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.

A flurry of small-business comings and goings in downtown New Albany

Laura Buckingham standing outside former Bread and Breakfast location. | Photo by Kevin Gibson
Laura Buckingham standing outside former Bread and Breakfast location. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

A new business is preparing to move into the corner of Main and Bank streets in New Albany, while former tenant Laura Buckingham is deciding the next step for her popular business Bread and Breakfast.

During the holidays, Bread and Breakfast quietly shut its doors. It’s operated at Main and Bank streets since early 2014 and was poised to relocate to a new retail center across the street called Underground Station.

However, that is no longer the case, Buckingham told Insider Louisville via Facebook.

“I’m looking for a new location; I’ll still be selling bread at the markets till then,” she said.

Buckingham said she never had a real chance to reflect on the last few years in business and has been revising her business plan, cost projections and operational flow. She realized the Underground Station site was “not compatible for what we want to do.”

Southern Indiana-based Carter Management Co., which owns Underground Station, agreed to release Buckingham from her lease, said Andy Carter, manager of Underground Station.

The center now has 1,800 square feet of space available that can be leased as one site or split into two, Carter said, adding that Carter Management Co. is looking for a restaurant to complete Underground Station.

“We are kind of missing that piece,” Carter said.

Already located in Underground Station are tailor Sew Fitting, a barber shop Underground Classic Cuts, an e-cigarette store VapeWorks Lounge and an outdoor store Green Earth Outdoors. Green Earth is expanding after only a few months in operation, Carter said, and two new businesses are expected to open in the coming weeks.

Christine Cherry Photography is opening a studio and office there before the end of the month, he said, and The Olivet, an infused olive oil shop, has a target open date of Feb. 1.

But back to the fate of Bread and Breakfast’s former home: Building owner Larry Schad, an attorney with Schad & Schad in New Albany, said he sold the property in October to a woman named Linda Williams.

Insider Louisville could not reach Williams by press time, but Schad said she plans to run a small cafe and art shop as well as operate a one-room bed and breakfast on the second floor. —Caitlin Bowling

Louisville logistics company to invest $2.5 million, add 100 jobs

The headquarters of Houston Johnson Inc. | Courtesy of HJI.
The headquarters of Houston Johnson Inc. | Courtesy of HJI.

Louisville logistics company Houston Johnson Inc. is investing $2.5 million and will add 100 jobs this year to keep up with increasing demand from Ford Motor Co.

Derek Bland, vice president of business development for HJI, tells IL the company has acquired a 20,000-square-foot warehouse across the street from its headquarters, at 13200 Complete Court. He said the company plans to roughly double the size of the warehouse and occupy it by June.

Derek Bland
Derek Bland

Bland said the expansion is a direct result of Ford’s recently announced $1.3 billion planned investment into Kentucky Truck Plant to support the next-generation Super Duty.

HJI coordinates logistics activities between companies such as Ford and its suppliers. Customers may ask HJI to warehouse products or perform sequencing or subassembly. For example, HJI provides trim components, such as door panels, and chassis components, such as drive shafts.

Bland said the expansion also is prompting the company to add 100 workers to its current workforce of 150 by the end of the year. HJI is looking primarily for warehousing and assembly workers including forklift drivers. Interested applicants should call 502-638-8000.

Bland said the investments are part of HJI’s long-term growth strategy, and he predicted more good news for Louisville. —Boris Ladwig

Ford poised for record year?

Ford's 2017 Super Duty. | By Boris Ladwig.
Ford’s 2017 Super Duty. | By Boris Ladwig.

Fueled in part by its Louisville-made SUVs and trucks, Ford could record its best year in company history, according to The Motley Fool.

Demand is increasing for new vehicles in the U.S., especially for the company’s most profitable products, such as SUVs and pickups, the Fool wrote.

Ford employs about 10,000 at two plants in the Louisville area. The company recently announced it would invest $1.3 billion and create 2,000 new jobs at the Kentucky Truck Plant to make the new F-Series Super Duty pickup. The plant also makes the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

Ford announced Wednesday that 2015 was its best sales year in the U.S. in nine years. F-Series sales in December rose 15 percent from the same period in 2014.

The Louisville Assembly Plant makes the Ford Escape, which, according to the Fool, “has been selling almost as quickly as Ford can make them.”

Though Ford said Escape sales were flat from 2014 to 2015, they jumped 9.2 percent in December.

The Fool said Ford could also see gains this year because of investments in Asia, as well as rising sales in Western Europe, in part because of the emissions-cheating troubles at Volkswagen.

Potential trouble spots the Fool identified include a worsening economy in China, and minimal growth in the U.S. if rivals offer steeper discounts.—Boris Ladwig

Electric transit shop opens on Bardstown Road

A new Bardstown Road business is adding a kick to traditional modes of transportation.

Electrik Roll opened Monday, and owner Michelle James believes it is the first of its kind in the state — a store that only sells electric transportation such as electric bikes, electric skateboards and hoverboards.

James has been advertising her new shop with help from a local resident, seen below, who can be seen riding around on an electric skateboard.

