A young local company that offers rides on kid-sized trains is chugging along to two additional regional malls.
PlayRVA, which already operated its trains at Short Pump Town Center and Regency, started to operate at Chesterfield Towne Center and Southpark Mall last weekend.
The new outposts come as the company seeks to further expand its footprint and offerings since its launch last year, when it revived the train at Short Pump after its previous operator shut down during the pandemic.
“We’re trying to go around the state of Virginia for now to see where we could potentially go,” PlayRVA co-owner Taylor Pace said. “We just wanted to ramp it up and get things moving as soon as possible.”
PlayRVA has added to its fleet with the purchase of two more trains, stationing one at each of its new locations. The company also owns its Regency train, which began running earlier this year, while it leases the train at Short Pump Town Center from the mall.
The company runs trains made by Wattman, a Canadian company. Pace has previously said Wattman trains sell for $60,000 to $75,000 new.
PlayRVA splits ticket sales with Chesterfield Towne Center and Southpark Mall. Tickets are $4 a ride for the PlayRVA trains at those malls, the same price charged at Regency. The three PlayRVA-owned trains feature selfie-sticks and a PA system that plays music.
Pace said the company has been cold-calling malls to expand its territory, with conversations ongoing about establishing a presence at Valley View Mall in Roanoke.
“(Families) are going to these areas with their kids. The kids love these trains and it gives them 30, 45 minutes of going to the mall and riding the train. It gives them something fun to do,” he said.
Pace said PlayRVA has found success with a loyalty card program that provides discounted rides as well as other perks. Cards can be used at any location. The 10-ride cards are $28 each and the 20-ride cards are $50 each.
“No matter where we’re located, the loyalty cards will follow suit,” Pace said. “We’re using the cards to incentivize people to buy more rides now and then use them wherever we are.”
Recently, PlayRVA has taken its trains beyond the mall and set them up at kids’ birthday parties and community events.
“It’s so well received at those things,” Pace said. ‘We’re just ramping up with that but it’s already starting to take off.”
Pace said the company plans to expand its offerings beyond trains with the introduction of wheeled, rideable stuffed animal electric carts.
“I left (the company name) open-ended so we can expand into these other markets and these other rides,” Pace said.
The Scott’s Addition-based company also recently upgraded its Regency operations, leaving behind the mall’s former customer service desk and moving into a 1,000-square-foot storefront near Surge Adventure Park.
The space was formerly occupied by tea shop D’Haiti Wellness, which opened there last spring.
The Regency space is used for birthday parties and train storage, and the plan is to add a small retail space to sell toy trains and clothing. A grand opening party for the new space is planned for late June.
The company has six employees and wants to expand to 10 workers as part of its market expansion. Pace co-owns the company with Proctor Trivette.