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Smoketown lot could become a food cooperative


The nearly 2-acre site used to house Louisville Slugger manufacturing. | Photo by LOUtoday

Thanks to a $1 million donation from the Hillerich family, an empty lot in Smoketown could become a much-needed grocery store cooperative.

Located adjacent to the Lofts on Broadway at the intersection of Preston and Finzer Streets, the vacant, ~2-acre property was once home to Hillerich & Bradsby Co. — the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

The Hillerich family donated the property to the Community Foundation of Louisville back in 2015, and in a press conference yesterday morning, the Community Foundation of Louisville announced The Louisville Association for Community Economics (LACE) + Rebound Inc. will split the property — with LACE overseeing the grocery store co-op.

If all goes to plan, it would break ground by the end of 2023.

Rebound Inc. will then use its half of the property to develop the city’s first community land trust focusing on affordable housing, which is a tool to ensure residents don’t get priced out of their homes due to gentrification + other factors. The trust will also have a resident-filled board of directors to guide its efforts.

What is a food cooperative?

A food co-op is an independent grocery store owned + operated by members of the community. LACE’s first project is the Louisville Community Grocery — also a food cooperative, though it’s not been built yet.

Who is the Hillerich family?

The Hillerich family history in Louisville begins in 1856 when J. Frederick Hillerich started a woodworking shop. His oldest son, John Andrew “Bud” Hillerich was born in 1866 — and according to company legend — he crafted the shop’s first professional bat for local baseball “megastar” Pete Browning, whose nickname was “The Louisville Slugger.”

The rest is hits-tory as baseball legends like Honus “The Flying Dutchman” Wagner, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio + Hank Aaron picked up the bat and swung it into popularity.

The great-grandson of Bud, John A. Hillerich IV, currently serves as the company’s president + CEO as the company continues to manufacture Louisville Slugger bats at the factory downtown for Wilson Sporting Goods.