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.
Three local startups get more than $1.4 million in funding
It was a lucrative month for a trio of local early-stage companies. Let’s start with findCRA, which nabbed a $250,000 investment to help the startup expand beyond its Louisville roots.
The company, founded about two years ago by Ben Loehle and Brian Waters, helps nonprofits connect with financial institutions that are trying to improve communities they serve to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act.
Miami, Fla.-based Charity Deposits Corp.’s investment of $250,000 has allowed the local startup to begin expanding its services to New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Expansions into other areas in the eastern U.S. are expected to follow soon.
“It’s a huge step for us,” Waters told IL Thursday.
The company has 90 partners in its network, including 30 banks, and hopes to double that number by next spring. The co-founders project that they will break even by next fall.
FindCRA employs three and recently moved to 235 S. Fifth St.
We’ll have more on findCRA soon; in the meantime, here’s a look at two other big investments announced at this week’s Venture Connectors luncheon:
Banking software firm Onovative raised $250,000 from the Enterprise Angels Community Fund. The Jeffersonville, Ind.-based company — previously known as Bank On Software, before a rebrand last year — builds marketing software for financial institutions. Customers include Town & Country Credit Union, Ohio Valley Bank and Republic Bank.
And then there’s Schedule It, a scheduling service for insurance adjusters that raised a whopping $910,000 from the EACF, Lincoln Trail Venture Group, Marshall Ventures, Sequel Fund and private investors.
Led by CEO Rebecca Wheeling, the organization collects claims information from adjusters, makes calls for them, updates their calendars and maps an efficient route to get them from claim to claim. You can read more about the company here. —Boris Ladwig
And while we’re on the topic: Tax credits for startup investors
Beginning Dec. 11, people who plan to provide funding for startup companies in Kentucky next year can apply for tax credits through the Kentucky Angel Investment Act program.
The program, part of the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development, aims to encourage business growth and job creation by giving tax credits to people who provide capital for startups. Qualified investors can receive a tax credit of up to 50 percent of their investment.
The state said in a press release that the program’s first year was “a resounding success” as it leveraged $7.4 million.
“Coming off the program’s first year where investors applied for 100 percent of available tax credits, we’ve now proved it helps small businesses grow and thrive in Kentucky,” Gov. Steve Beshear said. “While investors receive tax credits, the program encourages entrepreneurs to found, innovate and grow businesses in the Commonwealth. That ultimately creates jobs and catalyzes development of new technology.”
The state said investors outside of Kentucky can take advantage of the program by selling their credits to a buyer within the commonwealth. More than a quarter of the 104 investors who received tax credits in the first year were from outside Kentucky.
Investors must apply for the credits before making an investment, and the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority must approve each application before credits are issued.
For 2016, the program will offer $3 million in credits – with a $200,000 limit per individual investor — available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Learn more about Zanzabar’s planned expansion
Owners of the popular bar, restaurant and music venue are hosting a meeting on Dec. 14 to talk with neighbors and other concerned parties about their plans to add nearly 1,500 square feet to Zanzabar‘s existing building at 2100 S. Preston St.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Zanzabar.
The bar has been in operation for six years and has become a regular spot for many reasons, including its restaurant, arcade room, and stage for live music, all housed within just over 3,000 square feet. It also has a large covered outdoor patio.
Antz Wettig, who owns the venue with his brother Jon Wettig, told WDRB that the additional space will allow them to create a separate performance space and turn the current stage area into additional seating for the restaurant.
The Wetting brothers have hired Schroll Land Surveying and Bressoud Architecture to work on the project. —Caitlin Bowling
Kroger hosting grand re-opening for one store, renovating another
The Kroger Co. has kept busy in Louisville for years.
The latest Kroger store to undergo a facelift is the Germantown store at 1265 Goss Ave.
The 69,000-square-foot location now has expanded produce, meat and seafood options, as well as a soup and salad bar, fresh sushi station, Mediterranean bar, drive-thru pharmacy, a clinic, an in-store U.S. Bank, “Specialty Cheese Shoppe,” and a full-service wine and spirits shop.
The store hired 35 new employees as a result of the renovation, bringing employment numbers there to 160 workers.
Although the Kroger never closed completely, the company celebrated the upgrades with a grand re-opening celebration on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the grocery company recently started renovations at the Kroger store in Westport Plaza, 9501 Westport Road. The project will cost $750,000 and primarily consist of buying new equipment and fixtures, said Tim McGurk, a spokesman for Kroger.
Upgrades will be completed during the first quarter of next year, he said.
And it was almost a year ago that we reported the Kroger on Lower Brownsboro in Clifton would undergo a $4.8 million, much-needed upgrade (it’s known as “Dirty Kroger,” after all). The work — including a 7,000-square-foot expansion — originally was slated to be completed by this fall, but it’s still underway. —Caitlin Bowling
UPDATE: Norton Commons’ Chateau Bourbon B&B opening soon… but not Saturday as hoped
In the first version of this post Friday morning, we told you Chateau Bourbon, the new bourbon-themed bed and breakfast at Norton Commons, would celebrate its grand opening on Saturday from 6-9 p.m., in conjunction with the neighborhood’s holiday celebration. Because that was the B&B’s plan, at least according to a press release Norton Commons sent out earlier this week.