“Transportation is where the future is,” said James, who is wife of Louisville Metro Councilman David James. The electric forms of transportation are “green” and “sustainable” but allow people to travel farther than they might be able to on a traditional bike, skateboard, etc.

Electric transit also is more economical, she said. Electric bikes, for example, cost $1,600 to $5,000; they go as fast as 20 miles per hour; and the battery lasts for 25 to 30 miles.

“It is perfect for commuting to work,” James said.

Electrik Roll is located in the Schuster Building, 1900 Eastern Parkway, at the busy intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway. It is hosting its grand opening Saturday and will donate 10 percent of its sales to the Kentucky Humane Society.

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. —Caitlin Bowling

Who’s been funded?

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EnterpriseCorp’s Lisa Bajorinas updated attendees at the Venture Connectors gathering this week on what businesses saw funding last month, and how 2015 shook out in general, investment-wise.

Forty-one companies saw funding in 2015 to the tune of $22,381,717. That’s a bit down from previous years; 2013 saw the most businesses funded since Venture Connectors was founded with 45.

Late 2015 funding includes:

  • Inscope Medical, winners of the Vogt Award of $150,000
  • FasCure Therapeutics, with a $150,000 SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Phase 1
  • PGXL Technologies, with a $150,000 SBIR Phase 1
  • EndoProTech, with a $500,000 SBIR Phase 2
  • Exoscien Corp., with a $500,000 SBIR Phase 2 (notable because they relocated from Mobile, Ala. to Louisville because of the availability of funding)
  • Onovative, which closed a round of $1.5 million with investment in part from the Enterprise Angels community fund
  • VendMinder, which closed a B round of $4 million from mostly local investors, including our fair mayor
  • Edumedics, which closed a series A round of $4.2 million

—Melissa Chipman

Quick takes from Venture Connectors

• Dr. Alice Cash, founder of Surgical Serenity Solutions, which produces headsets that play rhythmic classical music during surgery, illness and recovery, says her company is about to come out with a new headset at one-fifth of the price. Currently most of her business is directed to patients over the Internet, although the VA hospital purchased 100 of the headsets. These new, cheaper headsets can be branded for your hospital, clinic, what-have-you, and sent home with the patients to aid healing (and advertise your hospital).

• Hey, entrepreneur-types: Junior Achievement and EnterpriseCorp (the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc.) are looking for mentors for the JA Startup program starting this spring. You’ll get training and course materials and the chance to hang out with some really cool kids. If you want details, hit up Brittain Skinner at EnterpriseCorp: [email protected].

Phone Falcon, the on-demand phone and tablet fixer, celebrates two years in business this month with a 50 percent rise in sales over the second year.

• Registration is open for the next cohort of the Nucleus LaunchIt program. It’s a 10-week course for startups and small companies that helps you prep your company for investors or consumers. More information here.

• January’s meeting marked the first for Tendai Charasika as president of Venture Connectors. The former EnterpriseCorp director is now the CEO of SuperfanU. –Melissa Chipman

Another 100 positions sought for new local restaurants

Now Hiring SignOn Monday, we told you about two job fairs the new River Road restaurant, Doc’s Cantina, was hosting to hire at least 100 employees for various positions — from sous chef to dishwasher. That anticipated spot is said to be opening in February. Not a day later, we received a similar notice from John Varanese, who will be opening two new restaurants next month as well: River House and The Levee. He’s looking to hire more than 100 employees for those two endeavors at a job fair held at Varanese from Jan. 14-17.

On one hand, that’s great news for anyone looking for a job in the restaurant industry. But one has to question, as Insider’s Steve Coomes did back in November, do we have a large enough skilled labor pool to support all these new restaurants?

He wrote:

“Despite debatably low unemployment numbers, what all agree on is there are plenty of people who aren’t working, but could and should. Yet even if those unemployed workers applied for a restaurant job today, they’d still need significant training to master the basics to become a competent line cook and make palatable food quickly. Culinary school output isn’t the answer either, as most programs take a minimum of 18 months to complete, and even then, many grads need more time mastering practical skills to perform at a professional level.”

Only time will tell, we suppose. And it’s never a bad thing to have creative chefs coming up with new concepts. The hungry diners of Louisville, indeed, have much to look forward to in 2016. —Sara Havens

Junior Bridgeman partners with Cordish on new Fourth Street Live restaurant

BirraCibo will feature artisanal pizzas, wine, and craft beer. | Courtesy of The Cordish Cos.
BirraCibo will feature artisanal pizzas, wine, and craft beer. | Rendering by Bravura Architects

A new Italian restaurant is opening at Fourth Street Live on Feb. 29, and it’s got a big player backing it.

Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman has teamed up with Fourth Street Live owner The Cordish Cos. on a new concept called BirraCibo, which will specialize in artisanal pizzas, wine, and local and regional craft beer, according to a news release. It will include an outdoor patio, a charcuterie station, a 45-foot bar and two private dining rooms.

“We are proud to partner with the Cordish family to create a truly special restaurant for downtown Louisville,” Bridgeman said in the release. “BirraCibo is committed to quality, local ingredients, and an artisanal food and beverage program, and we are thrilled to debut this restaurant at Fourth Street Live!”

