Only in Louisville
Only In Louisville: Feeders Supply
Over the last half-century, Feeders Supply has become one of the country’s only local, family-owned and -operated multi-store pet retailer. “There are very few independents that have as many stores as we do,” said Pam Gibson Longwell, chief operating officer and daughter of the company’s founder, Roy D. Gibson.
There are 14 neighborhood Feeders Supply stores – nine in Louisville, three in Southern Indiana, one in Shepherdsville and one in Elizabethtown. They sell supplies, food and services for household pets and became a member of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance in 2011.
Feeders Supply’s success has been built steadily with a tried and true strategy: keeping the company’s core values it was founded on, while adapting to meet market changes and consumer needs.Gibson started Feeders Supply in 1959 as a feed-store serving area livestock farms, a natural step considering his agriculture background. He grew up on a farm in Spencer County, which the family still has. He earned an animal science degree from the University of Kentucky, married a Shelby County native, and they moved to Louisville to start their lives. The Baxter Avenue store was the original company location, next to the Bourbon Stockyards Co.
“Because so many farmers brought their livestock into town to market, there were many agribusinesses located around the yards. It just made sense to operate where everyone else was serving the farming market,” Longwell said.
In the 1970s, Gibson added commercial accounts, including feed contracts for the Louisville Zoo and the Kentucky Exposition Center’s livestock show, which the company still holds.
In the following decades, Gibson realized a new retail category was emerging - the pet food and supply store. Pet owners increasingly wanted higher quality food. Gibson converted the front of the Baxter Avenue warehouse into a retail store and began selling premium pet food. Gibson opened a new store nearly every year thereafter and was president and CEO until his death in 2004.
“My father was the wisest businessman I have ever met,” Longwell said. “I was blessed to be able to work by his side in our company for 17 years. I certainly learned a lot from him about how to run a successful retail operation. He knew that the most important part of any company is the customer. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.”
The Feeders Supply warehouse and distribution facility allows the company to purchase premium pet food, supplies and other items at a volume that keeps prices competitive.
“Since we buy at the same cost as the big boxes, we’re able to pass the savings along to area pet lovers,” Longwell said.
Employees are expected to support a positive shopping experience. New employees attend customer-service training, pet nutrition classes and monthly product seminars.
“Our sales associates are pet lovers, too, and they work hard to help customers solve pet care issues using the items we have on our shelves,” Longwell said.
The company donates space to the Kentucky Humane Society and other organizations for adoption centers. Through these centers, KHS finds homes for more than 3,000 pets every year.
“We believe in the adoption option,” Longwell said.
The company is always looking at possible new locations. And, they continue to find Kentuckiana a great place to be a local business.
“Our roots are here. Our families are here. Our lives are here,” Longwell said. “We have grown where we were planted. We know our market and customers. This is our home.”
Only in Louisville:
Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC
The Louisville Independent Business Alliance’s “Keep Louisville Weird” mission instantly evokes so many of the city’s unique shops, restaurants and artists. But a law firm? Isn’t its membership weird in itself?
Not at all, says Patricia Smith, an estate attorney with Meinhart, Smith & Manning. “There are a lot of big corporate firms that have offices in other cities. We’re small and independent, and it kind of factors into [the slogan]. Louisville should be celebrated for those kinds of businesses and that entrepreneur spirit.”
That very spirit is what inspired Chris Meinhart to found the firm in 1993, and his inspiration has always been the underdog--particularly when handling personal injury cases. “I really like the David-vs.-Goliath thing,” says Meinhart, who, as the child of German immigrant parents, knows the role well. “I don’t like working for insurance companies; I like working against them. I don’t like working for the big guy; I like working for the little guy.” But even David needed a bit of extra power on his side, and so Meinhart took on two partners: Smith joined the practice in 1999, and Ethan Manning came aboard in 2003.
Manning, who clerked for Meinhart and Smith in college, shares his bosses’ dark-horse outlook. “We feel this is the area of practice where you make a difference in people’s livesundefinedwhen they’re at their worst,” says Manning. “You have people with life-threatening injuries, and they don’t know how to deal with it. We try to hold everyone’s hand, from the beginning to the end of the potential case.” In taking on issues regarding medical negligence, including product liability, malpractice and class action suits, Manning also enjoys the learning aspect. “You certainly have an uphill battle in these cases, and that’s what makes it challengingundefinedbut you can learn some interesting facts. We’re all students, really. You choose to go to school for a long time, and I don’t ever want to give that up.”
