The Legacy of Dan Coborn

The Legacy of Dan Coborn - www.cobornsblog.com
Painting by Howard R Hanson

It is with a heavy heart that Coborn’s, Inc. announces that Daniel G. (Dan) Coborn, former Chairman, President and CEO of Coborn’s, Inc. passed away March 15, 2017 at the age of 86. Dan led the company for the greater part of the 20th century, serving as its chief executive from the late 1950s until 1999.

1982 St. Cloud Times Article
1982 St. Cloud Times Article

Dan Coborn wasn’t destined to become a CEO. It was sheer tenacity, courage of conviction and a healthy dose of luck that got him there.

Dan was born to humble beginnings as the third of seven children to Duke and Florence (Graham) Coborn. Like most Depression era children, he was put to work at a young age to help make ends meet. He – alongside his three brothers, Bob, Bill and Ron – took on odd jobs as young boys. Many were what others considered the “worst jobs.” From checking eggs under a light for freshness to filling soft drink bottles to wrapping fish amidst the pungent odor, there were few jobs the Coborn brothers didn’t do.

“I started delivering groceries when I was 10 years old,” Dan said during a 2008 interview with Business Central. “All the able-bodied men were gone because of the war. I’d put a pillow on the seat so I could see out the window when driving the delivery truck.”

“You’re the boss’s son so you got to do it all,” Dan remembered his father saying.

Dan’s youth was colorful – full of mischief, antics and risk. In later years, he wasn’t proud of the trouble he had caused but he always took the good from the bad. His childhood experiences taught him lifelong lessons of patience, enduring optimism and the power of second chances. It was this remarkable influence that helped shape Coborn’s, Inc. into the company it is today.

Dan Coborn
Dan Coborn

Dan graduated from Sauk Rapids High School in 1948. He went on to attend Saint John’s University, where he played football. Temptations outside the classroom led to poor grades. One afternoon the Abbot called Dan to his office to bestow wisdom, “You know, Dan, the world needs truck drivers, too.” Dan got back on the straight and narrow and graduated in 1952 with a degree in economics.

Dan and Mabel's Wedding Day
Dan and Mabel’s Wedding Day

That same year, Dan married Mabel Hansen of Rockville, MN. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army where he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for two years. Upon discharge, he was accepted into law school at University of Minnesota but declined the opportunity and returned to Sauk Rapids to work for his father because he and Mabel learned they were expecting their first child. Dan quickly became his father’s right-hand man and assisted with a variety of management duties. In 1959, Dan and his brothers found themselves at the helm of the company after their father’s unexpected passing. Since Dan’s older brother Bob was enlisted in the service at the time, Dan was chosen by his brothers to be in charge.

“We were trying to eke out a living,” Dan said. “We needed to expand to support four families. One store was not going to do it.”

In 1963, the brothers purchased their second store. “The Foley school superintendent decided the grocery business was better than working for the school district,” Dan recalled. “It didn’t take long for him to decide the risk wasn’t worth it. He wanted out and we wanted in. We moved out of that building in Foley and shortly after that the roof caved in,” Dan said. “Just another example of how it’s better to be lucky than smart.”

Cash Wise Ground Breaking 1982
Left to right: Dennis Rice, Rice Building Systems
Don Wetter, Coborn’s, Inc. executive vice president
Dan Coborn, Coborn’s, Inc. president
John Rice, Rice Building Systems

Dan led the company over the years with bold vision and resolve. After opening the company’s first Cash Wise store in Willmar in 1979, Dan envisioned the next Cash Wise location in an open field on the outskirts of Waite Park. Grocers typically planned their stores around residential growth but this would break that convention. Dan was determined to build the store under the “build it and they will come” theory. The gamble would place the company as the wager. It took convincing for others in the company to see the potential but the reward wound up being worth the risk. Today, the Waite Park store has been remodeled several times and is the company’s flagship Cash Wise store among a chain of 17.

Dan would admit that not all decisions were the right ones. Perhaps the biggest flop was Fountain Fresh – a bulk soda attraction, where customers could choose from 30 flavors of soda – some of the more unusual choices being peach, banana, sarsaparilla and piña colada – or mix their own combinations “soda-fountain style.” Cash Wise in Waite Park was the first store in the five-state area to carry Fountain Fresh but the concept just never caught on.

