OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Mellissa Halmann and her husband opened up a second restaurant, The Mandarin, near Aksarben Village in March of 2020. It’s an extension of a family restaurant in downtown Omaha.
“We started off with the Mandarin Express inside the Brandeis building for lunch and all of our customers kept saying you need to open up a new place for dinner so we can take some to our family,” said Halmann.
Their timing was unfortunate as they opened two weeks before many businesses had to close because of the pandemic.
"Let's just say a lot of tears came because we wanted to stay open for our customers but we wanted to stay open for our employees that we wanted to keep paying because this is money for their families,” added Halmann.
The Chinese food restaurant kept its doors open for takeout and curbside until May, when they opened for dine-in after Governor Pete Ricketts said restaurants could open at 50% capacity.
"We just try and cater the best we can to our customers. We have some customers that don't want to come inside so we do curbside pickup. And we'll take it right out to them. All of our employees are masked so I think that makes people feel more comfortable."
To get more people in the door, the owners relied heavily on social media.
"We post pictures of our food all the time. We have specials. Some nights we have that kids eat free with any entree and they can order free chicken fried rice to go with it so if you follow our Facebook page you'll see when those nights are,” said Halmann.
They had to do that because most of their foot traffic disappeared for weeks, since events at Baxter Arena were cancelled and other businesses also closed.
"When the pandemic first started we were standing behind the counter looking at Center Street and nobody was driving down this street and now you have to wait for a little bit to turn out. It feels good having that because you know people are out,” she said.
In order to carry on with business, Halmann encourages people to consider the Mandarin, as it’s a great way to support local.
"Your money stays in Omaha. We're not a franchise. We don't have to ship any of our money out. We are your mom and pop shop. We may not look like it because we're not a diner, but we're your mom and pop chinese restaurant."
ADDRESS: 6307 Center St. Suite 101, Omaha, NE 68106
HOURS: Monday - Sunday: 11AM - 2PM | 5PM 9PM
SERVICES: Dine-in, curbside, takeout