But then this morning, Norton Commons tweeted us the following message after The Closing Bell went live:
We’re trying to learn more about the reasons behind the delay and will keep you posted on the B&B’s plans.
As we reported in April, the upscale B&B will be run by Norton Commons residents Missy Hillock, her husband John, and mother Carol Thomas, who will be the primary innkeepers, chefs and hosts. They’ll offer guests Southern-style cuisine as well as a cocktail hour featuring, well, bourbon of course.
Blow dry bar offering sneak peek ahead of January open
The national brand Drybar is opening its first Louisville location at 4904 Shelbyville Road near Mall St. Matthews sometime in January.
But before the shop opens, Drybar is giving people a chance to check out its products and get a touch-up this holiday season. Drybar offers services including scalp massages, shampooing, hair styling and reparative hair treatments.
Drybar representatives will be at Pure Barre at The Paddock Shops from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Visitors can learn more about the brand as well as purchase products and gift cards, according to a news release.
Joella’s Hot Chicken will experiment with self-serve craft beer program
This week, Joella’s founder and CEO Tony Palombino sent us a tip that along with the opening of the second hot chicken location in Lexington in mid-February, that store will be equipped with a self-serve craft beer dispenser program. He plans to bring the technology to Louisville when he opens a Middletown store in March. (Unfortunately, the Frankfort Avenue spot is too small for such a gadget.)
Similar to self-serve wine dispensers, users will start a tab and pay by the ounce, which is better for those who want to sample the beer before committing to a full pint. Also a plus: You can get up and get it yourself and not have to rely on a busy server or bartender.
Palombino says he’ll be adding this feature to most of the new locations, which include, as we reported in October, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. —Sara Havens
Shake Shack headed to Kentucky for the first time…
Unfortunately, not Louisville though.
The shake and burger joint with its own cult following has decided to plant its flag in — you guessed it — Lexington.
A reader drew our attention to this story last month, noting that Shake Shack Kentucky was officially a registered LLC. When Insider Louisville reached out to Shake Shack representatives, we didn’t initially hear back.
However, just before Thanksgiving, the New York-based company announced it is headed to The Summit at Fritz Farm, a mixed-use development at the corner of Man O’ War Boulevard and Nicholasville Road. The store will open in 2017.
The Shake Shack in Lexington will offer the traditional menu of Angus beef burgers, crinkle-cut fries and flat-top dogs. It also will have three special-to-Lexington frozen custard concretes with food from local vendors mixed in.
While we were disappointed to find out that Shake Shack won’t open in our own backyard, it does finally give us a good reason to take a day trip to Lexington. Ya know, if you don’t count Keeneland, UK basketball and the city’s delicious craft breweries. —Caitlin Bowling
New Albany Rotary celebrates 100th anniversary
Just 10 years after the founding of Rotary International in Chicago, a group of businessmen in New Albany, Ind., decided to start their own chapter. The organization of philanthropic business and government leaders in New Albany is today 83 members strong and celebrating its 100th anniversary on Dec. 5.
“This mission of Rotary really resonates still today after 100 years in our club …this mission of service above self,” said Tyler Bliss, the current president of the Rotary Club of New Albany. “That has stayed constant throughout all these years.” Bliss also is executive director of the New Albany-Floyd County Education Foundation.
Rotary Club of New Albany will continue to celebrate its centennial into next year with the installation of a playground in the new Kevin Hammersmith Memorial Park off Charlestown Road.
The group also gives out grants each year to various organizations and, in particular, has focused on literacy and clean water projects, according to Michael Sanders, the Rotary Club’s immediate past president and an insurance agent at Norwood Insurance Services. Sanders said he joined Rotary for the networking and leadership development opportunities.
“It’s one of the only organizations where you can sit next to business leaders and influential people in the community on a weekly basis,” he said. “It is great to be connected to the community and know what is going on and have a formal relationship with people who make an impact on the community.”
Rotary is a way to meet other business people as well as give back to the neighborhood, Bliss and Sanders said. “I like to think that Rotarians are some of the best people in our communities,” Bliss said. “There is always something to be learned or new partnerships to be had.” —Caitlin Bowling
Woodford Reserve’s new holiday bottle features artwork by Louisville native
If you’ve ever been to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in wintertime, you’ll recognize the iconic scene that adorns the new holiday bottles. Painted by Louisville artist Thomas William Foerster, the image shows a row of bourbon barrels lined up outside with a layer of snow settled on top.
Foerster is a self-taught artist who has worked most of his career in advertising, copywriting and producing. He paints in his spare time and prefers to recreate landscapes and cityscapes. His pieces have been described as realistic in style with a hint of Impressionism.
“Woodford Reserve is thrilled to collaborate with such a talented and experienced artist to showcase this beautiful scene from our distillery,” said brand director Jason Kempf. “His skillset for realistic landscape painting combined with his passion for Impressionism makes his artwork picture perfect for the bottle.”
The 1-liter bottles should be on shelves now for a suggested retail price of $43.99. —Sara Havens