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
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
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.
We carry Private Label
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
for information and
to enjoy the convenience of ordering online!
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.
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
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
Christian's tribute to his great
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