Nielsens was founded November 11th, 1946 by Dorothy and Arthur Nielsen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They began the store with a dream, a prayer, and $200. It has been growing ever since. We offer the finest in quality merchandise and customer service. It will be an honor to have you join our family of treasured customers. At Nielsens will pride ourselves on not just selling a product, we pride ourselves on offering a high-end shopping experience that you will love. At Nielsens will believe the products we sell should offer you the opportunity to experience the FINER SIDE OF WOW.
The Nielsens moved to Tulsa from Wisconsin to enjoy a warmer climate. The store began in a little rental home in the Brookside area of Tulsa. In 1964 a new store was opened in Oklahoma’s first enclosed mall, Southroads Mall. In 1994, Nielsens opened in The Plaza Shopping Center at 81st & Lewis.
The store is still a family owned business being operated by the second generation Andrea Nielsen. The third generation made this web page! We hope you will contact us and enjoy our product selection and customer service.
If you are looking for Table Lamps, Floor Lamps, Jewelry, Dinnerware, Home Decor, Barware, Serveware, Vases, Gifts and More you will find it at Nielsens.
Nielsen’s Gifts Tulsa, Oklahoma
History of Nielsens Exclusive Gifts, established November 11, 1946
How Nielsens started as told by Dorothy V. Nielsen in her book:
Hot sun beat down, hot wind blew coarse particles of dust, tumble weed tumbled and we two Wisconsonites, unused to high temperatures, suffered the agonies of torture. Our old Nash car, dubbed, “Dreamboat,” because it was taking us to a promising future, chugged along the straight endless Oklahoma highway toward the Texas panhandle. We had enjoyed a day spent in Tulsa, but our research had proven Lubbock, Texas the most desirable place to start our business, which we had decided should be a gift shop offering the finest merchandise available.
Dreamboat was extremely moody, but also dependable. Every one hundred miles, right on the button, she stopped dead, but a bucket of cold water thrown on her motor appeased her and off she went purring like a kitten. We had bought the car for $300.00 and spent another $300.00 on having the motor redone plus we had to buy four new tires. This was a great accomplishment in 1946. Cars and tires had not been made during World War II, so were extremely scarce. One had to have the right connections not only to purchase them, but to find them as well. Both of our fathers helped in this regard.
On the way from Wisconsin to Tulsa we had become familiar with Dreamboat’s idiosyncrasies. Arthur found a former Air Corps buddy in Tulsa, who insisted we stay in Tulsa another day, so he and his wife could show us the beautiful city and encourage us to establish our business in Tulsa, but of course we had to first see what Lubbock had to offer.
Lubbock offered a good place for a business on every corner and it was evident that Lubbock would grow and prosper just as the Chamber of Commerce had promised. It was also infested with flies and during this time of polio epidemic the city was doing its best to eliminate the pests. It was scary to see motorcycles with large boxes attached side car fashion displaying huge signs, “Polio Prevention”. These vehicles were everywhere spraying chemicals to kill the flies.
The land was hot, dusty and flat, so unfamiliar to two people raised in beautiful Wisconsin with its hills, woods, and lakes. On the morning of the fourth day in Lubbock Arthur took one look at my forlorn face and said, “Come on. Pack up. We’re going back to Tulsa.
On the way back we stopped at Borden General Hospital, an army hospital in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where I had taught lip reading to deafened soldiers, while Arthur was in Africa with the Air Force. When my former boss there, Capt. Baughman, heard that we expected to live in Tulsa he said that he had a job lined up for me teaching the Day School for the Deaf.
Upon arriving in Tulsa I called the Board of Education and found that they were expecting me. Everything seemed to be falling into place. The biggest problem was living accommodations. Because of scarcity the law required that motels could rent a room for only three days in sequence. We found several small motels on East 11th St. and rotated from one to the other every three days all through the month of August.
In September when school started we rented a room in an old hotel above some store buildings on the northwest corner of 21st St. and Utica Ave. The limit of stays in hotels was seven days and each week when Arthur paid the bill he expected to be told to leave, but it never happened. We left the hotel each morning at seven o’clock and returned after dark. Apparently the people didn’t even know that we were there.
Each day Arthur took me to school after leaving breakfast in a tiny restaurant behind the hotel on 21st St. and then he combed the city looking for a place to start the business. We would peruse the newspaper ads and then ask our friend’s opinion about the locations. They discouraged us about many of them and kept encouraging us to consider some stores recently built on the corner of 36th Pl. and Peoria. We were attracted to the area, but the buildings were uninteresting.
It was discouraging that over a month of searching had gone by and we still had not found a suitable location for our store. I had written a friend about our tribulations and one day when Arthur picked me up at school, he handed me a letter from her. We drove out Peoria Ave. to the area we were interested in and Arthur parked the car. Leaving me to read my mail he walked down the street to a gas station on the corner of Peoria and 35th Pl.
I was reading my friend’s letter in which she said, “You needn’t worry about finding a place for your business, Simply ask God for it and have faith. It will be shown to you.”
Just as I had read that line Arthur opened the car door and said, “Come, I want to show you something.”
Nielsens Gifts first location in Brookside, 1946 (3515 South Peoria)
We walked down Peoria and in front of Brookside Drug Store he stopped and pointed across the street asking what I thought about opening a store there. All I saw was a yard covered with trees and shrubs. He then pointed out that over the trees could be seen the gables of a house. At the gas station he had met Orville Core, who told him the house across the street was available and zoned for business. We crossed the street and looked at the little brick house and decided then and there we had found the place for our gift shop.
