The legacy began in 1903 when C.J.E. (Carl) Nilssen began a general store in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. The general store became Nilssen’s Cash Store, a grocery and hardware store, when Carl and his brother Tom constructed a building on Main Street in order to better serve their community. The Nilssen legacy continued down to the next generation when Carl’s sons, Neil and Larry Sr., took over the family business.
During the 1960’s the business grew to include Nilssen’s “Blue Ribbon” meats as Larry Sr. started to compete on the state, national, and international level winning many awards for his homemade sausages, processed meats, and hams. Larry’s sons Brad and Larry Jr. joined the store soon after Neil retired in 1976. Then on Christmas Eve 1983, tragedy struck as Nilssen’s Cash Store caught on fire. Three fire departments were sent out to battle the tremendous fire on Clear Lake’s Main Street but the fire was just too great and Nilssen’s Cash store burned to the ground. The complete loss of the building and inventory was not to stop the Nilssen family. A new building and business, known as Nilssen’s Inc., was constructed that still stands at its current location near Hwy 63 in Clear Lake. The new building allowed for more space to process, smoke, and package the Nilssen’s “Blue Ribbon” meats. It also meant increased product availability for the community of Clear Lake. With this new store in operation, Larry Sr.’s youngest son Carl joined the business helping to continue C.J.E Nilssen’s legacy.
The 1990’s brought some changes to Nilssen’s Inc. including a name change to Nilssen’s Market, a new addition and some remodeling, Brad Nilssen leaving the organization, and the retirement of Larry Sr. Although officially “retired” Larry Sr. continued to be present and help out wherever needed until his passing at age 88 in 2016. While many things were changing, Larry Jr. and Carl continued to provide high quality service and quality that the surrounding community had come to expect in those nearly 100 years. Larry Jr.’s son Jordan entered the business and plays an important part in the continued success of the smokehouse meats. In Clear Lake, Larry Jr. and Jordan continue to invent new flavor combinations, go to competitions, and win awards for the “Blue Ribbon” meats. Nearly 100 varieties of “Blue Ribbon” meats and cheeses are now sold to the public.
But the story does end there, in fact the legacy continues. Another great grandson of C.J.E. Nilssen, dreamed of owning his own grocery store. Jason (Brad’s son) worked at Nilssen’s while attending school in Clear Lake, Jason went on to college and still stayed employed in the grocery business. After 14 years working for various grocery chains, Jason decided it was time to be an owner himself. He and his wife Teresa purchased Nelson’s SuperValu in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Wanting to grow the business, they then purchased stores in Ellsworth, Glenwood City, and most recently expanded into Minnesota with the purchase of Hub Food Center in Zumbrota, Minnesota. Jason is also co-owner of the Cumberland Nilssen’s Foods with his uncles Larry Jr. and Carl Nilssen. The importance of serving our communities by offering them quality products and commitment to customer service continues to be a focus at all 6 Nilssen’s locations.