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.

Southern restaurant planned for Germantown Mill Lofts

The Germantown Mill Lofts are located 1030 Goss Ave. | Photo by IL Staff
The Germantown Mill Lofts are located 1030 Goss Ave. | Photo by IL Staff

The developers of Germantown Mill Lofts have partnered with Steve Clements, former owner of Avalon and Clements Catering, to open a restaurant at the upscale apartment complex.

Germantown Mill Lofts is a 185-unit complex with amenities such as a green space, a bocce ball court, fitness center, pool and coffee shop. The first units are expected to be complete by the end of this year, according to Underhill Associates, the Louisville company developing the property.

As previously reported, the complex will include a restaurant and bar in a former daycare building on the property. Not yet reported is that the restaurant is called Finn’s Southern Kitchen and is expected to open in March 2016.

“There are two things people need in life. One is a roof over your head, and another is a place to eat and drink,” Colin Underhill, manager of Underhill Associates, told Insider Louisville. “It’s an urban redevelopment project, and we’ve got the space and the parking in order to (open a restaurant), and we wanted to create a really unique project.”

Underhill declined to provide additional details about the restaurant and how it will be financed.

“It is going to be a neat spot at the mill,” he said.

The restaurant will be run by Steve Clements, who declined to comment for this story.

You might recall that back in 2012, the Kentucky Derby Museum sued Clements — who provided catering services for the museum and operated its cafe — claiming he didn’t give the museum its appropriate cut of revenues from his operations. Shortly thereafter, his longtime Highlands restaurant, Avalon, closed.

That case was dismissed in 2013.

Not long after the museum filed its suit, American Express Bank and U.S. Foods Inc. both filed lawsuits against Clements stating he owed them $15,822.98 and $65,636.04, respectively. Case files for both show multiple unsuccessful attempts to track down Clements regarding the lawsuits.

Both those cases were dismissed without prejudice. The U.S. Foods suit was only just dismissed in July 2015, while American Express Bank’s case was handed to a law firm that specializes in debt collection in 2013.

When asked about the lawsuits, Underhill wasn’t concerned.

“Steve is an incredible restaurateur with a lot of experience,” Underhill said. “We don’t have an issue with the right people.” —Caitlin Bowling

Bowling Green grocery company opening Jeffersontown location

Houchens Industries may not be a recognizable name in Louisville, but the grocery store chain is slowly infiltrating the local market and has another project on the horizon.

Based out of Bowling Green, Houchens is 100 percent employee-owned and operates brands such as IGA, Priceless Foods and Food Giant. In many cases, the grocery stores also include fuel pumps and another retail operation.

The proposed Houchens operation in Louisville is located at 5501 Lovers Lane in Jeffersontown near Charlie Vettiner Park.

The store will be similar to the Crossroads IGA at Shelbyville and Beckley Station roads, according to planning documents. It will include a 14,533-sqaure-foot grocery with four fuel pumps and 58 parking spaces.

The store also will include a Subway with a drive-thru window and an Ace Hardware, said Tim Rich, Houchens’ director of property and store development. Both the hardware store and restaurant will be run by Houchens employees, which Rich said makes the company different from competitors.

The average project cost is $2.5 million to $3 million, Rich said.

For the project to move forward, the property must be rezoned from residential to commercial. It won’t likely open until mid-2017.

“It takes a while to go through Louisville’s process for re-zoning,” Rich said.

Houchens currently owns four Priceless Food stores in Louisville and one Crossroads IGA. —Caitlin Bowling

KFC, Taco Bell paying for employees to get their GED

Two Yum! Brands Inc. companies have partnered with GED Testing Service and other national companies to create and pay for a GED program for their employees.

KFC, Taco Bell, Walmart and Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Bi-Lo, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, now are offering employees the chance to earn their GED for free via a program called GEDWorks.

Yum!_Brands_Logo.svgGED and management training programs are becoming a more commonplace perk for jobs that were once considered dead ends such as working at a fast-food restaurant.

GEDWorks connects employees with an advisor, online studying materials, local adult education programs and practice tests.