Dan was the eternal optimist. Even during the toughest of times, he didn’t dwell on them. “We made some bad decisions, but nothing that took the company down,” Dan said. “In the history of the company, we never missed a payroll except for four people – my brothers and me. And that didn’t happen very often. I never lost faith in the fact that it was a good business. People have to eat. They have to get their food from someplace.”

Dan & Mabel Grocers on the Green
Dan & Mabel Coborn Grocers On The Green Fundraising Event 2010

Dan had the ability to say so much while saying so little. His basic principles for business, leadership and treating others well, endure throughout the company today:

  • “It’s better to be lucky than smart.”
  • “You can’t sell from an empty shelf.”
  • “Talk is cheap. It still takes money to buy whiskey.”
  • “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

Dan felt a tremendous sense of duty to his community. In 1967, he and his wife Mabel became charter members of United Way of Central Minnesota. He was also a founding member of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Minnesota board, which both he and Mabel served on at different times. In addition to that, he served on the Board of Trustees. Dan mobilized others to give back, as well. Coborn’s retired Chief Operating Officer, Bob Thueringer, who was with the company for 47 years, remembers Dan speaking to him as a high school student. “You may be a student; you may not make a whole lot; but you have a responsibility to this community,” he said.

Dan’s leadership in the grocery business and commitment to his customers and community earned him recognition over the years. In 1987, he was named Minnesota Grocer of the Year by Minnesota Grocers Association. He also received accolades from College of Saint Benedict, National Grocers Association, St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce, St. Cloud State University and United Way of Central Minnesota. In 2002, he received the Father Walter Reger Distinguished Alumnus Award from Saint John’s University – the highest honor they bestow – for outstanding service to the Saint John’s community by an alumnus. He was never in it for the recognition but he appreciated it.

Dan’s success in business created opportunities for him and the company to give back. His generosity touched many organizations and institutions but he had a special place in his heart for education. He provided gifts to Cathedral High School; College of St. Benedict; Saint John’s University; St. Cloud Technical and Community College; St. Cloud State University; and others.

St. Cloud State University Herb Brooks National Hockey Center
St. Cloud State University Herb Brooks National Hockey Center

He also tirelessly gave of his time. He served on countless boards and participated in many civic organizations, including CentraCare Health, Friends of the College of Saint Benedict, Sauk Rapids School Board, and others. He was a Sauk Rapids volunteer fireman for many years. While serving on both the MNSCU and St. Cloud Hospital Board of Directors, Dan learned about the shortage of nurses in Central Minnesota. He worked behind the scenes to connect the right people, lobby and advocate, and ultimately succeeded in helping to establish a nursing program at St. Cloud State University. Dan and his son, Chris, were instrumental in bringing Division I Hockey, Herb Brooks and the National Hockey Center to St. Cloud State University.

1999 The  Most Generous Company in America Award
1999 The Most Generous Company in America Award

Dan’s philanthropy was born out of wanting to give back to those who had been so good to Coborn’s. In 1999, he was honored to receive an award on behalf of the company when Coborn’s, Inc. was named one of the Ten Most Generous Companies in America. The award was sponsored by John F. Kennedy Jr.’s magazine, George, and was presented by Kennedy and actor and philanthropist Paul Neuman. “I thought it was a joke at first,” Dan said. He and Mabel flew to New York to receive the honor. “We all share responsibility for the health of our communities,” Dan said upon receiving the award.

In his later years, Dan found satisfaction spending winters with his wife Mabel in Florida and playing golf with friends. He loved watching his son Chris and his management team lead the company into new possibilities. Well into his 80s, Dan would drive from his home in Sartell to the former Coborn’s, Inc. office on the East side of St. Cloud, just to be there and read the paper. He moved a little slower in his later years but he never missed an opportunity to attend a Friday morning staff meeting. “It’s good to see you, Dan,” employees would tell him. “It’s good to be seen,” he’d reply.

“It is rare that a person has the opportunity to work so closely with their father for most of their life,” Chris said. “I was blessed to have had my dad be such an influential personal and professional mentor. He was absolutely extraordinary.”

