Matt Gilles says he likes fixing things, which explains his success as a contractor over the past two decades, bringing life into old structures in Butchertown, NuLu, and Portland.
He recently opened a new headquarters for his growing Louisville Spray Foam Insulation business at 1403 Rowan, in the heart of the East Portland Warehouse District.
“Look out the window and you see a view of the downtown skyline that you rarely see in photographs,” he says. “It’s a different angle. You can literally feel downtown coming toward us. Main Street is growing. It can’t go east.”
Gilles grew up in western Kentucky, traveled the world, became a dive instructor in the Caribbean, came to Louisville for the Derby in 1998, and just stayed. He opened an outfitter retail store, selling kayaks, bikes and skis. And he started renovating properties in Butchertown and what is now NuLu.
Sometimes, he says, making a living required workdays that stretched into the night.
“I would work on property in Butchertown during the day, ride my bicycle over to the brewery (now Goodwood at Clay and Main) at night and sling beers,” he says.
It didn’t take long for Gilles to set his sights west, where he became an investor in several of the buildings in Portland’s warehouse district, including the Tim Faulkner Gallery Building, the U of L MFA center and the Design Terminal Building, site of his insulation business. He also bought a number of single-family residential properties.
“In Portland, I like these warehouses,” he says. “It’s been an evolution for me. Portland is a phenomenal location for our business. I don’t think people realize how great a location Portland is. The proximity to downtown, if you need to do anything downtown, it’s six blocks and you are right there.”
Gilles will tell you he’s passionate about Louisville Spray Foam Insulation, the business he bought in 2014. The product is an alternative to traditional building insulations that allows for far superior air sealing capabilities. As a contractor, he was the business’s biggest customer. So when the owners wanted to sell, Gilles was the natural choice to buy it. He has pushed for green building practices and energy efficiency in his renovation work.
“I was always the guy at the table who said, ‘I love aesthetics, but I also love energy efficiency and common sense.’ I was always that guy,” he says.
Gilles is well-known in Portland, and has been a driving force in the area’s economic growth.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in Portland, and a lot of businesses that have been here for years and years,” he says. “I’m always impressed with the tremendous amount of pride of people in Portland.”