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

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