Smith’s education was a bit more roundabout. She had originally planned to earn an MBA, but while working as a buyer for Suburban Hospital she realized that law school would give her more opportunities. (She had worked as a legal secretary in high school and throughout college.) After trying out divorce law, she discovered her current field. “It’s fascinating,” she says. “People say probate law is old, boring, dusty…but you see murder, theft, every human passion you can think of. It’s all about family dynamics. But if you’re patient and empathetic and use a lot of common sense, you can get through it.” She offers a bit of free advice for those hoping to keep the peace when it comes to settling estates: “If at all possible, look at it objectively. A lot of people think it’s an honor to be an executor and administrator, but it’s a lot of work and you have to treat it like a business. ”
In business, Meinhart juggles more than just the firm; he also serves as Jefferson County Public Administrator, managing the finances of about 300 minors. He also teaches two courses as an adjunct instructor at UofL’s Brandeis Law School, which keeps him fresh. “The students are hungry to get away from the theories and talk to people who’ve been in the trenches…and [the interaction has] sharpened my skills and helped me to go back and analyze things from the outside in.”
Manning is committed to the firm maintaining its edge and its relationships, too. “We chose to practice here and raise our families here. We’ll retire here. It’s important for people to know that we started our practice here and we’ll end our practice here.”
Profile by Eve Lee
Only in Louisville: Louisville Water Company
If the words “Louisville Water Tower” invoke the image of an ornate, stark-white structure piercing a cerulean sky, it’s for a good reason. It’s a superstar among the city’s historic icons--an image that’s been ingrained in the collective unconscious of many Louisvillians since it was built on the banks of the Ohio in 1860. And well, if you’ve ever driven down Zorn Avenue, it’s quite hard to miss.
That eye-catching tower isn’t just a handsome design--even though the architect, Theodore Scowden, envisioned it as a welcoming landmark easily spotted by Ohio River travelers--it was constructed with a purpose. Inside the tower is a pipe that served as an outlet--a surge protector of sorts--so the steam engines that powered the water pumps wouldn’t implode the building. The pumps were removed in 1910, leaving a space that was used as storage for the company in the 1930s, a river institute for the University of Louisville in the 1960s, and was most recently home to a local arts organization. The brown buildings just to the left of the original structures now house the two active pumping stations. Combined, they can pull up to 200 million gallons of river water per day.
Louisville Water completed
an exterior renovation that restored Scowden's purposeful design in 2010 and
then in 2012, reclaimed the interior and began a second restoration to create the
Tied into the renovation is a re-branding effort to turn the Louisville
Water Tower into a community destination--the Louisville Water
The museum, which opened March 1, is open for tours, school field trips, private outings and weddings, and highlights Louisville Water’s extensive archive of historic photographs, films and memorabilia. The museum also showcases the company’s contributions to water delivery through its innovations in science, engineering and architecture. The purpose of the exhibit is to help the public understand how water works in the community, and how it’s worked for 153 years.
One notable exhibit is a piece of original water
main from 1860. Only part of it will be
on display, however, since a portion of it--laid when Abraham Lincoln was
president--is still in the ground along Story Avenue. It’s been cleaned over the years and lined
with cement, but it is still delivering clean water to the public.
Through the museum, Louisville Water also aims to
show the public that their community involvement goes beyond what comes out of
the faucet; that they are entwined in the community in a lot of different
ways. They are a lifeline--water makes it
possible for schools to open, for hospitals and firefighters to save lives,
even for the public to swim in a pool during the summer. Louisville Water also offers a place for the
community to gather--consider the Crescent Hill Reservoir that attracts visitors
and exercise enthusiasts year-round.
The Louisville pure tap® promotion will also have a display in the museum. In 1996, Louisville Water became first utility to trademark tap water, and it did so because they wanted a platform to talk about the value and quality of their product. What began as a marketing tool is now a full-fledged program that offers reusable bottles, cups and mobile water stations to events such as the Kentucky Derby Festival, schools hosting walk-a-thons, and sports teams. Even the general public can benefit from this promotion. Supplies for any event you wish to host can be provided at no cost.
The Louisville Water company has served as a
model since its inception over 150 years ago.
Not only did Louisville pioneer the filters that water utilities use
today back in 1896, but they continue to innovate their product and re-create
themselves as more than a utility. From an all-encompassing museum to showcase
the history, science and architecture of the company, to a truly local product
that has consistently been voted “The Best-Tasting Tap Water in North America,”
and their efforts to educate the public on what they provide beyond the tap,
all serve to make sure their customers will never look at a glass of water the
same way again.
