When Glenn Greet moved here five years ago, he discovered something disturbing: It was hard to find his favorite foods and other products from the British Isles.
He missed Heinz baked beans. Black pudding. Pasties. Bakewell tarts. The Union Jack flag.
Omaha — and Nebraska, for that matter — had no store specializing in all things British. There had been one in Bellevue, but it was long gone.
In 2016, he said, the closest British store was in a neighboring state.
“We had to drive all the way to Lawrence, Kansas,” he said, three hours one way.
He decided that Omahans needed a British bakery and gift shop. And he decided that they needed it in the middle of a pandemic.
That store, Chippy’s Omaha, opened the day before Easter. And apparently we’ve decided that he was right.
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On opening day, about 400 people stood in line, some for 90 minutes, and the store recorded almost 300 transactions.
Greet bought a big pallet of Cadbury chocolate for Easter, thinking that it would sell well because it was the day before the holiday.
It was gone in less than 30 minutes. And, he said, crowds have been the good kind of crazy ever since. He had to triple his orders — 472 boxes arrived on Thursday alone.
“We’re absolutely slammed right now,” he said about 12:30 p.m. that day.
Greet has two bestselling baked items that he can’t keep in stock: Scotch eggs, hard-boiled, coated with sausage and rolled in crumbs; and the cheese and onion pasty, with the ingredients baked in puff pastry.
Melanie Crouch of Omaha ordered a Cornish pasty, Bakewell tarts (filled with almond crème and topped with cherries) and a hot chocolate on Thursday. She also bought a cute coin purse.
Unlike some pasties, the Chippy’s version has an abundance of meat and potatoes, she said. And the store, she added, is one of a kind.
“It was amazing,” she said. “A lot of the people (shopping) had English accents. It felt like you were in an English shop.”
Greet’s wife, Laura, bakes at Chippy’s when she isn’t on the job at Union Pacific.
“She’s the only American thing in the shop,” he joked. “Everything else is imported or made from scratch.”
Greet himself is a human resources consultant with several clients. They have three kids.
Chippy’s, Greet said, was born because of COVID-19.
“We were grounded at home. When we got married, she always wanted a bakery, and I always wanted a British store,” he said. “We thought this might be a good time to start a business.”
They consulted with knowledgeable friends and talked until February, when they started looking for a location. They chose Westwood Plaza near 123rd Street and West Center Road and picked the name — Chippy’s is a British term for a fish-and-chip shop and Omaha is a tribute to Greet’s adopted hometown.
He was born in North Yorkshire in England and studied music education and conducting at the Colchester Institute School of Music. He was a police officer in Essex County near London for a time and moved to the U.S. 21 years ago, living in Seattle and Atlanta.
When he came to Omaha, he started the Nebraska Brass Band, which plays British music. He also gravitated toward other British activities, such as a local “Harry Potter” club.
He said he considers Chippy’s to be a new British cultural center. The Greets hope to open a British restaurant next door in the not-so-distant future.
Greet said he heard several British accents in line on opening day. He also just hired a British-born baker.
He credits his crowds to lots of posts on Facebook, some promotional, some funny, and, on Friday, one that was serious: a tribute to the late Prince Philip. The shop’s Facebook page has almost 4,500 followers and friends.
Greet is clearly delighted about the store’s early success, and grateful to his fellow Omahans. Nobody in the long opening day line was even remotely crabby, he said.
“I have never seen such kind and friendly people as in Nebraska,” he said. “We definitely have a niche. I am watching people fly into the store.”
Photos: Inside Chippy's Omaha
A little bit of London in Omaha
Growing the customer base
Stocking up on British faves
Not just any chocolate ...
Foods Brits love
A British breakfast essential
One of Laura Greet's specialties
Filling the void for all things British