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September 20, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Businesses breathing life into Neonopolis

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Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman listens to Roberto Mendosa as she tours the future site of the Banger Brewing Company in the Neonopolis Mall in downtown Las Vegas Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Michael “Banger” Beaman looks on at center. The brewery is expected to open in the mall in mid-October, Mendoza said.

Comics & Hookah at Neonopolis

Ahmed Tebha, store manager of Evapor8, a hookah lounge and vapor boutique, performs a trick with water vapor from an e-cigarette after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Neonopolis Mall in downtown Las Vegas Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Eleven years after it opened, dozens of businesses have come and gone from Neonopolis, the cuboid mall at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Lately, though, some businesses have managed to stay open long enough — Denny’s, Heart Attack Grill and Drink & Drag — and downtown is growing just enough that other entrepreneurs are starting to move in.

Today, Mayor Carolyn Goodman greeted three new businesses to Neonpolis — Supernova Comics, Evapor8 and, under construction, Banger Brewing.

All three are on the first floor, with the brewery next to Heart Attack Grill.

Derrick Taylor, 41, opened Supernova Comics because he is simply passionate about comic books.

“Comic books as a kid basically taught me to read,” he said, recalling words like “Excelsior!” and the broken Shakespeare in “Thor” comic books that he remembers having to look up to understand.

Wearing a “Daredevil” tie, Taylor said that with Zappos’ 1,500 employees, Downtown Grand’s 800 employees, and the growing businesses on East Fremont, he feels he can make his business work where so many have failed in the past.

Timing is everything.

His store is clean, with a checkout counter designed to look like the command center of a spaceship — he wants people in Supernova to get the sense of entering a spaceship that is taking them through time, evidenced by hundreds of collectible comics but also by the new and upcoming.

His store design, he added, is far from the mom-and-pop, or even the “Comic Book Guy” (see “The Simpsons”) type of store.

“If Steve Wynn would do a comic book store, this is what it would look like,” he added.

A short distance from Supernova, Evapor8 specializes in Vapes, or electronic smokers. Owner Tariq Ibrahim, 31, said Evapor8 has been open about a month, and even without much advertising, it is already doing well.

Vapes are popular, he added, because smokers can get “e-juice” — well over 100 flavors are available that attach to the electric vaporizer — with or without nicotine. Nicotine levels can then be dialed down gradually until the smoker is no longer physically addicted to the drug.

At the same time, Vapes don’t deliver the same carcinogens that come from smoking tobacco-based products.

“They help a lot of people quit,” says Ibrahim, who was born in Kenya and also owns Cloud 9 Hookah Lounge at Rainbow Boulevard and the 215 Beltway. (Tip from a former smoker: the melon-flavored e-juice is impeccable.)

And finally, Banger Brewing, which has been talked about as coming to Neonpolis for about a year, is on its way. Goodman took a tour of the store’s construction area today and was told the brewery, which will seat up to 80 people, could be open by mid-October. A jalapeño hefeweizen and chocolate mint stout are just a few of the micro-brews to be served.

The brewery is the work of Michael Beaman, nicknamed Banger since middle school, and three buddies, Nick Fischella, Eddy Quiogue and Roberto Mendosa.

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