“Employers have invested in this national program with GED Testing Service to boost the education levels of their employees because they recognize the benefits of the enhanced GED program and the importance of education in the lives of their employees,” Randy Trask, president of GED Testing Service, said in a press release.

The program costs the companies $300 per employee, which company executives said is worth the price.

“Not only are we developing our team members and creating an engaged workforce, but we’re also inspiring these valued team members to champion their potential, education and future,” said Frank Tucker, Global Chief People Officer at Taco Bell.

KFC will pay for the program via its charitable arm the KFC Foundation.

“Restaurant operators love that the GEDWorks and other Foundation programs help them recruit and retain high quality employees who are interested in working hard to improve themselves,” said Krista Snider, managing director of the KFC Foundation. “The KFC Foundation is proud to be able to support them and continue Colonel Sanders’ legacy of helping people be their best selves through education.”

The foundation also has a program for employees looking to obtain a two-year or four-year college degree. —Caitlin Bowling

Blue River Cabinetry moves to New Albany

Blue River Cabinetry makes custom cabinets for residential and commercial buildings. | Courtesy of Blue River Cabinetry
Blue River Cabinetry makes custom cabinets for residential and commercial buildings. | Courtesy of Blue River Cabinetry

Custom cabinet maker Blue River Cabinetry has moved to New Albany to expand and locate closer to clients.

The company moved from a manufacturing facility in Fredericksburg, Ind., to a new state-of-the-art facility that is four or five times larger, according to John Neace, founder of New Albany-based venture capital firm Neace Ventures.

Neace Ventures is the majority owner of Blue River Cabinetry.

In addition to growing its space, Blue River Cabinetry has about 25 employees and plans to at least double that in the next 12 to 18 months, Neace said.

The site, located at 2235 Corydon Pike, is more centrally located to the company’s customers, the interstate and a larger pool of potential employees.

“This business relocation and expansion will restore a once neglected manufacturing facility and provide new employment opportunities to the citizens of New Albany,” Mayor Jeff Gahan said in a news release.

The space has been empty for years but previously housed Bill Kraemer Veneers Inc. Neace said his company invested a couple million dollars to renovate and equip the building.

Blue River Cabinetry serves the region, Indianapolis, Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, and plans to expand into other Midwestern cities with this move.

“New home growth is expanding again. Existing home and new home sells are up,” Neace said.

He added that the Ohio River Bridges project will boost growth in the Kentuckiana area, but the region needs to work together.

“We are all Greater Louisville, and the sooner we look at it as Greater Louisville rather than Louisville and Southern Indiana, then the better off we will be.” —Caitlin Bowling

Texas Roadhouse testing mobile payment in Louisville

Texas Roadhouse LogoVisitors to the Texas Roadhouse on Dutchmans Lane are the first in the nation to test out a new mobile payment option.

In recent years, many national chain restaurants have tested and implemented new payment options that aim to improve the customer experience.

Paying through a mobile or tablet-type device is seen as a quick and easy way for customers to get in and out of a restaurant with ease. Rather than have to wait on a server or hand over a credit card, customers can pay whenever they are ready to leave.

Travis Doster, senior director of public relations at Texas Roadhouse, said the company has been looking into an alternative form of paying for some time and even tested the tabletop ordering and payment system similar to what is used at Applebee’s restaurants.

“It didn’t work for us,” said Doster, adding that they were “too cumbersome.”

But the restaurant needs to implement some type of mobile payment system, he said. “That is going to become the standard at some point.”

So Texas Roadhouse last week began testing a system that allows people to pay on their smartphone when eating at the Dutchmans Lane location by visiting the company’s website and inputting their payment information.

With only about a week’s worth of feedback, it is unclear if Texas Roadhouse will stick with that system and when it might roll out something nationwide. —Caitlin Bowling

RIP Astro Black Records

On Oct. 25, another Louisville record store closed — Astro Black Records on Oak Street. The store, which had been open since June 2012, was not a victim of the times; vinyl is hotter than ever. Jim Marlowe, the store’s owner, just wants to do new things.