Only in Louisville: ValuMarket
As vice president of ValuMarket, the Louisville grocery chain that’s been a significant part of the community for 35 years, James Neumann knows his customers. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees, especially amongst the patrons who shop at the Iroquois Manor location, just one of six stores in the Louisville area. It sits in one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the city, home to Vietnamese, Cuban, Bosnian, Sudanese and Somalian residents, some of whom are refugees and immigrants.
When the store first opened, products weren’t moving. But when ValuMarket teamed up with Kentucky Refugee Ministries and the Americana Community Center, James realized they didn’t have the right inventory. “Once we understood our customer’s background and circumstances, says James, “we began to carry products native to their countries, stuff they missed from home.” It’s no surprise that items began to fly off the shelves.
“The right foods go a long way in making customers feel at home,” he says. “Food is comfort.”
This seemingly basic theory of “know your customer” makes all the difference for ValuMarket. It’s the common thread that ties all of their locations together. And customers are why James loves this business. He gets to know them by walking through his stores and making conversation.
James and his brother Greg run the ValuMarket stores together. When they acquired the business from their dad, Frank Neumann, in 2001, the stores needed a renovation, but their current business philosophy also needed a change.
“As the name suggests,” James says, “ValuMarket started out as a low-price leader with name brand groceries. We tried to be the most affordable, but big box stores take that bullet out of your gun.”
While ValuMarket couldn’t stand on price alone, it did gain popularity as the company became more involved in its particular communities. In addition, ValuMarket began to buy the store’s inventory from a member-owned, non-profit co-op instead of a wholesale supplier, which not only gave ValuMarket more power to purchase unusual and local items, but enabled them to buy at a lower cost.
It’s those two decisions that fundamentally changed how ValuMarket was able to stay in the game, and is the foundation of the stores we recognize today.
Community involvement in the early days has evolved into a distinctive tie with each store’s neighborhood like the Kentucky Refugee Ministries’ relationship with the Iroquois Manor location. These relationships have earned ValuMarket its reputation as “your neighborhood grocery store.”
The Mid-City Mall location, for example, caters to the vegetarian/vegan residents who live in the Highlands area. There’s a strong demand for Kentucky Proud products, and they sell more organic produce than any other location. The Outer Loop store, which James refers to as their “Meat & Potatoes” location, is located in the suburbs, and what sells to the on-the-go traditional families that shop there are “skillet-ready” items like rotisserie chickens and stew mixes.
ValuMarket supports neighborhood events like the Highview Community Festival and the Mt. Washington Spring Festival each year, but also maintains a community-wide presence as well. They sponsor annual events like Bardstown Road Aglow and Worldfest, and were the official grocer and farmer’s market for last year’s Forecastle Festival. Most recently, they were the title sponsor for LIBA’s annual homage to local and regional brews, Brewfest.
While every store gives back in a unique way, the Park DuValle neighborhood in downtown Louisville might have the best understanding of ValuMarket’s commitment to community.
“Our involvement runs deep in this neighborhood,” James says. ValuMarket purchased First Choice a few years ago, and kept the store’s original name because it had built up a reputation in the neighborhood that they didn’t want to mess with. It’s now managed like the others, which of course means accommodating the local residents.
“First Choice is our smallest store but it is vital to that community,” James explains. The residents appreciate our outreach and truly depend on the store because there’s just nothing else close by.” First Choice, like its companion locations, hosts fundraisers and after-school programs, but they also work with Blessings in a Backpack. This non-profit battles hunger by giving kids on a reduced price meal program a backpack of easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods during the school year--an enormous benefit to the predominately fixed-income families who shop to get the most bang for their buck.
Community involvement and diverse, affordable products keep ValuMarket competitive, even with constant encroachment from larger, one-stop stores. But a lesser-known service truly gives them a leg up: online grocery shopping. ValuMarket is Louisville’s only grocer that allows customers to browse and purchase groceries online, and for a small fee, pick-up their order in front of the store, or have them delivered.
“It’s our best kept secret,” James says. “Most users find out about it through word of mouth, so it reaches customers who don’t read print ads. We constantly pick up new customers because no one else offers it.”
It’s not a stretch to say that ValuMarket has blazed a trail on its journey to become a successful a “big small company,” as James would say. In doing so, they have embraced a buy local tenet that a store doesn’t need to sell everything under the sun in order to survive. “We listen to our customers, and change accordingly. Money talks, and I encourage people to vote with their dollars. If not, in the long run, what’s everyone going to do when there’s only Walmart?”
