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BizSense Beat: May 24, 2024

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BizSense Beat is a weekly collaboration between VPM News and Richmond BizSense that brings you the top business stories during NPR's Morning Edition on Fridays.

Here’s a recap of the top stories for the week of May 24, 2024:

Former finance exec’s new reality: Opening new VR entertainment venue at Regency
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jack Jacobs

A virtual reality venue is plugging in as the latest entertainment-focused offering to come to Regency.

Pelagos VR is planning to open at the Henrico mall this summer. The venue is expected to feature three distinct formats – an arena, virtual escape rooms and treadmill-like stations – all of which allow visitors to play a variety of games in virtual reality.

The VR venue has taken over a 5,000-square-foot space that’s next to restaurant Sloop John B at Regency’s Quioccasin Road-side entrance. The concept’s name is an ancient Greek word for “deep ocean,” which is a nod to the kind of expansive experience owner Gene Burke hopes to create.

New gateway sign for Carytown caps yearslong effort
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

A decade-plus effort to provide new signage for the entrance to Carytown has reached the finish line.

City approval is expected this week for a new gateway sign in the 3500 block of Cary Street that would mark the start of the nine-block shopping district for drivers and pedestrians traveling east on the one-way road.

The two-sided, Art Deco-style sign with neon tubing and LED lights would be suspended above the road via steel wires attached to two 25-foot steel poles, creating an arch-like entrance that cars would pass under just before Cary’s intersection with Nansemond Street. The green- and white-colored sign with gold accents reads “Carytown” with “Richmond VA” below it and “Est 1938” above.

In the works since 2011, the sign will replace a decades-old wooden sign that had stood beside Cary across from Thompson Street. That sign, which had replaced an older one from the 1990s, fell down last year, providing further motivation for a replacement.

‘This should be a community bridge’: Groups gather public input on future of Mayo Bridge
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Mike Platania

A community meeting was held Monday night to field public input on what a new Mayo Bridge could look like.

Held jointly by the Manchester Alliance, Shockoe Partnership and Bike Walk RVA, the meeting centered on the upcoming replacement of the 111-year-old bridge that connects Shockoe to Manchester via 14th Street. It also bisects Mayo Island, which the City of Richmond now owns and plans to turn into a park.

The bridge replacement project has been in the works for a few years now. It was initially set to include a replacement of the top of the bridge (the superstructure), but the scope of the project expanded earlier this month when the Virginia Department of Transportation announced that a recent analysis found that the bridge’s piers (the substructure) will likely need to be replaced as well.

Thai restaurant’s fish-and-chips experiment spawns new British eatery downtown
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Mike Platania

What started as a way to drum up lunchtime business at a western Henrico Thai restaurant has led to a new British eatery and market in downtown Richmond.

Joy Supanya and Jon Niemiec are preparing to open The British Embassy at 1116 E. Main St., where they’ll offer English dishes and grocery items from across the pond.

The couple entered the local food scene in 2019 with their Thai Won On food truck, serving Thai staples like pad thai and drunken noodles. In 2021, Supanya and Niemiec, who are from Thailand and the United Kingdom, respectively, went the brick-and-mortar route with a location for Thai Won On on Lauderdale Drive near Short Pump.

Niemiec said not long after opening the restaurant, they started serving fish and chips as a more takeout-friendly lunch option.

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