How restaurant placemats turned a California attorney into a local dining legend

Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley is famous for its dining scene, especially its bounty of Chinese restaurants, where you will more often than not spot local attorney James Wang at your table. In 2006, Wang ordered 30,000 paper placemats to advertise his legal practice, distributing them for free at some of the SGV’s most popular restaurants and diners, where they were readily adopted by restaurant owners. The oversized placemats, featuring Wang’s dimpled, ageless mug (the photo has not been updated in 15 years), have become a part of local dining lore and culture. In 2008, Wang began to sell advertising space on his placemats to other businesses, including local real estate agents, high-end jewelers, and even other attorneys—his current rates are $2,500 for 100,000 sheets. The old-school advertising model hasn’t just turned Wang into a local household name, but has proved to be highly profitable, too. Wang’s branded placemats generate about 100 calls from potential clients every month, reports Eater L.A.