It has taken patience and passion to get ValuMarket where it is today, and, in order to maintain its success, a dedication to what’s going on in the world of food production. James is active with the Kentucky Grocers Association and the Kentucky Milk Commission, and serves on the advisory councils of Kentucky Proud and FPAC, the Food Policy Advisory Council for Louisville Metro Government. He also spends time in Frankfort and Washington, D.C. to stay in touch with political agendas that affect his industry. All of that in addition to the daily duties of running six stores.
“It hasn’t been the easiest job,” he says. “But it’s the only one I’ve known.”
Profile by Angela Weisser
Only in Louisville: LocalView
Imagine an app that would allow you to plan your evening in just a few clicks. Dinner reservations? Check. Find out where your favorite band is playing? Check. And hey--a coupon that’ll allow you to stretch your dollar a little more? Check!
A group of friends not only imagined such an app; they made it happen. LocalView founders Jon Matar (pictured second from right) and Eric Littleton (pictured first from left), product development guru Jay Brown (first on right) and social media/marketing/graphic designer Kaitie Vonderschmitt--hatched the idea this past January.
“We wanted a cool app where we could see what was going on in the city, and we saw a need to have everything in one place,” says Matar. “That was kind of the original goal--to bring in all this content so you don’t have to go to multiple apps or websites to find it.” Moving quickly, the LocalView team hired Interapt, a Louisville development firm, to build it. Naturally, they called their creation LocalView as well as simple, descriptive name that gets to the heart of what the service is all about.
What sets LocalView both the app and the company apart is not only how it aggregates the information that’s already out there, but also how it attracts businesses and services and presents a win-win scenario for vendors and customers.
“[The major online discount services] Groupon and Living Social are killing businesses,” says Matar. “As a user, you buy the deal from Groupon, you pay Groupon, and Groupon pays the business. LocalView eliminates the middleman. Users go to the business and redeem the coupons right from the app.”
Instead of taking the customary 40 or 50 percent cut, LocalView takes only 10 percent--a much more digestible bite than the monster sites. “It’s a better way for businesses,” he continues. “We don’t want them to break the bank… They don’t have to wait for payments, we don’t gouge them and it’s better for the user.” Adds Brown: “You’re still getting the similar discount from the other sites, but it’s a better business model for consumer and merchant.”
LocalView established itself in Louisville back in January, and even though they love their local roots, the team is already looking to expand to the Lexington, Cincinnati and Indianapolis markets sooner rather than later. Backed by local investors and friends, they’ve managed to keep the cost of the app free to iPhone and Android users while working on an online version. Even with all this big-picture thinking, LocalView is determined to remain fiercely independent and true to its roots. “With a young company,” says Matar, “you want to see it last, and that’s all we can think about to succeed and provide value for users and businesses to draw in more customers.”
For Brown, the beauty of LocalView is in its versatility. “There’s not one part that’s more important than the other,” he says. “Some people like the food, some people like looking for something to do. The goal is to discover your city.”
LocalView is available from the iPhone and Google Play stores. For more information, visit www.localview.co.
Profile by Eve Lee
Only in Louisville: The Floor Store
Profile by Eve Lee
It’s not terribly unusual to imagine people in, say, the flooring business dreaming of doing something less strenuous someday, like becoming a teacherundefinedbut John Glaser went to Bellarmine University and worked as a schoolteacher before making the switch. “I went to work one summer for a guy who imported flooring, and that started me in it,” says John, 64. He quickly rose through the ranks as sales manager, creating a national sales force for all things beneath his feet before founding The Floor Store in 1979.
As a kid, John’s son Matthew, 32, learned quite a bit about hard work from the former teacher. “I grew up with the store and flooring,” Matthew says. “When I wanted to earn money to buy my first Nintendo, I had to come down and clean toilets.” Matthew studied international marketing at Indiana University Southeast, but even as a student he had one foot in the family businessundefinedhe cleaned carpets, not toiletsundefinedand after graduation he took a full-time position as a sales manager. “I didn’t expect this at all,” Matthew says. “I was thinking of a career in the import/export businessundefinedI started a small product acquisition company in Southeast Asia when I was in my twentiesundefinedbut now I’m working all aspects of the flooring company and I’m really into that.”
From tile to laminate to hardwood to carpeting, the Glasers have Louisvillians’ flooring needs, well, covered. Matthew’s brother, Patrick, 25, works as an installer (“He’s paying his dues right now,” says his dad), and John still does most of the measuring. John says that installation is for “young people with good muscles and strong legs,” but he refuses to let anyone coast. “We’ve all been known to get on the forklift and unload trucks and do whatever it takes.” Adds Matthew: “We’re like all small businesses. We wear all sorts of hats and we don’t sit behind our desks. We get out there and work.”
