It's Your Business: Karaoke club coming to A-Plus VIP Lounge

It's Your Business: Karaoke club coming to A-Plus VIP Lounge

A-Plus VIP Lounge in downtown Urbana plans to open a karaoke club and cafe on the second floor of its building, owner Di Yu said last week.

Remodeling work has been going on this summer, and Yu said he hopes the rooms will be ready when University of Illinois students return in August.

The cafe, with windows looking out onto Main Street, will be on the second story of the building at 214 W. Main St., U. The cafe will serve desserts, smoothies, bubble tea and loose-leaf tea, as well as "simple finger food," such as chicken wings and french fries.

Fried rice, ramen and burgers will also likely be available, but A-Plus VIP Lounge won't be a full-scale restaurant, Yu said.

"No one comes to a lounge to have dinner," he said.

Situated just behind the cafe will be a hallway with elaborately decorated karaoke rooms on each side. The seven private rooms feature plush couches, tables and a karaoke system that interacts with smartphones. Each room has soundproofed walls, Yu said.

Video gaming machines will be added to the lounge, and the main floor will be leased out for private events, Yu said.

Not only was the second-floor decor designed in China, but the furniture and wallpaper used throughout were purchased there too, he said.

A-Plus VIP Lounge initially opened in February 2014. The lounge closed for two months last summer, reopened in the fall and closed for renovations this summer.

Yu, 26, came from Shanghai in 2009 to attend the UI, and he received a bachelor's degree in computer science in December 2014. He said that while he was still a freshman, friends told him a karaoke lounge would be easy to operate and could be lucrative.

They scouted for a location on campus, but their first choice for a spot was already leased out. Another friend suggested operating a club, and in 2013, a group of friends started the process of finding a place and pursuing a liquor license. Early in the operation of A-Plus VIP Lounge, Yu bought out his partners.

Yu said understanding the Champaign-Urbana market has been challenging.

He said that in Hong Kong and China, it's common for people to spend big money — say, $1,000 — just to reserve a table to entertain 10 guests.

But from what he has seen so far in Champaign-Urbana, many customers are inclined to spend just $10 to $15 per person.

"Sometimes it seems the town is way too small. and also the average purchase by locals is lower than what I thought," he said.

Yu said he has noticed other cultural differences, including how people refer to the business.

"Asians call it just 'A-Plus,' and locals call it 'VIP Lounge,'" he said.

Yu said he expects A-Plus VIP Lounge to provide about 10 full-time jobs.

More water, more growing

PlantLink — the wireless soil monitoring system developed by Oso Technologies to let people know when their plants need watering — is now being sold at Home Depot stores and at homedepot.com.

Mercedes Mane, the new chief executive officer of Oso Technologies, said Urbana-based The Product Manufactory took over management of Oso a few months ago.

"In the past few months, we have spent a lot of our efforts ramping up our online sales and marketing," she said. "We are happy to announce that we are now in Home Depot stores and HomeDepot.com."

The stores carry only the PlantLink system (including a base station with a link), while the website sells not only the systems, but also stand-alone links.

Mane said the system retails for $79 and the sensor alone sells for $35.

"Most of the hardware and 'firmware' development is subcontracted through The Product Manufactory," Mane explained. "The web development is still under Oso Technologies with some help from Pixo."

"The business management, marketing/sales, manufacturing, fulfillment and customer support are all through Oso Technologies," she added.

Mane said the original founding team still retains some ownership in the business, but is not involved in day-to-day business management and development.

"Serra Ventures is still the biggest investor," she said. "The Product Manufactory has substantial ownership as well now, but we retained all of the original investors. We are still looking to bring in new investment this year to help sustain the rapid growth."

More information about the PlantLink system can be found at myplantlink.com.

Waterborne sails to Neil

A company housed in the University of Illinois Research Park plans to move to the former Keller Williams Realty building on South Neil Street in late summer.

Waterborne Environmental expects to move to 821 S. Neil St., C, in September, according to Michael C. Hirschi, senior engineer with the firm.

Waterborne is a risk assessment consulting company that deals with environmental issues.

Founded in Leesburg, Va., in 1993, the firm has grown to three major offices — including Champaign and Fayette, Mo. — plus many single-person offices.

The Champaign office opened in about 2005 and has grown to include 16 full-time staff, plus a few seasonal and part-time personnel.

Hirschi said Waterborne took possession of the former Keller Williams building on Wednesday.

"But we need to have some renovation done, repaint and have new flooring installed, so we will be moving right after Labor Day," he said.

"The move gives us many more offices and better space for our needs," he added.

Waterborne's website is waterborne-env.com.

Intel banks on Rithmio

Rithmio, the gesture-recognition platform developed by University of Illinois doctoral student Adam Tilton, closed a $3 million seed financing round last week.

