Omaha man decides pandemic perfect time to open UK store
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – When Glenn Greet moved here five years ago, he discovered something unsettling: it was difficult to find his favorite foods and other products from the British Isles.
He missed Heinz Baked Beans. Blood sausage. Pies. Bakewell tartlets. The Union Jack flag.
Omaha – and Nebraska – didn’t have a business that specialized in anything British. There had been one in Bellevue, but it was long gone.
In 2016, he said, the closest UK store was in a neighboring state.
“We had to go all the way to Lawrence, Kansas,” he said, three hours one way.
He decided that the Omahans needed a British bakery and gift shop. And he decided they needed it in the middle of a pandemic.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that the store, Chippy’s Omaha, opened the day before Easter. And apparently we decided he was right.
On opening day, there were around 400 people in line, some for 90 minutes, and the store had nearly 300 transactions.
Greet bought a large pallet of Cadbury chocolate for Easter and thought it would sell well because it was the day before the holidays.
It was gone in less than 30 minutes. And, he said, the crowd has been the good kind of crazy ever since. He had to triple his orders – 472 boxes arrived on Thursday alone.
“We are absolutely struck at the moment,” he said around 12:30 pm that day.
Greet has two best-selling baked goods that he can’t stockpile: Scottish eggs, hard-boiled, coated with sausage and rolled in crumbs; and the cheese and onion pie with the ingredients baked in puff pastry.
Melanie Crouch from Omaha ordered a Cornish Pasty, Bakewell Tarts (filled with almond cream and topped with cherries) and a hot chocolate on Thursday. She also bought a cute wallet.
Unlike some pies, the chippy version has an abundance of meat and potatoes, she said. And the shop, she added, is one of a kind.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Lots of people (shopping) had English accents. It felt like you were in an English store. “
Greet’s wife, Laura, bakes at Chippy’s when she’s not at Union Pacific.
“She’s the only American thing in the store,” he joked. “Everything else is imported or made from scratch.”
Greet himself is a recruiter for several clients. You have three children.
Chippy’s, Greet said, was born to COVID-19.
“We were grounded at home. When we got married, she always wanted a bakery and I always wanted a British shop, ”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 place. They settled on Westwood Plaza near 123rd Street and West Center Road and chose the name – Chippy’s is a British name for a fish and chip shop and Omaha is a tribute to Greet’s adopted city.
Born in North Yorkshire, England, he studied music education and conducting at the Colchester Institute School of Music. He was a police officer in Essex County near London for a while and moved to the United States 21 years ago, where he lived in Seattle and Atlanta.
When he came to Omaha, he formed the Nebraska Brass Band, which plays British music. He was also interested in other British activities such as a local “Harry Potter” club.
He said he viewed Chippy’s as a new British cultural center. The Greets hope to open a British restaurant next door in the not too distant future.
Greet said he heard several British accents on the opening day. He’s also just hired a UK born baker.
He attributes his amount to many posts on Facebook, some of which are promotional, others funny, and on Friday a serious one: a tribute to the late Prince Philip. The shop’s Facebook page has nearly 4,500 followers and friends.
Greet is clearly delighted with the business’s early success and is grateful to its Omahans. Nobody in the long opening line was even remotely grumpy, he said.
“I’ve never seen people as kind and friendly as in Nebraska,” he said. “We definitely have a niche. I watch people fly into the store. “