Welcome to the June 11 Monday Business Briefing, your business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

New restaurant heading to Schnitzelburg neighborhood

Eric Morris, right, owns Hull or Highwater. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Preliminary documents were filed last week asking the city to rezone a property at 1039 Ash St. from residential to commercial to allow for a restaurant concept to open there.

Although the property is considered residential, businesses, most recently a chiropractic office, have operated there for decades, according to the application submitted on behalf of property owner Jeffrey Hollkamp.

What the restaurant will be for now is unknown — even to the guy who will own it. Restaurateur Eric Morris, who owns Gospel Bird and Hull or Highwater in New Albany, told Insider that he’s kicked around some ideas but has been busy focusing on his existing restaurants, noting that the rezoning process will take several months.

“It’s very preliminary right now, even down to the concept,” said Morris, who lives in Schnitzelburg.

He added that he’s contemplating what the Germantown-Schnitzelburg area needs, perhaps a health-focused concept, a neighborhood butcher similar to a Morris Deli or Red Hog, or something else. —Caitlin Bowling

SCALA taps Jim Lancaster as group’s first president

Jim Lancaster

The Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) has named Lantech CEO Jim Lancaster as the organization’s first president, according to its annual report filed with the Kentucky Secretary of State on Thursday.

A spokesman for SCALA did not answer emailed questions from Insider asking who made the decision to add the position of a president for the organization, and what Lancaster’s duties would entail.

Shortly after SCALA’s existence was first revealed to the public by an Insider report in January, the organization changed course and revealed the identity of its 70 members, which mostly consisted of CEOs of large local businesses.

Lancaster was identified as the chair of the group’s education subcommittee, which commissioned a study positing that Jefferson County Public Schools was hampered by the strong influence of its teachers’ union in school board elections and decision making, and suggesting that reforms were needed to institute an empowered executive and charter schools.

The report filed on Thursday also indicated that SCALA member Mike Mountjoy — the founding partner of CPA firm Mountjoy Chilton Medley — has been selected as the organization’s first secretary and treasurer.

SCALA has declined to issue a comment on new Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’ recommendation on Apr. 30 of a state takeover of JCPS that strips authority from the democratically elected school board.

In a March 1 speech at the local Rotary Club, Humana and SCALA founder David Jones Sr. urged the audience to contact Gov. Matt Bevin and ask him to “fix” JCPS, which he added would require a state takeover.

On March 20, SCALA held its first meeting that was open to the media at Bellarmine Univeristy, but the group’s spokesman has declined to say when the organization’s next meeting will be, if it has met since this meeting at Bellarmine, and if the media will be invited to future meetings. Joe Sonka

Analyst lauds GEA’s plan — remains skeptical about smart appliances

GE Appliances’ kitchen hub. | Courtesy of GEA

An industry analyst said GE Appliances’ just-announced plans to get closer to its customers makes sense — in part because the company has been pushing smart appliances in which few customers have shown an interest.

GEA said last week that it plans to open new distribution facilities to be closer to its customers and to operate more of its businesses as microenterprises, which will enable to react more quickly to market demands.

The company also said it wants to become “the leading major appliances business in the U.S.” and build its internet of things “leadership position.”

However, Patrice Samuels, senior analyst with Addison, Texas-based market research firm Parks Associates, said consumers remained skeptical about the value of big, connected appliances that are being pushed primarily by GEA and Samsung.

GEA, for example, launched a kitchen hub at an electronics show in January that included an over-the-range video display and a cooktop-facing camera to allow cooks to share “their latest culinary masterpiece on social media easier than ever.”

“That might be appealing for a few (customers),” Samuels said — but it’s unlikely to move market share much.

When Parks Associates first started doing research to gauge people’s interest in smart appliances, 5 percent of respondents expressed an interest, and that share fell to 2 percent last year.

“I have not seen this market doing much,” Samuels said.

Patrice Samuels

GE has told Insider that it expects demand for smart appliances to increase because consumers have gotten used to and enjoyed other smart devices, which means that they’re increasingly likely to expect more from their refrigerators and ovens.

However, Samuels said that while consumer adoption rates for smaller smart devices such as front door cameras are climbing slowly, consumers remain skeptical about the value of big, smart appliances.

Sixty percent of respondents told Parks Associates that they simply don’t need to remotely control their large appliances, she said, while 50 percent said they’re forgoing the purchase of such devices because they’re too expensive. —Boris Ladwig

Worksite wellness champions honored

People walk along the UofL Health Sciences Center’s Medical Mile. | Photo by Darla Carter

Humana, Norton Healthcare and the University of Louisville are among the winners of this year’s Worksite Wellness Awards for companies showing leadership in areas, such as tobacco control, nutrition and physical activity.

Nearly 50 companies in Louisville and other parts of the state took home the awards from the Worksite Wellness Council of Louisville. The honors go to businesses that are leaders in putting evidence-based health interventions and strategies into place.