"We have the team, technology and now strategic partnerships to take the motion-sensing market to the next level," said Tilton, the company's chief executive officer.

"Over the next year, we'll work closely with the developer community on the next generation of wearables and other products built on Rithmio's gesture recognition software," he said.

Tilton teamed with UI Professor Prashant Mehta to establish the company. Rithmio's first office was located in EnterpriseWorks in the UI Research Park. Last November, it also opened a Chicago office.

The company's seven-person team focuses on developing core algorithms. Key additions to the staff have included: Kamil Chmielewski, director of software; Jen Quinlan, vice president of marketing; and Christian Nam, designer.

The $3 million round of financing was co-led by Intel Capital and Chicago-based KGC Capital. Other participants included: Champaign-based Serra Ventures, MAS Capital Pvt Ltd., OCA Ventures, Hyde Park Ventures Partners, Hyde Park Angels, Foley Ventures, MKRC Ventures and New Coast Ventures.

"With this investment, Rithmio will expand its product, research and development and sales teams," the company said in a release.

Intel's interest in the company appears key.

"Intel is exploring a wide range of potential applications for wearable tech and gesture recognition, and we look forward to working with Rithmio as they push the boundaries of their solution," said Steven Holmes, vice president of Intel's New Devices Group and general manager of the company's Smart Device Innovation team.

Holmes said real-time analytics for user-specific physical activities can yield new applications in fitness, physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Brands are expected to use Rithmio's gesture recognition software to create motion-sensing products such as wearables, smartphones and sports equipment.

More information about Rithmio can be found at rithmio.com

Woodworking tool swap

CU Woodshop Supply plans to partner with Habitat for Humanity's ReStore to host a woodworking tool sale and swap.

The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 1 at CU Woodshop Supply, 104 Parkland Court, C. A rain date is scheduled for those same hours Aug. 8.

Individuals or businesses wanting to get rid of used tools can donate them to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore booth at the CU Woodshop Tool Sale and Swap as a tax-deductible donation.

All sales from tools donated to the Habitat ReStore will go directly to building homes in Champaign County.

Those who prefer to sell or swap tools can set up a 10-by-10-foot booth at the event by buying a $50 gift certificate to CU Woodshop. Among the tools expected to be sold and swapped at booths are: power tools, hand tools, accessories, hardware and machinery, such as woodworking, metalworking or mechanic's tools.

The event provides an opportunity to help Habitat families in the area by donating tools to ReStore, giving new woodworkers access to affordable used tools and helping existing woodworkers trade up for better tools.

For more information, check cuwoodshop.com or call 355-1244.

Medserv moves to Urbana

Medserv Equipment has moved to the former Star Uniforms building at 400 N. Broadway Ave., U — a short distance south of University Avenue.

For the last three years, Medserv had been at 706 Bloomington Road, C, the former site of Achieve Mobility.

Owner and president Dave Beshoar said the primary reason for the move was "to get a more visible, high-traffic location much closer to Carle."

The building on Broadway is "a much nicer retail space that's more accessible and has better parking," Beshoar said. "It's going to be much better for customers."

Medserv made the move June 15 and has since added a third employee.

The store handles durable medical equipment, including mobility, rehabilitation, bath safety and ambulatory equipment. The store also carries compression hosiery, back and seat cushions, hospital beds and different sleeping surfaces for hospital beds. Medserv also carries incontinence, urological and wound care products.

The business does bathroom remodeling and installation of stair lifts and vertical porch lifts.

Medserv's phone number remains 355-7971, and the website is medservdme.com.

Beshoar said the store expects to hold an open house sometime in late July or early August.

New innkeepers

The Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana got new owners as of Wednesday.

Effendi and Mia Fendi took over operation of the hotel at 2001 N. Lincoln Ave., U.

Built in 2008, the Comfort Suites has three stories and 86 rooms. The hotel offers an indoor heated pool, an exercise room and airport transportation.

Effendi Fendi said he and his wife previously owned two hotels in Los Angeles County, Calif., sold those and acquired the Urbana property from previous franchisee MPH.

He said that in scouting for investments, they looked all over the country and found the Comfort Suites in Urbana had good rankings.

Fresh-squeezed speeches

Bryon Denton of Danville has opened a public speaking company, Lemonade 4 Life, that specializes in inspirational and motivational presentations and entertainment.

The company also makes educational presentations for health care workers on compassionate care and compassion fatigue.

Denton includes true stories from his life — growing up in government housing, raising his sisters at age 16, becoming a nurse at age 19, and adopting his son at age 21 as a single father. He is a registered professional nurse who has worked most of his career as a critical care nurse, emergency room nurse and flight nurse.

More information about Denton and his business can be found at lemonade4life.com

Contact Don Dodson at 217-351-5227; by email at dodson@news-gazette.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

Sections (2):News, Business
-