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North Lime Coffee & Donuts will open in the red-brick gatehouse building near the newly renovated Edison Center, which can be seen in the background. | Photo by Tyler Smith

North Lime Coffee & Donuts has finalized its move to Louisville.

The last time we told you about this popular Lexington shop, the owners were on a mission to open up in the commonwealth’s biggest city. The only shoe yet to drop was where.

This week, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Edison Center, it will be announced that North Lime will be leasing, renovating and moving into the old gatehouse at the northeast corner of the property, along Seventh Street.

The Edison Center is the City Properties Group rehab of the old LG&E plant at Seventh and Ormsby into a mixed-use facility that already has welcomed its first tenant, Louisville Metro Government. The city will be moving more than 300 employees from its old Barret Avenue offices.

“There are a lot of things we liked about the location,” says Joe Ross, co-owner of North Lime. “It’s a neat old building with some history. It’s walkable from Old Louisville, good proximity to the University of Louisville, with a diverse residential population and with great potential for mixed-use expansion.”

The perks of a busy street plus plenty of parking don’t hurt, either.

“The vision,” says Ross, “is for (Bill) Weyland to have a lot of other local businesses come into the center. He’s referred to it as Louisville’s next big innovation district. We’ll be the first food vendor. All those things really excited us.”

A larger view of the Edison Center in Old Louisville. | Photo by J. L. Jordan Photography
A view of the Edison Center in Old Louisville. | Photo by J. L. Jordan Photography

Ross and co-owner Teddy Ray are not the first investors to be captivated by the vision of developer Bill Weyland, managing director of City Properties Group. Right now, though, that vision seems mostly a matter of trust and faith. Currently, the gatehouse is a shell, nothing much besides the original red brick walls and roofline. But Ross and Ray were eager to buy in to Weyland’s plans for the site.

In fact, they bought in even before they met Weyland. “This was one of the first locations we saw with Woodford Hoagland [Hoagland Commercial Realtors],” Ross recalls. “We talked at length about the long-term plan, the strategy and philosophy, how our visions lined up. We really got excited.”

North Lime’s owners also got excited when shown some of the other Weyland projects in town. “I loved the Glassworks Building,” says Ross, “not only from the design standpoint but also the preservation piece of it, how it’s intended to accommodate lots of different businesses and residences all in one space. It has a good vibe.”

Their original shop on North Limestone in Lexington. | Photo courtesy of North Lime
Their original shop on North Limestone in Lexington. | Photo courtesy of North Lime

“We didn’t want to be in some huge shopping center with a lot of chain stores,” says Ray. “This building reminds us of our Limestone Street location when we first saw it. It needs some work, but it will be exciting for us to begin restoring it.”

“Some work” is a decidedly optimistic observation. Whole floors are missing. Windows are out. Graffiti mars the outside walls. A jerry-built wooden framework inside the structure seems to be holding the whole thing up.

But the brickwork, inside and out, is a reminder of earlier architectural periods classic to Louisville. The building is small but the lines are stately and the bones are presumably good. It’s no shopping center pre-fab, that’s for sure.

The ceiling heights above ground are about 15 feet, and the basement looks to be about a 20-foot drop. That will give Ross and Ray ample room to create what they want: not just a great coffee-and-donuts offering but what the retail and hospitality industry calls “a third place,” a location for meetings, parties or just hanging out. There are plans for an outdoor patio space, as well.

When finished, they estimate the new space will have 3,000 square feet of room (about double the Limestone Street location) and seat close to 30. They see the upstairs space as a venue for business meetings or private parties, or to handle the overflow if the downstairs seating area fills up.

Although details of the lease have been finalized — with Tyler Smith of PRG Commercial Property Advisors representing the landlord — work likely won’t begin until November. At that time, even as architects, designers and contractors flood into the space, North Lime’s owners will begin looking for suppliers and employees.

“We’ll promote the general manager from our current operation,” Ray says. “We like to promote from within. Beyond that, though, we’ll need to hire about 20 local employees as baristas, bakers, cashiers – anyone with espresso or coffee experience, baking or cooking experience, retail or food service experience of any kind.”

North Lime's creations include maple bacon, blackberry cobbler, and cinnamon apple butter donuts. | Photo courtesy of North Lime
North Lime’s creations include maple bacon, blackberry cobbler, and cinnamon apple butter donuts. | Photo courtesy of North Lime

But specific experience is not paramount. “We cross-train everybody,” he says, “so everybody we hire will become capable of performing all the roles we need. Mainly, we want people who love people and love community, and want to get involved with an operation like ours.”

At that time, the owners also will begin finding local suppliers. The needs are fairly simple – milk, butter, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, they say, plus whatever goes into their various specialty toppings – and they know there are plenty of food distributors and farmers in this area.

They expect the hours of operation to be similar to those in their two Lexington locations – a basic 6 a.m.-to-5 p.m. template – though they’re also talking about evening hours, once they get to know local habits. They know that Weyland would like to begin developing more of the land he acquired in 2014. So there could be yet more office space activity in the future. Or the automobile traffic up and down Seventh Street could define the growth of the business. Or it could become a hangout for local residents.

Perhaps evening hours would also lead to an expansion of the menu. “Maybe at night,” says Ross, “we’ll have a donut you can eat on a plate – a more luxury dessert item.”

What they do know is that they’re going to take their time. “Our process has showed that we can choose our timing and location and that, if we’ve chosen properly, it won’t matter,” Ross says. “We’ll open whenever the space is ready. The most important issue for us was getting the right spot. We think we’ve done that.”

Before Christmas or after Christmas? Winter or spring? Derby or not? It doesn’t seem to matter to the owners, who point out that they opened their second Lexington location – at Clays Mill Shopping Center – in January, which had been the slowest month of the year for the Limestone Street location.

“We’re hoping we’ll be successful right off the bat,” says Ray, “but we’re willing to let the market find us. We’ll be here for years.”

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Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman has been writing professionally since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew) on all manner of subjects, from sports to city hall to sales and marketing to running a medical practice to designing stores. His journey has taken him from Chicago to Buffalo to New York to Atlanta to Cincinnati, before landing, finally, in Louisville.