Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.
Thorntons buys vacant hotel property on Bardstown Road — next to two existing Thorntons
The Louisville-based company has been renovating all its stores nationwide to move away from being simply a gas station and toward being a place for customers to grab breakfast, a beverage, or even lunch. In addition to typical convenience store fare, it now offers healthier options such as yogurt, deli sandwiches and fruit.
Thorntons already renovated its store on the west side of Bardstown Road, next to The Economy Inn (yes, that Economy Inn). The store that sits on the east side of the busy street has not yet been renovated, and it’s unclear what will happen now that the company has purchased the 4.67-acre site just a stone’s throw across Goldsmith Lane. Thorntons purchased the former Quality Inn property at 3255 Bardstown Road for $2.6 million on Aug. 4.
Erin Jones, chief marketing maven for In.Mode Marketing LLC and a spokeswoman for Thorntons, said the company has not yet decided how to proceed at the new site, or what will happen to the existing Thorntons on the east side of that thoroughfare.
Given Goldsmith Lane runs through the middle of the two properties, one would (logically) assume expansion of the existing gas station into a super Thorntons of sorts is a no-go, but Jones wouldn’t rule it out, reiterating that plans are still very much in the works.
The takeaway: A new Thorntons is coming to that corner, either replacing the old one or making for Thorntons triumvirate.
Ad firm Oohology hires four, replacing three it just lost
Musical chairs is the game that never grows old in Louisville’s ad industry. In the past couple of weeks, IL wrote about how area ad firm Oohology lost two creative directors and a director of client services. Now it looks like Oohology itself is on a bit of a hiring spree.
On Aug. 24, Oohology co-founder Mark Palmer posted an article announcing the firm has hired four new staffers: Luke Blackburn, Chris Davis, Arica Johnson, and Matt Karaffa. Blackburn is Oohology’s director of brand management, and comes from LB9 Marketing, a firm he founded. Chris Davis is a creative director at Oohology and will lead the firm’s digital and design efforts. Johnson will be an art director and comes from Current360, another local ad and marketing firm; her title is unchanged. Karaffa is also from Current360 and is an account exec.
“We’re excited about the talent and ideas these folks bring to the table,” Palmer wrote. “If you’re interested in joining our team, let us know. If you’re interested in working with our team, let us know. But if you’re interested in purchasing our team, sorry, this place ain’t for sale.”
We might be speculating here, but this last line is almost certainly a retort by Palmer to an industry insider quoted in an earlier IL article who said they believed Oohology looked like it might sell itself.
As for Current360, it’s now lost four team members in just the past few months. The two above, in addition to Full Stack Developer Jerrod Long, who departed for VIA Studio in June, and former Interactive Creative Director Donovan Sears, who went to Humana in July. —David Serchuk
Details emerge about new Fourth Street Live restaurants, including bourbon and raw bar
More information has slowly trickled out about the four new restaurant concepts opening at Fourth Street Live within the next 10 months. Most recently, Insider Louisville learned that Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge, which closed in June, soon will become Bourbon Raw.
Before you conjure any images of the WWE — bourbon makes me feisty, too — the raw is in reference to the raw oyster bar the new concept will include.
Fourth Street Live officials declined to provide any additional details about the bourbon and oyster bar, but it looks like it will open soon. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, Bourbon Raw is in the process of hiring employees.
Another restaurant called Cleaver and Cask is moving into the long-empty Rí Rá Irish Pub space, which sits under the Goose Island Bridge. Cleaver and Cask will be operated by an unnamed regional restaurateur and is a farm-to-table concept with a focus on gourmet meats.
Planning documents for Cleaver and Cask were filed with Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government in July, but it is unknown when it will open.
The two other concepts, which have yet to be named, are a Southern cuisine restaurant, which will open in the former The Pub Restaurant, and a wood-fired pizza and burger restaurant will replace Sully’s Restaurant & Saloon, which is expected to close in September. — Caitlin Bowling
National law firm interviewing area attorneys for possible partner positions
A secretive national law firm that recently opened a Louisville office currently is interviewing attorneys to be partners. This search, and the corresponding interviews, are being conducted by Brian Lucas, head of the firm Lucas Legal Staffing.
According to Lucas, he is open to interviewing attorneys from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio or Indiana. The mystery national firm is looking for attorneys with at least a $1 million book of business that they could bring over. “We’re looking for partners in the law firm with portable businesses,” Lucas told IL. “People that are self-sustaining.”
So far two people have been hired for the mystery firm’s Louisville office. Out-of-state candidates have the opportunity to telecommute while they transition to the new firm.
Lucas couldn’t say how large the Louisville office of this firm could become, or currently is, noting the goal is to hire opportunistically, and on an ongoing basis, provided they can find the right candidates. He did say the national firm has over 800 attorneys nationwide, and many of the offices have from 20-30 employees, including attorneys and support staff.
Louisville was chosen for a new office by this national firm because it’s so centrally located in the U.S., and sits right between Tennessee and Indiana. “It’s a growing region,” he said.
As noted, the firm itself is a bit of a mystery. Lucas wouldn’t disclose its name, because he is recruiting for them and is paid by them, so he has no incentive to remove himself from the recruiting process.
