Westport Village.”

Bliss Home has on-staff interior designers who can help customers with home renovations and features a variety of products for dining rooms, walls, office and living room.

The location’s regular store hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. —Caitlin Bowling

Harvard lauds FirstBuild

Screenshot from the Harvard Business Review website.

GE Appliances’ innovation hub, FirstBuild, got a big shout out last week in the Harvard Business Review.

The publication said big businesses that were “struggling to adapt to the fast-paced, risk-filled digital age would do well to consider FirstBuild.”

The unit has succeeded where many have failed, HBR said: “Many large companies yearn to rekindle the innovative magic of entrepreneurship, but very few actually succeed.”

They fail in part because investors value consistency and are “intolerant of risks inherent in bold innovation” and because the established companies primarily aim to avoid failures, while startups have to fail repeatedly to achieve success eventually.

GE solved some of those challenges by separating the FirstBuild unit from the appliances business and by focusing on collaboration and openness, HBR said.

“Because FirstBuild is open, it must be quick to act on its ideas, lest someone else take them to market,” the articles reads. “That’s why FirstBuild is built for speed, bringing together the capacity not just to invent, but to rapidly prototype, manufacture and commercialize new products.”

HBR listed as some of FirstBuild’s successes a nugget ice makerhigh-end pizza oven and a device that allows people with visual impairments to get audio feedback from their laundry appliances.

GEA told Insider that it worked closely with the publication on the story and was pleased with how it turned out.

“Anytime we can get the word out about how we are leading new ways of innovating, it is a good for the brand and business,” GEA said.

HBR also said that GEA’s parent, Qingdao Haier, likes FirstBuild so much that it plans to replicate the unit in Shanghai. —Boris Ladwig

Heaven Hill’s new release honors Beam; Beam’s new release honors Booker

Courtesy of Heaven Hill

Things are about to get confusing, until you realize the family tree of bourbon doesn’t really fork. Distillers work their way up the ladder taking any job at any nearby distillery, gaining experience and industry knowledge no matter the label.

The industry also champions each other, and it’s not uncommon for one brand to ask for advice or help — especially in a crisis (like a fire or tornado) — from another brand.

But let’s get to the point. Two new bourbons have been announced, and while they share a name, they are from two different companies.

First up is the Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage Collection, the 11th edition in the annual series named for the late Heaven Hill master distiller Parker Beam. Yes, Beam was a descendant of that Jim Beam, but you can probably find a Beam working at every major Kentucky distillery these days.

The 11-year-old bourbon was aged in one of Parker’s favorite rick houses, called Deatsville, and is bottled at 122 proof. Parker died this year from ALS,  a diagnosis he received in 2010. Every year since then, Heaven Hill has donated part of the proceeds to the ALS Association, and this one is no different. It’ll contribute $10 from each bottle sold (retail price: $129.99) to the organization.

Courtesy of Jim Beam

Look for it to hit shelves in September.

Next up is Jim Beam‘s latest release, Little Book, which is a barrel-proof blended whiskey created by eighth-generation family member Freddie Noe, son of current master distiller, Fred Noe. Grandson of the late Booker Noe, Freddie’s nickname as a child was “Little Book” because he took after his grandfather so much.

Fred and Freddie were featured in an Esquire magazine article this month talking about the latest release, which is Freddie’s very first. It’s a blend of Jim Beam bourbon and various corn, rye and malt whiskeys, and it’ll be released each year. At 120 proof, it’s uncut and unfiltered to pay homage to Booker.

The whiskey will be released in October and cost $79.99. —Sara Havens

The axes will fly this weekend

Flying Axes, the indoor competitive axe-throwing venue dreamed up by some of the folks at Forest Giant, is finally opening its doors and letting the axes fly on July 29 during a festival from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.

There will be music, food trucks and a beer truck from Covington-based Braxton Brewery with a few Louisville brews on tap. Attendees will also be able to purchase a 10-minute axe throwing session for $10.

“We’re pumped to open our doors and bring axe throwing to Louisville. We also can’t wait to show the world Flying Axes’ exclusive digital scoreboards. They’re literally a game changer,” said Dave Durand, CEO of Flying Axes, in a news release. The digital scoreboard was designed by the team at Forest Giant.

The venue is located at 146 N. Clay Street in NuLu. —Melissa Chipman

GLI announces Inc.credible award nominees

GLI announced the nominees for its Inc.credible Awards last week with 29 nominees in six categories. The annual awards celebrate small businesses and winners will be announced at Awards Celebration on Aug. 24.

Categories include Very Small and Small Business of the Year, Advanced Manufacturing, Nonprofit Impact, Innovation and Healthcare.

Lots of familiar names are on the list like Cuddle Clones, the maker of stuffed replicas of pets; Beyond Zero, which created ice cubes out of alcohol; SkuVault, the warehouse management software company; and Capture Higher Ed, the student recruitment software company.

All nominees available here. —Melissa Chipman

More on the chamber’s website update

Screenshot from GLI’s new website

Colorful photos and time-lapse videos dominate the new website of the local chamber of commerce, which said that it was “launching the future of Greater Louisville.”

Greater Louisville Inc. said the new website, designed by local firm PriceWeber, was part of “several important changes,” which also included a new investor database.

“GLI is the voice of the region’s business community and now we are able to spread our message and serve our partners better than ever before,” the organization said in a press release. “Now GLI is able to showcase our region and city in a manner it truly deserves.”

The new website is in beta testing, and the chamber asked Friday that people send feedback and questions to [email protected]

GLI declined to tell Insider how much it spent on the website design and relaunch. —Boris Ladwig

Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s website is overhauled

Design by VIA Studio

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s website has just had a refresh from VIA Studio. It’s a fairly dramatic overhaul. “We’re so proud of this fresh, clean site,” Hannah Clore, director of communications for CNPE, told Insider via email.

“At the outset of the project, we were looking for a long-term partner who would take the time to get to know us as an organization as well as our vision for the future. We had a very ambitious timeline for this project — only 90 days,” she said. “VIA embraced this challenge and exceeded our expectations — not only meeting timelines but pushing us creatively to generate a website that is as bold as our vision.”

Clore said the goal for the redesign was to have a site that more clearly conveyed the impact that CNPE has on the nonprofit community and to encourage and simplify engaging with the organization. Most important, Clore said the organization hoped that the final product would be something that would be as relevant in the future as it is today. —Melissa Chipman

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