Nielsen Automotive: A Diamond in the Rough…

March 24, 2009

Or, Don't Judge a Book by the Cover…

Pick your cliche. But sometimes the best things in life come in the most peculiar packages.   That's the best way I can think to describe Nielsen Automotive, a mainstay of downtown San Carlos for many decades.  It's located at the corner of El Camino Real and Arroyo Avenue in San Carlos, and while this station certainly won't win any beauty contests, it's what's inside this place that really matters.

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It's a Throwback….

I have been buying my gas at Nielsen's for many years.  Their gas prices are competitive with the big brands on El Camino, but more importantly I believe in supporting family-owned businesses in San Carlos, and the Nielsen's area a great family that goes the extra mile to support the local schools.  (Ever hear of  Shell doing something like that?)

It took me a while to figure out why I like this funky little gas station so much.   And then if finally dawned on me…


Yep.  If my memory serves me correctly, Nielsen's is the only full-service gas station left in San Carlos.  Sure, they have the normal self-serve pumps, but having a full-service gas station in the city is a huge benefit to the population of older drivers who still live here.   The guys who work the pumps are really nice, and I often see them over at the self-serve pumps helping people out…without hesitation.  That's just how this place is.

The Garage…

Perhaps the best kept secret about Nielsen's is their garage.  It's easy to miss this part of it because it's tucked way in the back.

But make no mistake…Dave and his mechanics know their way around cars.    I found that out unintentionally a few months ago when our venerable '93 Ford Explorer (a.k.a the Hockey Bus) stranded me in San Jose.   I didn't realize until I read their reviews on Yelp that they even did auto repair here.    Their ratings on Yelp were so far off the charts (in a good way) that I had to check them out.  And I'm glad I did — fantastic service at a very reasonable price, just as advertised.  Apparently, that part of it is not a secret because they were so busy that I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the Bus in.  But it was definitely worth the wait.

So if need a good shop to repair and maintain your car, and you want to support a family owned business in San Carlos, you've found your “gem” in Nielsen's.

The “Downtown Business Spotlight” is an occasional series on the White Oaks Blog where we'll profile those businesses that give downtown San Carlos its unique character.

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  1. Pat B ` on December 10, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Nielsen also cheerfully serves people with disabilities, something that is exceedingly rare in San Carlos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been treated rudely or refused service by gas stations in San Carlos. I pay no attention to where the gas is cheapest; I’m a loyal Nielsen customer.

  2. Chuck Gillooley on December 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I think Nielsen is the only full-service station left in San Carlos? I don’t know of another station where they still pump gas.

  3. Pat B ` on December 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    One of my neighbors pointed out how cheap the gas is at Costco, where I often shop for other things. I don’t buy gas there because I believe in supporting locally owned businesses and there aren’t many in SC that have what I need (clothes, housewares, etc.). I’ve also bought tires, windshielf wiper blades, etc. from them instead of out of town.

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