by Michael Shively and Ana Ruth Lugo Mejia

HASTINGS, Neb. — Nebraskans don’t need their international passport to visit this British bakery.

But they are encouraged to bring a different passport to What the Dickens? in Hastings.

The idea for this unique business grew from a time when Caroline Kemp brought Beth Funkey some desserts.

“I took one bite and I said, ‘Caroline, you should quit your job in education and open a British bakery,’” Funkey said. “And she said…”

“‘I will if you will be my business partner,’” Kemp said.

Many of the made-from-scratch recipes at What the Dickens? come from Kemp’s childhood in southwest England. As a native Nebraskan, Funkey loves helping her friend share a slice of her home with Hastings.

“The things that we make for people are all ways that she expresses love for the people she cares about that she can’t be around," Funkey said. "So why would I not want to do everything that I can to help her and to facilitate that and to participate in that?”

The bakery’s reach has expanded beyond Adams County thanks to becoming a stop in Visit Nebraska’s passport program. The owners counted about 150 new visitors in the program’s first 2.5 weeks.

“A couple came in today and they were from Scottsbluff. So it’s quite a trek for people to make to come and they really enjoyed it,” Kemp said.

“They’re very passionate about it,” Funkey said.

Michael: When people come to a passport stop, they put their booklet down and the business grabs a stamp. They put the stamp down next to the business name.

Ana: As people collect more stamps from businesses like Railroad Towne Antique Mall in Grand Island, they reach different types of prizes. The top prize comes when you visit all 70 stops.

What used to be a JCPenney store, is now 2.5 floors of 75 dealers selling their antiques. 

Tammy Gerdes and her husband have owned the store for about 21 years. She couldn’t be happier to be included in the passport program.

“It’s great it’s an honor to be chosen and it really has been a neat opportunity to have people that have never been in before, come in and see us and know that we’re here,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes says what makes this mall special is that vendors from across the state can sell a variety of items in one place.

“We have them from all over the state so all the way from Seward, to North Platte down to Sutton, Superior, we kind of have them from all over the state,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes has already seen the effect the passport program has. Since it started around 10 to 20 people have come every day.

“It really does open people’s eyes to all the different things that each little community has to offer,” Gerdes said.

You can pick up a passport at any passport stop or find an online version here.