The longstanding local restaurant chain Miyo’s was forced to close its original location on Main Street south of the State House on Nov. 4 due to an unidentified water leak.
Co-owner Michelle Wang opened the Main Street location in 1995 and has been serving the surrounding community ever since, expanding her Asian food empire to include as many as nine restaurants over the past nearly two decades. Wang says the original location carries a lot of sentimental value for her and her family. She even nursed her son, Franklin, now 17, at the Main Street location while she began her now booming business.
“I was so sad, I made myself sick,” Wang said through a tired, raspy voice. “I cooked there and washed the dishes there. I waited on one customer at a time, one dollar at a time to gain a loyal customer base.”
Wang says that she feels sorry for closing so abruptly but the still unidentified water leak in the 103-year-old building prevented her staff from providing clean service and food. All 15 employees took jobs at other locations in the Miyo’s chain, Wang said.
She also identified the lack of parking for both customers and staff as a problem.
“Over the years I feel guilty for our staff for getting parking tickets … it’s a wonderful location because it serves the Statehouse, the university and the Koger Center. But it has no parking lot,” said Wang, who owns the restaurants with her husband, Rui Cao.
However, Wang says the heart, soul and spirit of the original Miyo’s have carried on into her newest restaurant, M Grille, in the Vista.
“It’s not just food. It’s a place where people can relax and enjoy conversation,” Wang said. “We have invested a lot of time in the amenities so that customers can enjoy a natural and organic environment.”
Wang still has four restaurants in the downtown area and four in suburban areas around Columbia.
“I think the whole M empire has really been a true success story for Columbia and has taken the restaurant scene to a new level,” said Matt Kennell, president and CEO of the City Center Partnership, which guides business growth in the downtown area. “It’s always a little sad to see the original close, but it is reflective on the growth and changing nature of her business.
“I think she will continue to serve the university and downtown area very well.”