Chris and Dan Coborn Employee Ownership Celebration 2012
Chris and Dan Coborn Employee Ownership Celebration 2012

In his interview with Business Central Magazine, Dan summed up success in these simple terms, “You work hard, you know what the goals should be, and if you want to put in enough blood, sweat and tears, you’ll succeed.”

Dan was adored and beloved by so many at Coborn’s, Inc. He will be deeply missed but we honor his memory with his favorite toast, “Friends may come and friends may go, friends may peter out you know. But we’ll be friends through thick or thin, peter out or peter in.”

Dan and Mabel Coborn 2009
Dan and Mabel Coborn 2009

Dan married Mabel Hansen of Rockville, MN in 1952. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Mabel, and his five children, Shelly Coborn, Chris (Becky Bergner) Coborn, Suzy (Marty) Ellis, Duke (Amy Armstrong), Tom Coborn; grandchildren, Danny (Tina) Coborn, Maria Coborn, Emily Coborn, Michael Coborn, Peter Coborn, Maggie Ellis, Jack Ellis, Charlie Ellis, Duke Jr. Coborn, Willy Coborn; 1 great-grandchild, Dahlia Coborn; and his sister, Nancy Fandel. He was preceded in death by his parents, Duke and Florence (Graham); brothers, Bob, Ron, Bill and Neil Coborn; his sister Betty and his grandson, Nicholas.

Graduation Parties Made Easy

Graduation Parties Made Easy

www.cobornsblog.com - Family, Friends & Food with Jayne
Jayne

It’s that time of year where we have to start planning Graduation parties and I’m here to help. Our Deli and Bakery Departments have a wide variety of items you can order that will make any party a huge success. Continue reading “Graduation Parties Made Easy”

12 Days of Christmas

www.cobornsblog.com - Fun with Family with Rebecca
Rebecca – Fun with Family

The Coborn’s 12 days of Christmas have officially begun! This promotion is new to us this year and has already been a huge hit!

We partnered with a dozen of our very favorite vendors to deliver some holiday joy to our customers: Purina, Pan-O-Gold, Crystal Farms, Kemps, Simek’s, Crunchmaster, Sugardale, Food Club, Farmland, Wrigley, Mars and Gold’n Plump.

Then we invited our customers to register to win a cart full of groceries at www.coborns.com.

On each of the 12 Days of Christmas, our Coborn’s elves meet up with the vendor of the day and show up at a store, find someone with a nice, full cart, and surprise them with the gift of free groceries. After having our fun in the store, we come back to Santa’s workshop, draw a random winner from the online registration, and then post the fun on social media.

The first day of our Christmas promotion was super fun! We surprised a customer in Big Lake by paying for her groceries, and in the true Christmas spirit, she paid it forward and bought the groceries of the next two people in line behind her. You can watch the festivities on our YouTube channel.

12 Days of Christmas

If you haven’t yet entered for your chance to win free groceries through the 12 Days of Christmas, there are 10 days left – sign up at www.Coborns.com

Rebecca
Communications Manager

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Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Leftovers

Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Leftover - www.cobornsblog.com

www.cobornsblog.com - Fun with Family with Rebecca
Rebecca

Each year, no matter which side of the family we celebrate Thanksgiving with, we are always faced with leftovers from a heavy holiday meal. While some folks love to stuff themselves with stuffing, taters and gravy, turkey, etc., others of us dread the heaviness of the meal. In goes the food, out goes the energy. Add to that the mushy factor (let’s face it, there’s rarely much crunch in a typical Thanksgiving meal), and my kids are starving for the fresher fare within just a few hours of washing the dishes.

Thanksgiving leftovers are inevitable, but it doesn’t mean you have to be confined to the couch for the long weekend. The following three recipes transform your leftover turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin puree into light and delicious favorites that you’re sure to love.

