April 13, 2024
Investment

Longtime business closures, multimillion-dollar investments highlight 2023 Kentuckiana business news | Business


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — From longtime business closures to multimillion-dollar investments in west Louisville’s future, the Kentuckiana region saw a lot of changes in 2023.

In southern Indiana, the town of Corydon said goodbye to a staple in its community. Known for its “parking in the rear” and iconic billboards, Butt Drugs closed after several decades in business. In Louisville, some businesses opened their first locations in the state. But the city also saw the closures of some beloved restaurants and businesses, like Come Back Inn and Dee’s.

The past year also saw the announcements of some multimillion-dollar investments, including Pretzel manufacturer Stellar Snacks announcing a $137 million investment in Louisville’s west end, bringing 350 full-time jobs over the next 10 years to the area.

Below are some of the business news highlights of 2023:

January

On Jan. 28, Big Nita’s Cheesecakes opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood, taking over the former Hi-Five Donuts space on East Main Street. Big Nita’s offers a variety of cheesecakes, cheesecake cupcakes and cheesecake cookies. 

February

In early February, The Capital Grille opened its first Louisville location in front of Oxmoor Center Mall on Shelbyville Road. Known for its dry-aged steaks and world-class wine list, the Louisville location is lead by local executive chef Chris McIntosh and managing partner Petru Bester.

On Feb. 10, Tennessee-based Barista Parlor opened its first location outside of its home state, setting up shop in the newly renovated 500 West building on Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville. Barista Parlor x 500W sources coffee from all over the world and also offers tea, sandwiches and more.

April

On April 1, two former University of Louisville students opened Mochi Dog on West Woodlawn Avenue in the Louisville StrEatery in the Beechmont area. The business specializes in mochi doughnuts and Korean corndogs, which are rolled in toppings like bread crumbs, cheese or sugar. Some of the flavors include tiramisu, crème brulée and maple bacon.

Family-owned and operated Southside Pet Shop announced it would be closing after 51 years in business, despite attempts to sell it to new owners. 

Iconic southern Indiana staple, Butt Drugs, announced its closure in April after 71 years in business. The pride of Corydon closed officially in May, and later auctioned off memorabilia from its decades in business, including signs, decorations, original fixtures, furniture and more. 

May

Kentucky-themed social Bar Number 15 opened on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville in late May. The social hall features five floors and Kentucky-inspired food and drinks, as well as space for live music and a sports bar. About 35 to 40 local employees were hired to staff the bar.

Also in late May, the owners of Dee’s Louisville announced their plans to retire and close the business after 52 years of helping people get ready for the Kentucky Derby. Kathy and Larry Olliges made the announcement “with mixed emotions,” but said they want to spend more time with their children and grandchildren, travel, and “maybe even enjoy some Derby festival events.”

In early June, shoppers lined up for the final sale at the store on Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews, which sold gifts, home décor, and more.

August

Union workers at UPS in Louisville went on strike over the summer and, in August, endorsed a new contract just days after Local 89 union members cast the sole dissenting vote against the agreement. In endorsing the 5-year agreement, the union called it “the richest, most historic step forward for UPS members in our union’s history.”

Louisville’s Fern Valley Strike & Spare (formerly known as Pro Bowl 2) bowling alley announced it would be closing after more than 20 years because the property was sold. The owners of the bowling alley claimed the property was “sold out from underneath” them, but the property owner said it was sold because the bowling alley owners could no longer afford it.

Jeff Ruby’s reopened in downtown Louisville after two months of a multimillion-dollar renovation. The steakhouse unveiled the first major renovation of the West Main Street restaurant in its 17 years. As part of the renovations, the restaurant now features a new, completely red Jeff Ruby Room and a Churchill Room, complete with 200 jockey silks hanging from the ceiling.

In late August, New York-based barbecue restaurant Pig Beach BBQ opened in a long-vacant building in Louisville’s Waterfront Park. The building, formerly home to Tumbleweed TexMex Grill and Doc’s Cantina, hadn’t had a tenant in seven years. The opening of Pig Beach BBQ provides another dining option along the city’s Waterfront.

September

Jack in the Box opened its first Louisville location on Dixie Highway in Valley Station, drawing hundreds of hungry customers. It features a dining room and a drive-thru, as well as outdoor seating. A second location also opened on Bardstown Road in December. Jack in the Box announced in October 2021 its plans to open 111 new restaurants across the country over several years.

Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux opened in southern Indiana in late September. The restaurant on East Lewis and Clark Parkway, off exit 4 on Interstate 65 in Clarksville, is in the former Logan’s Steakhouse location. Walk-On’s franchise owners, Todd Johnson and Wade Kornblith of Trident Hospitality, partnered with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks to open the Lewis & Clark location. Johnson has served as an owner, operator and landlord for multiple restaurant and hospitality properties in Indiana and Florida since 1991.

Brooks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and currently serves as a discipline appeals officer for the NFL Players Association. Former NFL quarterback Drew Brees joined the team as an investor and co-owner in 2015.

October

Mulligan’s opened in October in the former Glenmary Country Club, which had sat vacant since its closure eight years ago. In 2021, Chris Thieneman purchased 45 acres of the country club for $625,00 from Par Golf LLC, including the area near Bardstown Road and Interstate 265 where the clubhouse is located. To date, he’s invested about $2 million into renovations and simply getting the approval to rebuild presented an entirely different set of challenges.

Pretzel manufacturer Stellar Snacks announced plans in October to invest $137 million into a facility in Louisville’s west end, in the Park Hill neighborhood. The project will create 350 full-time jobs over the next 10 years in what is expected to be the largest economic development on record in west Louisville in the last 20 years.

Also in October, the Cheesecake Factory announced plans to open a $74 million bakery and distribution center at the River Ridge Commerce Center in Charlestown, Indiana. Officials said it will make cheesecakes and signature bakery products for Cheesecake Factory restaurants and other retailers. The company is expected to invest more than $74 million into the facility. By 2025, the factory is expected to have more than 200 employees.

Thousands of Ford UAW employees went on strike this fall, fighting for a new contract with better pay. In October, Ford and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on a new, 4-year contract about six weeks after workers began striking in Detroit.

Ford announced plans in October to produce an “all new” electric vehicle at its Louisville Assembly Plant once the gas-powered Escape SUV reaches the end of its life cycle in 2025. The addition of an EV at LAP in 2026 is among plant-by-plant “product commitments” made by Ford in a tentative 4-year labor contract agreement reached with the UAW in October.

On Oct. 3, the popular Louisville Italian restaurant, Come Back Inn, announced its closure after more than two decades in Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood. The restaurant was located at 909 Swan Street. It was known for classic Italian food and reasonable prices. Come Back Inn was selected numerous times in Leo Weekly’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Italian in Louisville.

The owner of the Manhattan Grill in downtown Louisville announced in October his plans to retire after 26 years of serving up deli sandwiches, burgers, and more at the corner of Muhammad Ali Boulevard and 5th Street.

More than 5 years after Jeffboat launched its final vessel on the Ohio River, the developer tasked with revitalizing the former shipyard detailed an estimated $1 billion project aimed at taking the city of Jeffersonville’s past into its future. The plans include a hotel, hundreds of residences, restaurants, an amphitheater, fountains and more, all with a waterfront view. The land, once home to the largest inland shipyard in America, will soon become an entertainment district, with more than 400 apartments, townhomes, condos and a marina.

December

In December, Angel’s Envy announced plans to expand its downtown Louisville distillery. Angel’s Envy, which has operated a distillery and guest experience across from Louisville Slugger Field on Main Street for 10 years, purchased the parking lot at the corner of Jackson and Main streets. Angel’s Envy said it will explore options as to what will be built on the property.

Also in December, Derby City Gaming opened in downtown Louisville 150 days before the 150th Kentucky Derby. The $92 million facility features bars, a lounge, live entertainment, sports betting and nearly 500 historical racing machines. It’s also bringing 150 jobs to the area. The general manager said this is just the beginning of what he promises to be a downtown transformation.

Openrange, a gun shop and shooting range in Oldham County, announced in late December it would be closing after 18 years in business. The building was purchased by the Oldham County Fiscal Court for $2.8 million and will be used by the county’s police department. Barry Laws, president of Openrange, said he’s retiring. He approached the Oldham County Police Department about purchasing the building, which comes with a large shooting range and several bays. It will become the department’s new home. Other departments will be able to train and shoot at the facility as well.

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