A favorite among high-schoolers, lunch-goers and Papillion families alike, Ming’s has withstood the test of time as a family-owned business for almost three decades.
Despite a somewhat shaky beginning, co-owner Ping Wang said the mom-and-pop restaurant is rooted into Papillion and is thankful for all the people who have made it a household name.
“My mom and dad started it in 1989,” he said. “It’s almost like a second generation thing now.”
Wang said his father, Ming Der Wang, and mother, Lu Ching Wang, actually had to shut down their first attempt at Ming’s, which was opened just a little further north on 84th Street.
At the time, his parents’ restaurant served a more traditional Chinese meal, Wang said, which included a longer wait time between appetizers and the main course, along with higher prices. The second attempt, however, was completely different and much more successful.
“Here, we kept our prices low and bank on volume,” Wang said.
The current location was opened when he was 14, Wang said. Although the family was rooted in the Millard area, he said his father was intent on the location.
“Dad did his research and found Papillion was up and growing,” he said.
While the original Ming no longer takes an active role in handling the family business, Wang said he and his sister, Anne Peterson, continue on the family company, which he said is unique in its fast format without being fast food.
“We are definitely one of the first in the metro-area with the fast food format,” he said. “But everything is cooked to order.”
Wang said the restaurant often receives comments on the speed of service as well as the consistency of the food.
Many don’t believe the meals are made to order, and he jokes with customers from time to time by offering them a free meal if they can find premade food under heating lamps anywhere in the building.
Sometimes, he said, he’s even let the more skeptical guests watch their meals being made.
“My dad always jokes that we want to be busy, but not too busy,” he said.
If Ming’s gets swamped, the kitchen could get a little crazy keeping up.
Additionally, he said Ming’s prides itself on keeping prices down, noting that over the history of the restaurant, its chicken meal prices have only risen $2.
“Over almost 30 years, that’s not too bad,” he said.
He said this is possible through ordering everything fresh through the same vendors to keep cost low.
While most have come to love the Papillion staple, Wang said one complaint he has received is that the business does not accept credit cards. But this, too, is a way to keep costs down by avoiding processing fees.
“We’d have to add $3 per meal to keep margins the same. We figured that wouldn’t be fair to our customers,” he said. “My father always says, ‘Just let the food do the talking.’”
As for his favorite part of the family-owned business, Wang said it is the sense of pride in being family owned, as well as the people his family has met during its time.
“There’s a certain pride in being family owned,” he said.
Wang said his children have talked about running the restaurant some day. So, while the family has been presented the opportunity to move out of Papillion, the business has never considered it.
“We’ve never forgotten what got us here, it’s been the people,” Wang said. “We feel like we owe something the people of Papillion.”
The family has also grown close to these people through the years, he said, with many repeat customers coming back for nearly two decades.
“A lot of people we have in our lives we wouldn’t have even known if it wasn’t for this place,” he said.
The business has seen recent exterior renovations this past December, and will see some minor changes inside. Following the investment, Wang said he looks forward to seeing the family business continue to be a part of life in Papillion.
“Hopefully we have another 30 years ahead of us,” he said. “We don’t plan on going anywhere, that’s for sure.”