Turkey-and-Gruyère Radicchio Cups

Turkey-and-Gruyère Radicchio Cups - www.cobornsblog.com

Turkey-and-Gruyère Radicchio Cups
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Light and crunchy, this refreshing dish features leftover turkey, creamy cheese and fresh apples and jicama.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 oz. Gruyère or Jarlsberg cheese, cut julienne style
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cut julienne style
  • 1 peeled jicama, cut julienne style
  • 1 small celery stalk, cut julienne style
  • 6 ounces cooked cubed turkey
  • 8 radicchio leaves (from 1 small head)
  • Fresh chives, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Stir together mayo, vinegar and mustard in a medium bowl. Add cheese and next 4 ingredients (through turkey), and toss to combine.
  2. Spoon the mixture evenly into the radicchio leaves. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Brie and Cranberry Pizza

Brie and Cranberry Pizza - www.cobornsblog.com

Brie and Cranberry Pizza
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Decadent flavors of creamy Brie cheese and tart cranberry sauce top a light crust for a grown-up pizza with flair.
Ingredients
  • 1 whole wheat thin crust 12” premade pizza crust
  • 8 ounces cubed Brie cheese
  • ¾ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place pizza crust on a pan, then sprinkle with cubes of cheese.
  3. Spoon the cranberry sauce over the cheese and top with pecans.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and cut into wedges or squares.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

Harvest Pumpkin Soup - www.cobornsblog.com

Harvest Pumpkin Soup
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Any time you need freshly pureed pumpkin, there are always leftovers. This soup turns 2 cups of pumpkin puree into the ultimate comfort food that's brimming with Vitamin E.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4½ cups chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken broth and 1 cup of turkey gravy)
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add potato and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Stir in pumpkin. Using an immersion blender, purée mixture until smooth. (Or, use a blender to purée mixture in batches, then return to pot.) Stir in ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in cream and heat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, if desired and garnish with sour cream. Serve hot.

As you use up your Thanksgiving leftovers in these lighter recipes, you now have room for taste testing for the next season: cookies!

Rebecca
Communications Manager
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Warming Up with Healthy Soups

Healthy Soups

Happy fall, everyone!

Eat Healthy, Shop Smart with Ashley. www.cobornsblog.com
Ashley

The leaves have turned their final colors and are now dropping off the trees at a faster rate, the days are more crisp and cool and there is a very evident chill in the air. I hate to say it, but ol’ man winter is right around the corner and there is nothing you can do to prevent it unless you plan to move to Hawaii tomorrow. The only option left is to prepare and embrace it! You may wonder what I am doing to prepare myself. Well folks, besides turning on my fireplace and drinking hot tea every chance I get, I’m spending more time in my toasty, warm kitchen making soups! Hot and healthy soups are a great way to warm the soul and allow you to step out into the bitter cold with a bit more confidence that you won’t just turn into an icicle.

Tips_1Here are some tips to keep in mind while preparing soups:

    • Use low sodium broths, not necessarily lowER sodium (lower than what?). LowER sodium could still be very high; in order for something to be labeled as “low sodium,” it needs to have under 140mg of sodium per serving. Remember, when there is no salt, you need to replace it with other flavors, so…
    • Use sodium-free seasonings, such as Chef Paul and Mrs. Dash, as well as herbs – fresh, dry, or freeze dried – and garlic powder and onion powder should be a staples, too.
    • If you need to thicken your soup, use pureed potatoes or cauliflower or any other vegetable to thicken, and use fat free Greek yogurt in place of cream. I always try to think seasonally this time of year, so I would thicken my soup with pumpkin or squash, or both, and then add a dollop of fat free plain Greek yogurt on top for extra creaminess! You could also try a slurry of cornstarch and cold water instead of cream or roux, but obviously there is more nutrition if you use veggies.
    • Speaking of veggies, soups are a very easy way to get a lot of vegetables into your diet. Add, add, add away! Maybe adding vegetables sounds like a lot of work, but it surely doesn’t have to be! You can use canned or frozen vegetables instead of fresh; that way they have already been washed and cut. All you have to do is open the can or bag and just keep adding! Make sure they are not in cream sauce or loaded with extra sodium, though. Try to buy the no-salt-added versions or just remember to drain and rinse for 2-4 minutes to remove that excess sodium. Canned and Frozen are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. If you want to learn more information about this topic, click here to read my blog about how all forms of fruits and vegetables matter; canned, frozen, fresh, dried, and 100% juice.
    • Tips_2