Mayor Greg Fischer presented the awards at the council’s Annual Conference and Awards Presentation in Beckley Creek Park, noting: “Worksites have the opportunity to encourage healthy habits and help prevent health problems. A culture of wellness in the workplace contributes to physical, mental, and emotional well-being of workers.”

A special set of awards, the “Fleur de Lis,” went to four companies that met or exceeded their wellness targets. Those businesses also did things like encouraging employees to take part in community activities, such as walks and runs, and had top managers committed to health and wellness initiatives. —Darla Carter

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary names new president

Alton Pollard

Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III will be the next president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the seminary announced Thursday.

The seminary’s board of trustees voted Pollard into the office Thursday. Previously a dean and professor at Howard University, Pollard will be the seminary’s 10th president.

“As much of our society is focused on division, I will ensure that Louisville Seminary will continue to build bridges between people of different religious, social and cultural perspectives, through teaching and scholarship, and the preparation of persons for lives of faithful witness and public service,” Pollard said in a news release.

With a student body featuring over 20 denominations, the seminary offers master’s and doctorate degrees focused in ministry, church administration and marriage and family therapy.

Pollard will begin working in September, and is slated to be formally inaugurated in spring 2019, the release said. —Olivia Krauth

Sales tax will include YMCA memberships

file art

The YMCA of Greater Louisville will be affected when Kentucky’s sales tax is extended to certain businesses and services July 1.

The change is the result of a tax bill approved this year by the General Assembly.

At the Y, the 6 percent sales tax will apply to “all membership payments, starting July 1,” according to Gail Lyttle, a YMCA spokeswoman. The Y’s one-time join fee for new members also will be subject to the tax.

Membership rates vary by type. But a communitywide membership for a family of two (without Calypso Cove access and no membership fee assistance) will be $89.04, according to the YMCA. The join fee would be $84.80 for such a family.

Several kinds of facilities will now be subject to the sales tax. They include fitness and recreational sports centers, health spas, bowling centers and skating rinks, according to the state’s website, taxanswers.ky.gov.

Several types of services also are affected including landscaping and indoor tanning. —Darla Carter

Local food and beverage engineering firm acquired

Louisville-based InLine Engineers, a company that has provided engineering and design expertise to companies like the Coca-Cola Co., Brown-Forman and Kellogg Co., was purchased by Lexington-based Gray Construction for an undisclosed amount in May.

“The acquisition of InLine Engineers is simply a part of a long-term growth strategy for both Gray Construction and InLine, with no disruption to current customers and team members for either entity,” Jill Wilson, vice president of communications and marketing for Gray Construction, said in an emailed comment.

“The leadership at InLine will continue to lead and manage as they have in the past in their current locations and continue to look for highly experienced candidates to join their team.”

Gray Construction is an engineering, architecture and construction firm that operates in various sectors and has offices around the globe. —Caitlin Bowling

Zoës Kitchen closes its downtown location

The restaurant is part of a larger chain. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Mediterranean cuisine chain Zoës Kitchen has shuttered its store at 500 W. Jefferson St. across from Metro Hall.

“After 8 years of serving downtown Louisville, we are closing this location,” a Facebook post states. “We appreciate your loyalty and look forward to serving you at our other two Louisville locations.”

The remaining Zoës Kitchen stores are located on Lexington Road in St. Matthews and in the Paddock Shops.

Insider reached out to the chain’s corporate media relations office about the closing but did not immediately hear back. —Caitlin Bowling

Distillers ‘extremely concerned’ about trade war

The Distilled Spirits Council told federal officials that it was “extremely concerned” about likely retaliatory tariffs against U.S. distillers, including Brown-Forman, because of President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Such tariffs “would severely harm producers, U.S. farmers … distribution and logistics providers, as well as other input providers such as glass and other packaging suppliers,” the council wrote in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Shares of Louisville-based distiller Brown-Forman fell sharply last week after the company warned that results this year could be dragged down by a looming trade war.

The council in February had reported “record spirits sales and volumes.” Sales increased $1 billion, or 4 percent last year, to $26.2 billion, including a record $1.63 billion in spirits exports. —Boris Ladwig

In Brief

Hadley Pottery is under new ownership. Longtime employees Jerry Day and Josh Day recently took over the 78-year-old pottery company and are celebrating with a sale through the month of June.

Greater Louisville 2020, a campaign for regional economic development, in late May surpassed $3 million in cash and pledges toward its $7.5 million goal.

Humana Chief Financial Officer Brian A. Kane will give a presentation at the Goldman Sachs Healthcare Conference at 1 p.m. (ET) Tuesday. Humana will offer a live audio webcast.

KPFF Consulting Engineers is moving. The firm is relocated from Eighth Street to 125 S. Sixth St., Suite 200; it will be up and running at the new space on June 18.

Discounted tickets to the Kentucky State Fair, which runs Aug. 16-26, are available at participating Kroger locations now through July 6. Tickets purchased in advance are $7 per person and $5 for a parking pass, a savings of $3 per person and $5 per vehicle.

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