Coborn’s, Inc. CEO Chris Coborn surprises employee with balloons during company update

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Julie Wittrock is the first voice that everyone hears when they call our Coborn’s Support Center in St. Cloud, MN. She is the first person all our Support Center guests interact with when visiting the building. Ultimately, her actions as the receptionist set the initial tone for anyone calling or visiting the Support Center.

Recently, one of our Store Directors took note of Julie’s remarkable “guest-focused” demeanor. Jon LeBlanc, Store Director at our Marketplace Foods store in Hayward, WI, left this message on Julie’s “Kudos” page (our companywide recognition software):

“You are a Rock Star! We have never officially met and have only seen each other in passing on occasion at the CSC. You are always smiling, bright eyed, calm, pleasant and perform your duties with the utmost professionalism. I have never detected in your voice when calling the CSC anything but a GREAT representative of our company. Keep up the Good Work!!! Someday come and speak at the Store Directors meeting and let us know the secret to being such a professional???!!”

Julie’s debut in front of a crowd came a little sooner than she probably expected. During Thursday’s Quarterly Update meeting at the Coborn’s Support Center, CEO Chris Coborn surprised Julie with balloons in honor of her recognition. The video picks up right after Chris finished reading her recognition out loud to the group:

There are so many remarkable people like Julie across our company who go above and beyond to make their guests happy each day! If guest focus is top of your mind, we’d love to hear from you!

#beremarkable #beajulie


Two Coborn’s employees reflect on working together for 39 years

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For nearly 4 decades, our Little Falls Coborn’s has been like a second home to Assistant Store Director Eileen Sandberg.

“We have two families, our main family and our Coborn’s family,” Eileen said.

She has been there since the beginning — when the store first opened its doors back in 1977.

“There were so many people they had to close the doors,” she recalled. “They called, the fire chief came in, and had to lock the doors.”

Fast forward to today and Eileen is looking to retirement. She’s seen and done it all. You could say she has worn many hats during her 39 years.

“We used to have to count the coupons and put them in groups, and that was my duty,” she said. And I used to take care of the Hallmark cards, we used to have to keep those full, that was my duty.”

Eileen cashiered, did bookkeeping and became a scanning coordinator at a time when the UPC was just being rolled out.

“There’s a lot more electronics in the cashiering business now,” she said. “When we started, all the cans were stamped because that’s how you did pricing. Then they would take it up front and you would manually ring it up.”

What makes Eileen’s story even more unique is the connection she shares with Store Director Greg Zylka.

“She’s been my right hand for 20 years, we’ve worked together for 39,” he said.

Both have been co-workers at the Little Falls store since 1977. Their partnership was years in the making.

“And it seemed like when you look back it’s like two little kids sitting in the sandbox, filling the pail and saying maybe someday we can be the store manager and assistant, and as time went on that was our dream,” he said. “And we stuck to it, and it happened.”

There are memories, pages of them. Plenty of people they’ve met and worked with along the way. And some important lessons that came from it.

“Through our friendship we realized treating people with kindness, dignity and respect is the way to get the most productivity out of them,” Greg added. “So this truly is like a large family to us.”

And so you can imagine, through all of that, saying goodbye is not easy to do.

“I didn’t even realize it was that long, it was like wow,” Eileen said.

“She’s the peanut butter to my jelly; I’ve probably seen Eileen more in the last 39 years than I’ve seen my wife or any family member, and it’s been the same for her,” Greg said. “And there’s been bumps in the road and there’s bound to be because we’re 2 different personalities. But at the end of every day and every week, we’ve been fully supportive of each other. And it’s all about team.”

And so as Eileen prepares for the next chapter, she’s taking with her nearly four decades of friendship, community and important life lessons, she learned while working at Coborn’s.

“I’m so blessed, we are blessed, we are blessed that we got the job and that we are working here, that we have a Coborn’s in Little Falls for all our guests to come in,” she said. “And that we’ve been doing this job and it’s like a family. Coborn’s gives so much back to the community. We are just so lucky.”

-Produced by Kevin Hurd, Communications & Engagement Specialist

About Us

Who are you Coborn’s, Inc.?

We’re glad you asked! If you have a few moments, grab a cup of coffee and pull up a seat – we’d love to give you a little introduction to who we are and what is important us! We know you’ve probably got plenty of questions – so we’re going to try and answer some of them right here for you, speed-date style:

Coborn’s, Inc. began in 1921 when Chester Coborn opened a single produce market in Sauk Rapids, MN.

What’s your story?

We got our start back in 1921. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years ago – yes, we’re getting excited to celebrate that birthday!

Our first store was Coborn’s Grocery in Sauk Rapids, MN. Since then, our company has grown to more than 120 retail locations across the Upper Midwest. We operate grocery stores, convenience stores, a Bake Shoppe, an online delivery service, a dry cleaning center, catering service, our Support Center office…the list goes on! The great news for you: we’re always looking for remarkable people to help drive our business!

What’s important to you?

Our vision is simple but we take it very seriously: Be Remarkable! Inspire happiness, healthy living and simplicity, one guest at a time. As you read on, you’ll start to notice that our guests are very important to us. Thus, we are looking for people who can help us make sure our guests always leave our stores with a smile on their face.

Our mission is to empower employee owners to create unique shopping experiences, anticipate needs and exceed expectations for our guests. We believe in giving our employees a lot of power to help make a guest’s experience meaningful and memorable. Are you up for the challenge?

Our core values are: guest focus, executional excellence, innovation, community giving, as well as dignity and respect.

How many employees work for you?

We have a team of nearly 8,000 employees spread out across our company. After spending some time with our organization and meeting certain requirements, some employees are eligible to become “employee owners.” We say “owners” because these employees do have real ownership in the business! We’re an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) company. More information about this will be covered with you if you become part of Coborn’s, Inc.

What are you looking for in new employees?

Employees across our company have a variety of talents, skills and interests. We love this! Ultimately, we’re looking for people who can utilize those traits to help make our guests’ shopping experience remarkable! At the same time, we like to have fun, celebrate our successes and work to make our communities better places.

Where are you located?

You’ll find our locations in small, medium and large cities across the Upper Midwest. We’re in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. There’s a good chance you’ll meet new people and make friends with co-workers who live nearby. Hey, some people even found their spouses while working at one of our locations!

Well that’s us in a nutshell! We hope you learned something and we hope you will consider joining our team!

Click here and apply today!