And The Floor Store’s nine-person staff of installers, refinishers, designers and salespeople all get out there and workundefinedand John is very aware of the responsibilities that come with working independently for the people of Louisville. “We’re more than competitive,” he says of the shop, which is one of a network of independent businesses that leverage their buying power to negotiate prices that undercut the big guy. Matt says, “My dad started the business to help small guys out and keep money in Louisville. We just want to share that with the local community.”
The Glasers also share their expertise. If someone is thinking about getting some new flooring, John says, “Hopefully they’ll invite us into their home. We’ll do the measuring for free. We give free samples out and bring them out. They get designer advice. And then hopefully we’ll get them in the store to show them the big samples.” Unlike the competition, the family has decades of know-how honed by real-world experience. At the other places, John says, “You might get a guy who sells blinds or cabinets and five other things. We sell flooring and that’s all we want to do. We know how to guide people to the right flooring for their needs, like carpeting in the bedroom or hardwood or good-wearing carpet in family room, where everyone lives. We do it allundefinednew, old construction, sanding, refinishing.”
“If it’s inside and you’re walking on it, we sell it,” says Matthew.
“Everything but clean it,” adds John.
Apparently there still are some ground rules.
(cont. from home page)...We are pleased to offer our customers a wide selection of products built by over 300 independently-owned and family run Amish workshops from Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
The furniture you will find in our store is of a consistent quality that meets our high standards. Our goal is to provide heirloom products that can be passed through generations like the antiques that we have come to treasure.
Our showroom features a vast selection of styles and a variety of pieces. We are involved from the start, from helping you to find that special piece, choosing the appropriate wood; stain color, hardware and fabric. Then we see each order through to completion and deliver it to you.
You can take pride in knowing that you have supported the local economy, a locally-owned business, and have made a wise purchase that will bring joy to you and your family for years to come.
Only In Louisville:Kentucky Planning Partners
When Robert Davenport and Ken O’Neil started Kentucky Planning Partners in 2005, they knew what kind of financial planning firm they wanted to create.
It would employ the best and brightest in the business, and those professionals would be given autonomy to tailor services to each client’s needs, without corporate interference.While most firms push certain products because it makes them money, KPP offers independent, objective guidance through a host of services like comprehensive financial planning, wealth accumulation, insurance, retirement and benefits. They work with LPL Financial, the largest independent broker/dealer in the country, which also gives them the freedom to choose the best options for their clients.
“We have a more complete menu of products and services than most other competitive firms. We are absolutely objective in how we apply those products and services to our clients. Our clients have a lot of trust in us because they know we have no pressure from the corporate organization to push certain products,” said Brad Barnett, Senior Vice President of Investment Services.
Most firms also boast of their production, or assets they manage, but Davenport said that sends the wrong message.
“What’s most important is that prospective clients know there’s a place they can go where there is genuine interest in them, and that’s how we measure success. It’s more subjective,” he said.
KPP, a firm employing 16 people located in the Flashcube building at the intersection of Shelbyville Road and Hurstbourne Parkway, receives most of its clients through referrals.
That’s a testament to the kind of connections and relationships that are made at KPP, Davenport said.
“Our typical client is someone who is looking to build a high trust relationship with one person for a very, very long time,” Davenport said.
Barnett said he’s garnered many clients because they never heard from their previous planner unless they were trying to sell them something.
“For us it’s not about that. We have people come in systematically, every three months, every six months, at least once a year for our smallest clients,” he said. “I think we’re a high touch firm.”
Also, people who are very busy, like small business owners, often find the firm’s services, like setting up benefits, especially helpful.
O’Neil noted that the firm’s planners boast an impressive number of certifications and degrees, which represent the kind of experience and education clients can take advantage of.
“We focus on the more comprehensive nature of financial planning. Everyone here is a successful, experienced professional,” he said. “You have to have a certain degree of success and experience before you can come work for the firm.”
And, the firm is physically set up to give people a sense of ease and comfort, to take the anxiety out of financial planning. There’s soft music playing, the lobby’s television plays nature shows, not crawling stock numbers, and each planners’ office boasts large windows that take in expansive views.
KPP supports an environment of community involvement. Davenport started the Louisville Concours d’Elegance, a showcase for some of the rarest, most elegant and historic collector cars in the country, which benefits Kosair Children’s Hospital.
“Everyone has a civic awareness, a mentality of wanting to give back,” Davenport said.