How one Frankfort company survived the Great Depression, World War II, fire, and adversity to come out smelling like … Bourbon!
The Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory was founded by two women in 1919, who, at the time, did not even have the right to vote, but they knew their chocolate. Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Hanly Booe ventured into business and co-founded the candy enterprise.
Nearly a century later, the Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory remains family owned and operated by Ruth's grandson, Charles Booe. With two locations in Frankfort, Booe says the area's stable economy removes an element of risk from his business. "The capital city's economy is more stable than most because of the influence of the state government," he stated. "It's a small city with a large mentality."
As a manufacturer, the candy factory operates retail stores, and offers mail order services through its web site. Other dedicated services consist of authorized dealers, private label, and specialty order programs. Rebecca Ruth specializes in liquor chocolates including its world famous "Bourbon Balls." The company manufactures many confections with a variety of liquors as well as offering more than 100 liquor-free chocolates.
Booe states the challenges for any small business have become exponentially more demanding. However, the Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory remains strong. "We have seen steady growth at a time when some manufacturers have moved or closed operations," Booe explained. He attributes this to decisions the company has made that contrast it and give its customers greater value than others in the market.
With 10,000 showing up annually to tour the factory, Rebecca Ruth certainly "makes the grade" when it comes to customer satisfaction. "We strive to offer high quality products and services that are different from others," Booe concluded. "Instead of focusing solely on price, Rebecca Ruth is service oriented and our customers appreciate the fine quality they receive."
Buffalo Trace Distillery was named "2005 Distiller of the Year" by Whisky Magazine, becoming the first American distillery to receive this honor. Buffalo Trace is also the first and only American distillery named "Distillery of the Year" by Malt Advocate Magazine.
Long recognized as a regional employment center, Kentucky's capital city is a great place to locate or expand a business. By offering a positive economic environment and a quality workforce, Frankfort represents a wide range of opportunities for a profitable investment in all business sectors.
Ranked as one of the top 75 United States' small towns for corporate expansion by Site Selection magazine, Frankfort has a very healthy, active economy. Phil Kerrick, executive director of the Capital Community Economic/Industrial Development Authority, said the authority is available to provide assistance to prospective companies from beginning to end. "Our services cover helping a prospective new business or industry with suitable site selection, workforce options, transportation issues, financial choices, and necessary permit needs," Kerrick said. "Regardless of the type of business being recruited to the Franklin County area, we first begin with listening to what is important to them and move forward together from there. Our community has many wonderful amenities."
Centrally located in the state, Frankfort is home to more than 1,100 business including 35 manufacturing, assembly, and distribution companies. They have chosen to locate in Frankfort because the community is able to create a pleasant working environment and most importantly, a cost-effective place to do business.
The Franklin County area is also prime territory for the distillery industry because of its proximity to the Kentucky River and good transportation routes. Distilling began at Buffalo Trace Distillery over two centuries ago, making it the oldest distilling site in the U.S. According to Buffalo Trace's Teresa McAninch, more than 30,000 tourists visit their facility annually. Further supporting the local business economy, Buffalo Trace extends its club house for meeting space and actively pursues the community by offering complimentary events. "Our park setting offers a great place for children to play," McAninch stated. "Other annual events sponsored by the distillery include a 5k race, the Haunting of the Distillery, and the well-attended Lighting of the Distillery held during the holiday season."
photo by Sallie Lanham
By Kay Steele Faulk
Eclectic and hip, Historic Downtown is Frankfort’s “in” place to dine and shop. As mixed-use buildings are restored, they bring retail dollars, curb appeal, residents and even more restaurants and shops.
One fun new shop is Francee Schloesser’s Cool Comfort Body & Sole, located at 223 West Broadway. “My store is really a lifestyle store,” said Francee. “I offer shoes and apparel you love to live in.” Although the shop’s focus is comfort, the important thing is comfort with style and that’s what Francee likes to combine.
Cool Comfort Body & Sole offers choices for foot ware and casual attire that haven’t been available in Frankfort before, for both men and women. A few of Francee’s active outdoor brands are Merrell Foot Wear, Life is Good and Keen. “I have walking and running shoes, too, and offer some shoes for the office,” she said. “Also, I can help people with foot problems get the right foot ware.”