Bridgeman and Cordish together will invest more than $1 million in BirraCibo. It will employ 50 people and seat more than 100 customers, the release states.

Louisville-based Bravura Architects designed the 9,000-square-foot restaurant. Bruce Mosely, who has worked at eateries in California and Washington, D.C., will serve as executive chef.

“BirraCibo will be a beautiful but relaxed place to socialize and dine, creating a comfortable neighborhood gathering place for downtown,” Bridgeman said in the release.

Bridgeman is one of Louisville’s most prominent — and possibly most humble — residents. He played for the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball team before becoming a sixth man in the NBA and eventually going into the restaurant business as a Wendy’s franchisee. It also owns Napa River Grill in Westport Village. —Caitlin Bowling

Taco Bell posts cryptic news release teasing new product

A screenshot of the mysterious release | Courtesy of Taco Bell
A screenshot of the mysterious release | Courtesy of Taco Bell

Yum! Brands subsidiary Taco Bell took some pointers from the U.S. Government when announcing its next big menu item.

The company wrote up a news release and redacted any clues to what the new product will be. It’s hard to get more vague than that.

The mock release did note that the new product will debut on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, during a 30-second spot created by the advertising firm Deutsch LA. The television advertisement is Taco Bell’s first Super Bowl Sunday ad in three years, the release states.

While the new product will become available nationwide at an unknown date, the release teases that Taco Bell fans will be able to get their hands on it early. Again, the exact details of how are unknown.

Guess we will have to wait for Feb. 7 or keep our fingers crossed that Taco Bell has its own version of Edward Snowden ready to pull back the curtain before the big game. —Caitlin Bowling

Cityscape Residential raised $175 million for apartment projects

Axis Apartments will be located 1373 Lexington Road. | Courtesy of Cityscape Residential
Axis Apartments will be located 1373 Lexington Road. | Courtesy of Cityscape Residential

Indianapolis-based real estate and construction firm Cityscape Residential has secured $175 million for four Midwest apartment projects, including the $40 million Axis Apartments project in Louisville.

The money raised includes contributions from six commercial banks, according to a news release.

The Louisville Metro Development Authority recently approved the creation of a TIF district for Cityscape’s 300-unit Axis Apartments project. The company will be eligible to receive up to $4.87 million in incentives from the city.

“A short walk from the restaurant and retail corridors of Bardstown Road, Frankfort Avenue and the Highlands, Axis Apartments is a nine-acre property that will offer first of its kind luxury and amenities in urban Louisville,” the release states.

Cityscape also plans to build a 251-unit apartment complex in the East End near The Summit. It recently started leasing apartments at its 312-unit complex on Preston Highway past the Gene Snyder Freeway. —Caitlin Bowling

Humana exec’s $1.8 million haul

A senior Humana exec had a very lucrative start to the new year.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Timothy S. Huval, senior vice president and human resources officer, acquired 21,709 shares.

He sold 9,940 of those at a price of just over $179. That’s a gain of $1.78 million.

Humana_logoIn the last few days, most of Humana’s board of directors – W. Roy Dunbar, William J. McDonald, Frank A. D’Amelio, David A. Jones Jr., David B. Nash, Kurt J. Hilzinger, James J. O’Brien, William Mitchell, Marissa T. Peterson – also received 870 shares, according to SEC filings. The shares have a current value of about $15,000. Most of the directors received restricted stock, which vests Dec. 31. —Boris Ladwig

Stocks take a beating

Speaking of stocks: The markets had a terrible week, with the S&P 500 dropping 4.5 percent in the first four trading days of the year.

On Monday, the first trading day of the year, the Dow plunged more than 400 points before recovering slightly. Weak manufacturing data had caused stocks in China to slide 7 percent, triggering a halt in trading. On Thursday, again after a halt in trading in China, the Dow fell nearly another 400 points.

However, a local financial planner told IL that for most local investors, the jittery market should mean little to nothing.

Stuart Coats, founder and president of Coats Financial Planning, said people should take a long-term approach to investing and should avoid trying to time the market. —Boris Ladwig

Brown-Forman master distiller named to top industry post

Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris has been named chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

The organization, which traces its roots to 1880 and promotes all things Bourbon, announced its new board officers and directors this week.

Chris Morris
Chris Morris

It said Morris is “an acknowledged authority on Bourbon and Kentucky history who is celebrating his 40th year in the industry.”

Morris said in the release, “It is especially a treat to serve as KDA Chair in 2016 because we will see more exciting events and programs that emphasize the heritage and great taste of Kentucky Bourbon.”

The KDA said its membership produces 90 percent of the world’s Bourbon and that Kentucky Bourbon “is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million,” the organization said.

The KDA also said that the industry produced 1.3 million barrels in 2014, the highest number since 1970. Figures for 2015 will be released this spring.

KDA President Eric Gregory said, “The Golden Age of Kentucky Bourbon is just beginning, and we are honored to be part of this historic renaissance.”—Boris Ladwig

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