Brent Peterson: Believe It Or Not, Nelson’s Wasn’t Always King of the Ice Cream Cone

By Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society:

As long as I can remember, that ice cream store at Olive and Greeley in Stillwater was a great treat for kids. On our way back from going to the Lily Lake Beach we would stop and the family would enjoy some ice cream on the warm summer days.

Believe it or not, the store wasn’t always the king of the ice cream cone. In the early 1920s, John Lustig took over the store that was known as the Seven Corners Grocery Store. Lustig, who was born in Stillwater in 1873, also operated a small restaurant on Main Street call the Lustig Buffet.

During Lustig’s days there were many neighborhood grocery stores so competition was tough and any loss was a big deal. On November 13, 1931 [and it was aFriday!!] a young man with his face covered in a handkerchief, entered the store and shouted “stick’em up,” while waving a revolver. The person in the store at the time was Lustig’s daughter Frances. She opened the cash register and “dished up the cash” as the robber said to do. The man left in a hurry, grabbing only about $20 in cash. Frances phoned her father who called police, but by the time they arrived the bandit was long gone.

After Lustig’s death on December 16, 1947 Art Nelson operated the Seven Corner’s Grocery store.

The Nelson family had owned the store ever since the First World War, but Lustig purchased the stock and ran the store. After Art Nelson died in 1964, his nephew Wade Nelson bought the store. The store was just a sideline for the Nelson family, whose primary business was Brown’s Ice Cream in Minneapolis. “I bought it [the store] as an investment, we sold cones for 10 cents, two scoops more than a healthy cone. We could afford to give it to them because we were the supplier.”

On July 1, 1992, the Nelson family sold the store to Bob Pasket and Chuck Kummeth and ending more than 75 years of association with the small store at Seven Corners.

In 2005, Pasket put the ice cream store and “Stillwater Landmark” up for sale, making the residents uncertain about the future of the store. Two men, who met at their daughter’s swim meets, decided to purchase the store and they took over on April 1, 2006.

The new owners, Bill Bergstrom and Dave Najarian, said they don’t plan on making many changes to the store except to try to make it a bit more organized when it comes to ordering. There are several more picnic tables outside to enjoy the ice cream and neighbors that haven’t been seen since last fall.

A Stillwater tradition continues in the small store that was once a grocery run by John Lustig. Even though the Seven Corners store is gone, Nelson’s remains and still scoops up memories for young and old.

And just one small note for the history books, as I enjoyed Nelson’s with my mom & dad, my daughter Sarah and her friend Zoe, and I were the first in line when Nelson’s re-opened on April 22nd, 2006.

The tradition continues!

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