Legacy of Clever Ingenuity


     The Nielsen Brothers used their noggins. From the time they opened heritage devising inventive strategies to meet the challenges of friendly rivalry with the dozen other grocery stores up and down Ocean Avenue in Carmel and become the stand alone specialty food market and wine shop that they are today.


     Early on their decision to offer home delivery, that included hand-selected produce and and meats, brought them the acclaim they were looking for to outshine their local competition. The Carmel townspeople loved it. The Nielsen's genteel been-there-for-years staff knew each shopper's face and name, and assisted them with their purchases, helping them locate just the right item.


     Harold and Walter expanded selections in all departments when they thought people might choose to shop there if they did. The Nielsen's ensured that the customer received what they wanted, even if it meant getting it from another store to fill the order. As time went on, they became known, as the "You can count on them, they'll do it" Nielsen Brothers people.


     The brothers used their wits and acute business sense to keep a good trade going so that they were not only able to survive, but to succeed during the depression and war years.

     An inventive plan to acquire a delivery cart was executed by making a trek to southern California, then hauling back produce and dry goods they sold along the way. It yielded a much needed delivery cart for the brothers' store at the end of their journey.

     Exchanging food stamps instead of cash currency presented its own challenges. Harold and Walter devised ways to accommodate those who had only the stamps to trade for food, and, those who had some cash, too. Merv does a good job of telling these stories demonstrating their clever exchanges.

     Harold and Walter were the ones to see the need for specialized delivery service and directed that the produce

and meats be hand-selected to fill their home delivery customers' orders. To this day, there are customers who have not set foot in Nielsen's in over thirty years. They happily have all their purchases selected, charged and delivered.


     Along the way Walter's daughter Nancie had the good sense to marry the friendly college student who made Nielsen's' home deliveries and who loved the business as much as she did. After marrying the boss' daughter, Merv Sutton took the reins, applying his own sensibilities and eventually owning Nielsen's as he acquired each brother's half of the business.

     An ingenious exchange, with a little family help, started the young owner on his way. Merv's mother inherited a 440-acre ranch near Hollister. Walter always wanted to be a rancher. So the deal was struck: the ranch for half of the store. Thus, Walter became a rancher and Merv a half-store owner, later to fully own it when Harold retired.

As wine became a desired commodity, they opened up a downstairs room in the store just for their expanding collection of vintages. "The Wine Room" came alive in the lower level of the original market which opened in 1935, at Dolores and Eighth. Following in Harold and Walter's footsteps, Merv filled niches where voids had been.


He became more wine knowledgeable and invested in a real wine cellar with temperature controls and proper racks to lay bottles on their sides and keep them at their best. The expertise he developed in designing and organizing a wine cellar is still called upon today.



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  Merv saw that a market for winemaker dinners existed. He partnered with Carmel restaurants pairing wines to complement menus. They became so popular that the next dinner was sold out before the guests left the table at the previous one.

     When the Wine Room became so busy that the clerks were continuously running up and down the stairs to tend to their customers on both floors, Merv decided that a wine consultant was very important. "The Wine Shop" was developed and together with the store was relocated to San Carlos and Seventh where it has thrived since 1980.


Perhaps that longevity accounts for Nielsen Wine Shop's claim to have the first liquor license issued in Carmel since Prohibition was repealed. Since those early days, Nielsen's has had a professional to assist solely in the selection of wines. Nielsen's is now known as the home of fine domestic, imported and rare wines.

     Tending the Wine Shop for a dozen years now, Patrick Schrady is a true wine consultant with the depth of knowledge and resources: to lay hands on wines to pair with a special menu; to locate a wine or champagne the visitor had the last time they were in town or enjoyed at a friend's gathering; to order those extraordinary vintages from far and wide and to ship them to the far reaches as well.

Patrick is the hero of this anecdote that demonstrates the Nielsen Brothers rule-of-thumb tradition to provide that extra bit of assistance when needed. On one special occasion, a novice wine drinker, invited to a blind Merlot Tasting Competition was sent to Nielsen's Wine Shop to find just the right bottle to enter. Patrick Schrady was there to save the day. Not only was he able to recommend the right bottle for the right price, but also, the novice won first prize!

As the Nielsen legacy of innovation would have it, Christian, the third generation of the Nielsen Brothers is applying himself to develop a new product line. Merv and Nancie's son is first, the produce manager, who can be seen putting his personal touch to the fresh produce displays inside, and, under the awning out front.


Christian's tribute to his great uncles' adaptive marketing skills shows in his development of customized feast-for-the-eyes party trays, buffet arrangements, and fruit and gift baskets.

With the longevity, style and character wrought from Harold and Walter's legacy of devising ingenious business solutions, Nielsen Brothers Market and Wine Shop is a stand-alone Carmel institution, a.k.a. the Non-Supermarket. The brothers would be truly proud of Merv and Nancie Sutton, as they continue using their noggins to enhance the specialized care aspects of the store that Nancie's father and uncle created over seventy years ago.



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