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Nilsen

POULSBO — Bruce Nilsen got his first taste of the family business at the tender age of 11 on the ground floor, literally.

“All I did was sweep and clean up,” he said. “I didn’t start working until I was 11. I’ve had a good run.”

That run in Little Norway will come to an end June 29, when Nilsen’s Appliance Center celebrates the end of an era from 6-8 p.m. with a farewell party for its loyal customers and employees.

“I think we’ve outlasted our stay here by about 10 to 12 years,” Nilsen said.

However, just because the business is consolidating its warehouse and repair services in Lofall and its retail offerings at its Silverdale store, doesn’t mean its presence will be leaving the North End.

“One of the reasons they (his dad and uncle) moved the store to Poulsbo (from Kingston) was to serve the North Kitsap area,” Nilsen said. “We’re going to continue doing that.”

When Nilsen’s opened in 1949 as North Kitsap Appliance it was located in the building currently occupied by Madison’s.

“Back then, Front Street was the hub of downtown,” Nilsen said.

In those days refrigerators, freezers, ovens, washing machines and dryers were the staples of the appliance business, as microwave ovens didn’t make their first appearance until 1967, when Amana Refrigeration introduced the first countertop version.

“Freezers were big because people froze a lot of their own stuff and had their own gardens,” Nilsen said.

The pallet of appliance colors has shrunk over time, but the kitchens of the 1970s had almost every color of the rainbow.

“There was pink, yellow, harvest gold, avocado, deep brown. We got a few reds,” Nilsen said. “There was burnt orange. There were a lot of different color options.”

Now there are just a few standard colors including black, white, almond and stainless, he said. Another change through the years has been the advent of reversible doors, which has made it easier for customers looking for the right appliance to fit in their available space.

“They’ve done a lot of improvements with efficiency, and they’re more sophisticated to repair,” Nilsen said.

Not only have appliances themselves changed, but the nature of the business itself has evolved, he said.

“We used to do big sales like Circus Days and Back to the ‘50s Days,” Nilsen’s daughter, Michele Wasson said.

One time the store had an Easter sale and gave away dyed rabbits, Nilsen said.

“We even gave away a monkey. When the monkey died, we gave the guy a frozen turkey,” he said.

Nilsen’s was also the home of the 95 cent video and 49 cent Tuesdays for a time before returning its focus solely to appliances, Wasson said.

“It was fun. We had a great time with that,” she said.

Although Nilsen’s won’t have a physical appearance in Little Norway, its tradition and level of community involvement will continue.

“We’ve had a Little League team since it started, and that will continue,” Nilsen said.

So will the rest of the community endeavors Nilsen’s has supported throughout the years, he said.

As he prepares to close the doors on 58 years of business in downtown Little Norway, Nilsen said he has no plans for retirement just yet.

“I’m still going to be involved in the business,” he said. “I just won’t be overseeing the day-to-day operations as much.”

For all of the scrapbooks full of memories, the family has accumulated through the years, Nilsen said, “The thing I’ll remember the most is the people and the community and the closeness.”

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Community Events, April 2014

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