Michael Nelson is obsessed with sandwiches.
In 2019, he was visiting Northern California when he stopped into Mr. Pickle’s, a cult mom-and-pop family brand with 50 shops in the area.
Fast-forward 20 sandwiches later, and he was officially a fan.
Then Nelson, a 30-year veteran of the local and national food scene, heard that the founders of Mr. Pickle’s were looking to retire—so he sprang into action.
He purchased the entire brand and moved the headquarters to Scottsdale in 2022, with plans to open locations across Arizona, California, and nationwide over the next several years. He opened his first Arizona location in Scottsdale in January 2023 and currently has six locations statewide, in addition to more than 50 in California.
This past summer, under his leadership, Mr. Pickle’s was named by Nation’s Restaurant News among the top 100 brands under 100 locations in America.
Tell us about your first Mr. Pickle’s sandwich …
I was on a business trip in northern California and stumbled on the brand by accident. A big sandwich guy since birth, I wondered what all the fuss was about up there, where the brand was huge. It took one bite of a Big Jake to understand. Yes, it was love at first bite.
How did you come to own the brand?
In 2021, I learned the husband-and-wife owners who founded the restaurant in the 1990s and built it to more than 50 locations in California planned to retire. I jumped at the chance to keep the brand going, not to mention the opportunity to expand it to Arizona and beyond.
Can you describe the menu?
Since 1995, Mr. Pickle’s has been a premier sandwich shop specializing in innovative and crave-worthy sandwiches, salads, and catering. We partner with as many artisan bakers, regional farms, and ranches as we can when sourcing our products, making every item unique to us. You will not see 6-inch and footlong sizing at Mr. Pickle’s, more specialty breads than uniform options.
What is YOUR favorite sandwich?
The one I created for my wife. It is called Listen Linda. And yes, I do my best to always listen to MY Linda!
Why did you choose Scottsdale for the company’s headquarters?
It has been my home since 2000. I still have a franchisee support center in California, but we want to build the brand in our own backyard.
What are your future plans for the brand?
We are using National Sandwich Day on Nov. 3 to re-launch our Pickle Point Loyalty Program, so click here and stay tuned there. We also have several deals in process to continue expanding nationwide and are actively looking for franchisees both in Arizona and beyond.
When you’re not eating sandwiches, your favorite foods are …
Steaks, burgers, and wings.
Favorite places in Scottsdale?
I am partial to anywhere with a good Mai Tai.
One thing we’d be surprised to learn about you …
My wife, Linda, was my high school sweetheart. I spotted her while working as a meat cutter at the local grocer in the neighborhood where we grew up and somehow convinced her to eventually go out with me. We even went to prom together.