Francee reported that her shop has really taken off since moving to downtown. “The shopkeepers who’ve been here for some time have known all along what a great place downtown is. It’s very exciting that people are discovering it not only as a place for unique shops with friendly service but also as a great place to live.” Cool Comfort Body & Sole is open Monday through Friday from 10 to 6 and Saturday from 10 to 4. For more information, call 502-352-2841.
Nearby, at 227 West Broadway, is Capital Cellars owned by Rachael Peaks. Capital Cellars is a retail store as well as a restaurant offering wine from around the world, bourbon, beer and other liquors.
Capital Cellars has free wine tastings every Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7. “Our wine tastings are a fantastic way to find a product you know you like before taking it home,” Rachael said.
Rachael shares her extensive wine knowledge in a series of classes that run for eight weeks. Participation includes a personalized Riedel crystal wine glass. Capital Cellars also offers two popular wine clubs. The first is a free subscription to their email list, and the other is the Cru Club, which includes two bottles of wine each month for a fee.
“We have a lot of fun here,” Rachael said. “And we’re very interested in helping you find the perfect product for your need.” Capital Cellars is open Monday through Thursday from 10 to 9 and Friday and Saturday from 10 to 10. For more information, call 502-352-2600.
Right next door to Wilma’s Linen & Lace, a charming antique store, is another new shop, Rebecca Ruth Candy, at 200 West Broadway. Although the Broadway location is new, Rebecca Ruth Candy was founded in Frankfort in 1919 and, today, is internationally renowned.
“We opened our new store here on Broadway because of the good business climate,” said Charles Booe, company president and grandson of Ruth Booe, company co-founder and co-inventor of Bourbon Ball Chocolate Candies. “Also because a great many of the conditions necessary for good growth are present today in Historic Downtown.”
According to Charles, a lively historic district draws shoppers because the unique architecture provides an interesting shopping experience, so unlike the typical suburban mall. “Shoppers like the down-home feel they get from walking in the downtown area,” he said. “They window shop and converse just like people did 50 years ago.”
Charles said they expect the high visibility of a Historic Downtown shop to increase their already-good online business. He explained, “If somebody visits the city but doesn’t have time to stop in, they’ll be more likely to look us up online because they’ve been exposed to Rebecca Ruth Candy. We ship nationally and internationally, so we can service customers from anywhere.”
Just a few blocks away, at 112 Second Street, you can tour the Rebecca Ruth Candy factory Monday through Saturday, January through November. For more information, call 502-223-7475 or visit www.RebeccaRuth.com.
Ever since 2002, diners have flocked to Serafini on the corner of Broadway and St. Clair in the heart of Historic Downtown. Serafini is an Italian-American white tablecloth restaurant with an on-site chef, a sous chef and an executive chef who goes to all three of the owners’ restaurants. With this level of quality assurance, it’s no wonder Serafini has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence the last four years in a row.
“We’ve always been excited about being in Historic Downtown Frankfort,” said Robert Carter, managing partner with majority owners Wayne and Susan Masterman. “We’ve got lots of good company here with businesses such as Poor Richard’s Books and Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe. Then when you add Completely Kentucky and Mitchell’s Clothing, we think it’s the best location in Frankfort.”
Robert said that back when they first looked at coming to Frankfort, they saw several great downtown restaurants such as Buddy’s Pizza and Gibby’s. “But we thought with the legislators in town during the sessions, Frankfort needed an upper-end restaurant. Plus, we have a big-time bar with almost 90 bourbons on hand.”
photo by: Bob Lanham
Robert added that in the summer they can seat about 30 people on their patio. “So during the Summer Concert Series across the street on the Old Capitol lawn, our patio is the ‘hottest’ seat in town.” For more information, call Serafini at 502-875-5599.
Kelly Everman, executive director of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., shares Robert’s enthusiasm for the area. “The potential is here for downtown’s growth to explode,” she said. “The Grand Theatre will open soon. We also have several nice art galleries such as DeSpain Studio & Gallery, Jennifer Zingg Studio & Gallery, The Irish Sea Celtic Shop and there’s Rodgers Studio-Frankfort’s Finest Photographers.”
Kelly said she’s incredibly excited about what’s happening in downtown. “There’s a renaissance of sorts going on. Longtime residents are beginning to look to downtown and find it enchanting. People from out of town enjoy the area not only for its physical beauty and interesting architecture but also for the friendliness of the people who gather.”
