Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop
Though he grew up in California, Michael Nelson’s father grew up on a farm in Oklahoma where you got together with family every Sunday after church no matter what was happening with anything else in life.
“To say he took that sentiment with him with he relocated to California and built a life for us would be an understatement, and I am grateful for it every day,” says Nelson. “Hard work and giving back are the pillars in which I’ve built my life.”
Nelson began his hard work out of the house while a student at Downey High School, earning a job at the local market in the meat department, where he met his wife, Linda. Shortly after tying the knot in 1986, Nelson would begin another successful partnership, but this time with older brother, John.
“Carl’s Jr. was just starting to franchise locations at that time, and John had the opportunity to buy some stores. Together, we pulled together our savings and every penny we could dig up from the couch and opened four Carl’s Jr. locations in 1992,” says Nelson.
The leap of faith required the Nelsons to make a physical leap to northern California at that time as well. Northern California figures in prominently at this time as the Nelsons had their son, Brett, in the region in 1992 and the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Michele Fagundes opened their first Mr. Pickles location up there in 1995.
The Nelson family would relocate to Arizona in 2000, and in the years since, Nelson has held leadership roles with a series of big-name food businesses.
“No matter my role, I continued on with Carl’s, where I still have 42 locations across the country with my brother,” says Nelson. “It was during my travels for Carl’s that I discovered Mr. Pickle’s.”
During a routine business trip to northern California in 2021, Nelson happened across the mom-and-pop sandwich shop, soon learning its owners wished to retire.
Fast forward 18 months and Nelson is the owner and chief operating officer of Mr. Pickles. He still has all locations and operations in place in northern California but moved the headquarters to Scottsdale in 2022. He also formally launched the brand in Arizona earlier this year, opening two restaurants in Scottsdale, one in Chandler, and one in Surprise, with a handful of others planned over the next 18 months.
“The brand is unique in that it doesn’t turn to big-box vendors for its ingredients, instead partnering with artisan bakers, regional farms and ranches to source its products, making every item unique to us,” says Nelson. “You will not see six-inch and footlong sizing from us, but more specialty breads than uniform options.”
The new Scottsdale location features all of Mr. Pickle’s most popular hot and cold sandwiches, notably the Mr. Pickle, which is chicken breast, bacon, Monterey jack, avocado and the works as it relates to veggies; the Santa Maria Tri-Tip, which is actual tri-tip sourced from the famed Santa Maria region topped with specialty barbecue sauce and the works; and Big Jake, a turkey sandwich with cream cheese, avocado and the works. The brand now also has two new sandwiches of note.
“The first is Listen Linda, which is named after my wife of 36 years and is piled high with turkey breast, avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese and the works – including our specialty garlic sauce – as far as condiments unless otherwise noted,” says Nelson. “And the second? That would be Della’s Deli, which honors my business partner, best friend, and Mr. Pickle’s president Dean Johnson’s wife of more than 40 years, Della. It features turkey breast, ham, salami, cheddar, and the works.”
There are 10 types of bread and wraps from which to choose at Mr. Pickle’s, including the Dutch crunch roll, sourdough roll, sweet roll, wheat roll, sliced sourdough, sliced wheat, sliced marble rye, and various wraps, including gluten-free wraps. In addition to a wide selection of chips, sides include red potato salad, macaroni salad, jumbo whole dill pickles (of course!), and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
A cookie is also given FREE with every sandwich, salad or wrap.
“We only have one goal with this brand: for guests to “Enjoy Every Sandwich,” says Nelson.
For more information, visit http://www.mrpickles.com
By Alison Bailin