From the store’s Facebook page:

Thanks to all the wonderful people who came in over the last few years and made the store such a rousing and unequivocal success. I’ve been fortunate to have met so many interesting people and made such great weird ass friends yelling about the importance or lack thereof of Jefferson Airplane or the 4 Skins or whatever you beautiful freaks think is good/bad/other. It’s been a real gas. Like two flamingos in a fruit fight one might say. Or like steppin’ out of a triangle into striped light. And yeah, you all shopped here plenty – it’s not about you or money, it’s entirely about me and that me wants to do some other things. I sincerely thank you all for supporting this idea for so long and I hope that you found something at the store that moved you in some way. And that it was reasonably priced. You’ve been amazing customers, but really you’ve just been amazing people. Love y’all.

Fat Rabbit Vintage & Thrift, which shared the storefront with Astro Black, will expand into the area. They will still sell vinyl, but will not be ordering new releases.  —Melissa Chipman

Humana dividend and earnings announcement

humana logoHumana’s board of directors has declared a cash dividend of 29 cents per share payable Jan. 29 to stockholders of record as of Dec. 30.

Humana will announce third-quarter earnings on Nov. 6. Shareholders last week approved a merger with Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, which plans to buy Humana for $37 billion.

The deal is being reviewed by state and federal regulators who want to assure that the merger of two of the nation’s largest health insurers has no detrimental effect on consumers. —Boris Ladwig

Anchal Project launches new line, plans to hire in Louisville

anchalColleen Cline’s Anchal Project has launched a new collection and announced plans to hire marginalized women in Louisville starting in 2017. Currently Anchal employs women in Kalighat, India’s red light district to create textile goods to import to the United States.

As of this October, Anchal has empowered over 150 women in India through employment, education workshops and healthcare.

Anchal plans on having the Louisville women learn a hand over-dyeing process that is showcased, for the first time, in the new “Living in Color” line.

Anchal’s Annual Holiday Trunk Show is Nov. 12 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Historic Whitehall. —Melissa Chipman

Butchertown Grocery sets official open date, plans Thanksgiving feast

Butchertown-grocery-logo-1After much anticipation, Butchertown Grocery will open on Wednesday, Nov 25, for lunch, dinner and late-night service.

The new restaurant has been in the works for months at 1076 E. Washington St., and chef Bobby Benjamin gave media a preview last month.

Butchertown Grocery also plans to continue the opening celebration with a family-style Thanksgiving meal that Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The menu includes smoked rotisserie turkey, pork belly wrapped tenderloin, cornbread dressing, sweet potato gnocchi, three cheddar macaroni and cheese, and chocolate cream pie.

Cost is $30 per person. For reservations, call 502-742-8315 or visit butchertowngrocery.com. —Caitlin Bowling

Blackstone Media wins Best in Show

Blackstone Media created New Albany’s Globe Mechanical’s website and it was awarded Best in Show in the Manufacturing website category by the W3 National Awards program. Globe Mechanical fabricates pipes.

blackstoneThe W3 Awards honor creative excellence on the web and the Best in Show award represents the highest mark of distinction. Only the top 1 percent of all entries are honored as such. —Melissa Chipman

Buffalo Trace launches interactive website where you ‘virtually’ make your own bourbon

Make your own bourbon.
Make your own bourbon.

There’s much more to bourbon than its 51 percent corn recipe, and any tweak to its other ingredients can turn it from a Maker’s Mark to a Basil Hayden in no time. Buffalo Trace Distillery is showing consumers just how complicated the bourbon-making process is by offering an interactive experience that takes you from grain to barrel.

At yourperfectbourbon.com, users can design a bourbon to fit their own tastes in less than five minutes. It’s pretty fun to play around with the grain recipe and watch as the cartoon interface moves your bourbon through all its necessary steps. In the end, the site tells you which bourbon or whiskey yours is most like — only in comparison to Buffalo Trace’s own brands, of course.

I concocted a wheat-heavy bourbon that was about 120 proof and aged 9-12 years on the bottom level of a rick house, and the site told me it was most like the hard-to-find William Larue Weller. I’m a big fan of W.L. Weller 12-Year, so that seems like a good fit.

Unfortunately, the site is for educational purposes only. You can’t purchase the bourbon you make, or else I would have constructed a Pappy that I’d have to wait until 2035 to taste. —Sara Havens

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