After clearing away the trees and shrubs from the front of the house we painted it pink with shocking pink trim. I still think one of the prettiest pictures I ever saw was in the Spring when a blooming red bud tree and pink blossomed apple tree peaked out around the corner of that pink house.
The store was established in two rooms and the enclosed porch of the house and we created an attractive apartment in the rest of the house. The amount of merchandise in the store was meager, but carefully chosen and since ours was the only gift shop other than Miss Jacksons and the Treasure Chest (which carried mostly antiques), both downtown, people who saw the sign out front came in to see what we had to offer. One such customer became a good friend and suggested that much needed product unavailable during the war was lamp shades. Arthur had made a floor lamp in school wood working class, so he knew the rudiments of lamp making. An amusing sign went up in the window, “Lamps and Lamp shades. Bring in your old frames.”
Not only did people bring in frames to be covered, but valuable antique vases, pitchers, and what not to be made into lamps. It scared me to death when I held those antiques while Arthur drilled a hole in the bottom. When brass candlesticks were available we bought them and made lamps of them.
Three stores opened in that area about the same time. Next to us was “Rich’s”, which carried electric fans and across the street Trible’s Hardware store opened next to Brookside Drug Store. It was the drug store owner, Guy Scroggs, who had dubbed the area, “Brookside”. Brookside Grocery stood between the drug store and hardware store and beyond the hardware store was an old gray building housing a barber shop and shoe repair shop. Beyond that was a quonset hut, the floor of which was ground covered with pecan shells. It housed Mirken’s grocery store. The street was a ribbon of pavement just wide enough for one car and it was fun to watch boys and girls ride horses up to the drug store for a cold drink or ice cream.
In three years the area had grown with a large grocery store building erected across the street and the street and sidewalks widened. Arthur and Mr. Rich got together and founded the Brookside Business Association. This organization bought an empty lot between the hardware store and grocery store and store owners agreed to buy land behind all of the stores on both sides of the street. This was all paved for parking spaces. The foresight of these business men is greatly appreciated today.
At this time three stores were built in our front yard. One was connected to the little brick house and those on each side housed a shoe store and a camera shop. We enhanced our store with a purple awning and a canopy out to the curb. Beautiful white metal benches made by Wallace Smiley graced each side as well as huge red wood pots containing dwarf trees. A planter filled with boxwood lined the front show window of the store. It was a perfect setting for the chauffer driven limousine that drove up to the store.
Arthur, Dorothy & baby Andrea
3515 South Peoria
3515 South Peoria
How exciting it has been to start a business with nothing but God’s help and hard work and growing with Tulsa. When the first indoor mall was being planned, we could see the “handwriting on the wall” and signed a lease to open a store in Southroads Mall. After the mall opened we ran two stores for two years, but decided that for us two store was one store too many and closed the Brookside store.
The end of an era; the beginning of an era; we are thankful to Tulsa for adopting us and thankful to God for taking us out of Lubbock and leading us to Tulsa.
Above text is PREFACE from Dorothy V. Nielsen’s book:
“Diamonds from Sand & Clay”
china – crystal – etcetera
Arthur Nielsen at entrance to Southroads store.
Nielsens was the first store in Oklahoma to carry Waterford Crystal from Waterford, Ireland. Arthur saw just a few pieces on a bottom shelf at Dallas Market and asked the showroom owner what it was. The showroom owner said it was a high quality crystal from Ireland. Arthur told him that he thought they could sell at Nielsens and to send him some. The rest is history…
Nielsens was first store in Oklahoma to carry Lladro Porcelain from Valencia, Spain.
The series of four plates, inspired by the song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical “Oklahoma”, were designed by Arthur L. Nielsen. Mr. Nielsen adopted Oklahoma as his home state after WWII. He received permission for using the song from Mrs. Rodgers, wife of the composer.
The first plate, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” was designed in 1970, followed by “Oh What A Beautiful Day” in 1971, “I’ve Got A Beautiful Feeling” in 1972 and “Everything’s Going My Way” in 1973. The plates are Armetale, an easy care metal, hand cast and made exclusively for Nielsens by the Wilton Armetale Company.
Oklahoma Plates designed by Arthur Nielsen
These popular plates have been given as gifts to people all over the world. The Oklahoma plates make great gifts for dignitaries around the world, collectors, someone with a business connection to our wonderful state, and for anyone with a personal love of Oklahoma.
Andrea, Arthur & Dorothy Nielsen at new store in The Plaza Shopping Center at 81st & Lewis Ave.
Arthur presenting an Oklahoma Plate to Jim O’Leary, chief designer for Waterford Crystal.
Line drawing of new entrance after doubling the size of the Plaza store
Nielsens was one of the first stores in US to import Moorcroft Pottery, the World’s Finest Art Pottery made in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Andrea and Gary saw at Atlanta Gift Market and immediately knew Nielsens customers would appreciate these beautiful works of art being made the same way for the past 110 years.
November 11, 2006
60th Anniversary of Nielsens…
Faye, Annika & Andrea toasting Nielsens’ 60th Anniversary!
Match Pewter, Vietri, Mariposa, Webkinz & American Girl Books added to lines.