She added, “There’s an energy in downtown. It’s vital and changing and forward moving. I think we’re going to see more of it as buildings are renovated and turned into condominiums and mixed-use establishments, bringing residents and more retail shops and restaurants.”
photo by: Bob Lanham
by: Key Steele Faulk
A number of interesting and important preservation projects
are underway in historic downtown. And one that’s already completed is the 1886 Mucci Restaurant building
located on Main Street near St. Clair. Scot and Marnie Walters renovated the three-story Victorian Italianate building and, with their young daughter, live in a townhouse arrangement on the two upper floors. A commercial tenant occupies the ground floor, which buffers the residence from the street.
While in college, Scot—who works for the Kentucky Heritage Council—studied in Venice, Italy, and loved the pedestrian-oriented environment. “That’s the lifestyle Marnie, who is a former Main Street manager, and I wanted for our family,” Scot said. “Today, I walk to work, and we walk to most of the places we go. We love having lots of on-the-street interaction with everybody around.”
Scot said their building is unique with its façade of cut stone, which they couldn’t have bought today for the price of the entire building. Many of the building’s original features were still intact, and the couple worked with those to inhabit the space in new ways. Upstairs, they have about 2,300 square feet on both floors, which breaks down to five good-sized rooms.
Also, they were able to create a courtyard in an area once used for service and utilities. “It’s an intimate outdoor space that always surprises people the first time they see it,” Scot said. “It’s where my daughter’s sandbox is. But the biggest surprise people have is how much natural light is in the building.” This is partially because of two skylights that were an original part of the building and bring light into the center spaces. Tall ceilings also help the light.
“It’s really been great to have this wonderful living space, a tenant and the need for only one car,” Scot said. “When you add all of that to Frankfort’s low cost of living, you just can’t beat the lifestyle we’ve discovered in downtown Frankfort.”
Wanting more neighbors, these two advocates of urban living have started renovation on the building next door, which will have four units. Scot said, “Marnie and I encourage people to come visit us and see what downtown living, rehabilitation and preservation have to offer their lifestyle.”
Two other residents who like old buildings are brothers John and Roy Gray. They’ve just completed restoration of four 1871 buildings on St. Clair, whose first floors are commercial spaces and upper floors apartment units. “The demand for apartments and residential units in downtown is high,” said John. “People like living downtown where they’re close to restaurants, shops, the YMCA and the library.”
photo by: Bob Lanham
John said they have photographs showing the buildings’ original storefronts. “So as we restore them, we’re putting the façades back to their 1871 appearance.”
The Gray brothers are also renovating the old YMCA building next to the Singing Bridge. “It’s a three-story building, and we’re converting the second and third floors to condominiums,” John said. A restaurant will occupy the first floor.
Although it suffers from 30 years of neglect, the 1905 building is structurally sound. John pointed out a special feature of this building is its balcony overlooking the Kentucky River. Project completion is expected by summer 2009.
Located on the banks of the Kentucky River in historic downtown, Liberty Hall Historic Site (LHHS) is one of Frankfort’s most treasured landmarks. It consists of the grounds and two houses—Liberty Hall, built in 1796, and the Orland Brown House, built in 1835.
LHHS is undergoing a three-phase restoration to return the site to its original grandeur. According to Dr. Melissa Jurgena, LHHS executive director, the first phase is a window restoration. “We’re removing all of the windows in both houses, said Dr. Jurgena. “They’ll be repaired, and any broken glass replaced with old glass from other resources. The sashes will be rebuilt, and the windows put back in.”
The second phase includes a new geothermal heating and cooling source, tuck pointing on the masonry work and electrical work to bring both houses up to code. “We’re also tackling individual maintenance issues to solve any moisture problems the houses might have,” she said.
Phase three is the interior restoration of Liberty Hall to a more appropriate visual representation of what a home’s interior looked like in the early 19th Century.
“I think once Liberty Hall is restored to its early 19th Century character, it will be just like walking into a time capsule,” Dr. Jurgena said. “Seeing people’s surroundings during that era will help to understand the labors and loves of their lives and what they had to go through to maintain the same sort of daily routines we do.” For more information, visit www.LibertyHall.org.