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Tropical Smoothie headed to old YMCA Building 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe will be the first retail tenant in the downtown former YMCA building, at Sixth and Main, according to Sharon Priest, director of Downtown Little Rock Partnership. The sandwich and smoothie franchise has an expected March 2012 opening date. The California-based Tower Investments purchased the building in 2005, with plans to redevelop it as retail space. But in 2010, the building was unoccupied and up for sale. Little Rock resident Shellie Barnes purchased the building in August 2010, rescuing it from another buyer who wanted to raze it for a parking lot. Perhaps Tropical Smoothie is the first of many retailers who will embrace the historic building. According to Priest, the business' commitment "is another affirmation that things are happening downtown."

Local liqueur company Lombardi closed shop this month, falling victim to banks' cautious small business lending practices, according to owner Nick Lawrence. Lawrence and a partner started Lombardi in Little Rock in 2007, shortly after Lawrence's primary employer, Delta Airlines, filed bankruptcy.

"I'm a pilot. My salary was sliced, my pension gone. I needed look into something else," said Lawrence, a Little Rock native.

His business partner had a recipe for limoncello, so they decided to mass-market the liqueur. The company offered three lemon liqueurs, but its signature product was Lombardi Cream of Limoncello.

For the past two years, Lawrence has kept up his flight schedule while overseeing the liqueur company. It was a small operation with three fulltime employees at its peak. Finding capital became increasingly frustrating. Lawrence said banks wouldn't offer a loan because of insufficient cash flow, and several private investors offered help, but then backed away.

The Historic Arkansas Museum has posted the recipes from the winners of its 7th Ever Nog-off — John Robert Jackson's Eggnog (People's Choice), Capital Eggnog (tie for Taster's Choice Award) and OMnog (tie for Taster's Choice Award). Go to arktimes.com/nog for the link and more information.

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