    • If you are adding meat, make sure it is lean and always take off the skin; but who says you can’t make a seafood-based soup or why can’t it be vegetarian?
    • Try using tofu or beans and lentils as your protein base. Remember, canned beans are just as nutritious as dried beans and a huge time saver; just remember to drain and rinse them for 2-4 minutes to reduce the sodium by up to 41%. By the way, beans are so nourishing; they offer a good source of protein, iron, and fiber. Plus they are low-fat, not to mention very cheap compared to other protein foods. Cannellini beans work great for Italian-style soups while black or pinto beans are nice in Southwestern-types.
    • Don’t forget the whole grains! Get creative and use wheat berries, barley, quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice to name a few. You can either add them to the soup, or pour the soup on a bed of whole grains for something different. This will add fiber and keep you feeling fuller for longer. There is a laundry list of benefits of adding fiber to your diet, from weight loss to lowering your cholesterol and maintaining blood sugar levels, so don’t forget the fiber!
    • Think smart when it comes to toppings: Crackers may be the go-to soup topping, but there are other options that will add crunch or flavor to your soup, with some nutritional benefits to boot. If you are looking for a crunchy topping, try toasted whole wheat bread sliced into cubes or whole grain tortillas sliced into strips, misted with oil and placed under the broiler until crispy, or whole wheat bread crumbs are a great option, as well, and very easy! For creamy toppings, try nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or reduced-fat finely shredded cheese (the more finely it’s shredded, the less you’ll use). Avocados work great to add creaminess, as well, plus they are a fruit… BONUS! Also, fresh herbs such as basil or cilantro are always great to add as a final, flavorful touch to your favorite soup. Adding any veggies as toppings, not only add eye appeal, but also nutrition, of course!

     

    Below is my favorite soup recipe for this season!

    Squash and Fennel Soup with Candied Pumpkin Seeds

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    Squash and Fennel Soup with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
    Author: 
    Serves: 4
     
    Ingredients
    • Ingredients for the Soup:
    • 2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut
    • 2 medium bulbs fennel (I reduced this amount due to personal preference)
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds (I reduced this amount due to personal preference)
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2 cups sliced onions
    • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 dried red chiles de arbol, or a fat pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 bay leaf
    • ¾ cup sherry
    • 8 cups water
    • ¼ cup Fat Free Greek Yogurt

    • Ingredients for the Pumpkin Seeds:
    • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin, or whole seeds ground
    • 1 tablespoon land o lakes light butter
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • Generous pinch each of cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne (small amount)
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    Instructions
    1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Peel and cut the squash into 1-inch wedges, discarding the peel and seeds. Peel and core the fennel and chop it up into equally-sized wedges. Drizzle with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and then roast until soft and caramelized, about 35 minutes.
    2. In the meantime, toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, then grind or pulverize in a mortar and pestle. Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a heavy, large pot (like a Dutch oven) until it foams, then add the seeds, onion, thyme, chiles, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
    3. While the squash and fennel finish roasting, prepare the pumpkin seeds: melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, then add the seeds, sugar, spices, and a pinch of salt. Toss well to coat the seeds and cook until they begin to pop and color slightly, moving them around the pan often. Remove from the heat, wait 30 seconds, then add the honey and toss quickly to coat. Spread on a plate to cool.
    4. Combine the contents of the roasting pan with the onion in the heavy pot and pour in the sherry. Allow to reduce for a few minutes, then add the water and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer about a third of the solids to a blender (purée it in batches to ensure the perfect consistency) and add ½ cup or so of the liquid. Turn on at low speed until the solids are completely puréed, then add another ½ cup of broth and turn the speed to high, adding liquid little by little until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend for at least a full minute on high speed. Follow this process for the rest of the soup.
    5. Serve the soup with some Greek yogurt spooned in, and topped with scattered pumpkin seeds.

    Happy soup making! The weather outside may add a chill, but this is sure to take that away, Honestly speaking, would soup taste so good if it was warm out? Nope, that’s for sure, so be thankful for the cold weather… I guess, okay maybe not thankful – that’s a bit far – rather make the best of it.

    Peace and Wellness,

    Ashley
    Coborn’s Supermarket Dietitian

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