The Nilssen Grocery Legacy
It began in 1903 when C.J.E. (Carl) Nilssen began the grocery empire in Clear Lake with his then partner Ernie Kruse, as a general store. Thus, was the beginning of a Nilssen family grocery legacy, lasting well over 100 years.
In 1907 Carl Nilssen and his brother Tom constructed their building on Main Street in Clear Lake, a grocery store and hardware store, serving their customers in the community. Carl’s legacy later passed on to his son Neil and then to Larry Sr. A growing and prosperous grocery and meat business followed. This business was particularly proud of their “Blue Ribbon” meat business after Larry Sr. began competing on the state, national and international levels with his homemade sausages, processed meats & hams during the 1960s. Larry Sr. continued the business after his brother Neil retired in 1976. At this time, Bradley (Larry Sr.’s eldest son) joined his father. Later, in 1978, Larry Jr. also joined the firm.
On Christmas Eve, 1983, tragedy struck as the Nilssen’s Cash Store burned to the ground. That evening, three fire departments fought a tremendous fire and the business on Main Street was a complete loss.
Not long after in 1984, the Nilssen’s were full speed ahead in building a new store which still stands in its present location on Hwy. 63 in Clear Lake. With the new store in operation, the youngest Nilssen brother, Carl, joined the firm. Now C.J.E. Nilssen’s legacy was carried on by his son and three grandsons – Brad, Larry Jr. & Carl. Larry Sr. and his three sons began a new and much expanded food service business in Clear Lake. In retrospect, the Christmas Eve fire was truly a blessing in disguise. The Nilssen meat department continued to flourish and became quite renowned for its quality and cleanliness. The firm now incorporated as Nilssen’s Inc.
In January 1990 Larry Sr. retired. In March 1999, Bradley left the firm. Soon after, in May 1999, a new addition and some remodeling were finished. It was at this time, that Nilssen’s Inc. became Nilssen’s Market.
Nilssen’s Market proudly stands today with the reputation of one of the premier food service businesses in the area. The “Blue Ribbon” meats continue to be a sign of the Nilssen’s high quality standards.
The story does not end here, however. In 1992, Jason Nilssen (Brad’s son) graduated from Clear Lake High School with aspirations of becoming a grocery owner-operator himself. He completed his college education and, after some 14 years working for various grocery firms, purchased his own store in Baldwin, WI. Jason quickly grew the Baldwin business, using the skills and high standards that had been instilled in him from a young age. As of March 2016, Jason now owns Nilssen’s Foods grocery stores in the communities of Baldwin, Ellsworth, Glenwood City, as well as a combined ownership with Larry and Carl, in Cumberland. All stores are nicely situated in Western Wisconsin as the only independent grocery in each of their respective communities.
A full selection of Nilssen’s Blue Ribbon Meats can be found at any of the 5 locations. The Clear Lake location serves as a widely-known wild game processing plant, as well as the production facility for the award-winning meats. C.J.E.’s legacy continues on and the success of this business can be highly attributed to the fine customers and communities being served.