Louisville attorney Amy Cubbage, of counsel with the firm McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland, said she had heard of out-of-state regional firms aggressively looking to hire Louisville attorneys, but wasn’t aware of any national firms doing the same. This sort of stealth recruiting is considered fairly normal for the legal profession, she added.
Douglass Farnsley, the head of the Kentucky Bar Association, called this recruiting effort “interesting” but also cast a bit of cold water on it. “I would say that any attorney with a $1 million book of business can move to any firm he or she chooses,” he said. –David Serchuk
Wine Enthusiast taps two local liquor leaders as ‘America’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers’
We know we have quality spirits tastemakers in the city and state, but every now and then, it’s nice to be recognized nationally. Colin Blake, the creative director of the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, and Marianne Barnes, master distiller at the yet-to-be-named former Old Taylor Distillery, have just been named to Wine Enthusiast Magazine‘s “America’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers” list in its September issue.
We know both Blake and Barnes, and we know they both deserve the shout-out.
The magazine touts Blake as a man who is inspiring tomorrow’s craft distillers.
“Leading classes in the heart of Kentucky’s Bourbon country, Blake works with spirits startups, providing a detailed, hands-on education to get these budding entrepreneurs off on the right foot.”
And for Barnes, the blurb mentions her former position as master taster at Woodford Reserve, and her new endeavor of becoming Kentucky’s first female master distiller since Prohibition.
“From planting botanicals for a new Kentucky-born gin project to experimenting with a 1917 recipe for the project’s core brand, Barnes has a lot on her hands.”
Scroll through the list of other tastemakers around the country here. —Sara Havens
Lack of exposure to emerging markets could help B-F amidst global slowdown
Execs at Brown-Forman noted the firm’s comparative lack of exposure to emerging markets could end up benefiting the firm. These comments were made by CEO Paul Varga and CFO Jane Morreau during a quarterly conference call with analysts on Aug. 26, the same day the company reported its financials for the quarter.
“We believe we are fortunate to be in the early stages of capitalizing on our emerging markets’ potential and are optimistic that over time it will become an increasingly important driver of our results,” said Morreau. “But for now, our emerging markets footprint outside of Poland and Mexico is less than 10 percent of our total revenues. So our exposure is significantly less than the competition. Additionally, this approximate 10 percent is well-diversified, spread over 100-plus countries around the world.”
This could end up being a very good thing for the firm if the ongoing financial instability in China spills over to larger swaths of the developing world.
For the quarter, Brown-Forman saw its net sales hit $900 million, a slight year-over-year drop from the prior year, when it was $921 million. But at the same time, the firm had higher net income, $156 million versus $150 million.
Still, investors didn’t seem all too reassured by Brown-Forman’s recent earnings and insights. The firm’s “B” shares are down close to 10 percent over the past five trading days, while the S&P 500 is down half that. The firm’s “A” shares are down close to 8.4 percent in that time. –David Serchuk
New stores open at Oxmoor Center, Mall St. Matthews
Just behind school shopping season and ahead of the ever-expanding holiday season, a few new businesses have opened in Oxmoor Center and Mall St. Matthews.
Rue 21, a youth clothing store, opened Thursday morning near Dillard’s women and children section at Mall St. Matthews on Shelbyville Road.
And leasing agents with General Growth Properties Inc., the mall’s owner, are in negotiations to lease an empty space in that same area, according to Dee Snyder, marketing manager for both Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center.
The space previously was occupied by the Sleep Number by Select Comfort store, which moved to a new location in Mall St. Matthews, near JcPenney’s department store.
Just down Shelbyville Road at Oxmoor Center, a standalone Sperry store opened less than two weeks ago next to Pottery Barn Kids.
Opening today at Oxmoor is Extreme Pita and Purblendz, a quick-service Mediterranean restaurant and smoothie bar.
“It’s not just a healthy option,” Snyder said. “It’s a fast option.”
IL’s local stock focus
1) Yum! Brands (ticker: YUM): The ongoing headwinds hitting the Chinese stock market, and Chinese economy at large, have made for an interesting week for Yum! investors. It would be easy to imagine that after the markets experienced their mini crash earlier in the week that Yum! would’ve become a stock market piñata, but actually it’s rallied nicely since Gray Monday. (After all, there was only one Black Monday, and last Monday wasn’t it.) Over the past five trading days, Yum! is down 1.5 percent, which is better than the Standard & Poor’s 500, down 5 percent in that time.
It’s hard to see exactly why investors are so excited to jump on the Yum! train right now. It’s still got a high price-to-earnings ratio, at over 40, and it still has a lot of exposure to the emerging world, which is not looking all that stable right now. But some investors seem to have a taste for risk.
2) Texas Roadhouse (ticker: TXRH): Louisville’s steak standout, on the other hand, has taken this past week’s news pretty hard. TXRH is down 6.1 percent in the past week, worse than general markets. As of Aug. 25, Texas Roadhouse saw a decent-sized spike in the percentage of its share currently short, meaning investors think the stock is overpriced and poised for a fall. And so far, they’ve been right.