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.

Eichten’s Tomato Basil Gouda

Eichten's Tomato Basil Gouda - www.cobornsblog.com

Cheese Please with Kevin
Kevin

Eichten’s cheesemakers and mother Mary saw the future in the category of spiced cheeses. Eichten’s was the first farm in the United States to produce an all-natural cheese direct from the farm in 1976.

Italian Seasonings were commonplace in large families in the 1980’s, and Eichten’s knew that this seasoning would be a amazing hit for cooking and eating by itself. Just slice on crackers or fresh baked crusty breads this cheese is sure to please!

Eichtens developed a true European style Gouda with tantalizing sun dried tomatoes and sweet basil that brings out the essence of Italy.

Produced in Shafer, Minnesota, this is one of our states outstanding flavored Goudas. And don’t forget about the other fine Goudas that Eichten’s produces, they are all wonderful!

A great pairing with a sweet white or red wine, light amber beers and or Italian dishes.

Make sure to enjoy this fine Minnesota cheese!

Eichten’s Classic Quiche

Eichten's Classic Quiche Recipe - www.cobornsblog.com

Eichten’s Classic Quiche
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 9” Pie Crust
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1.5 Cups Half and Half
  • 8 Oz. Bacon Crispy Bacon, chopped
  • 10-12 Oz. Eichten’s Tomato Basil Gouda, shredded
  • 1 T. Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
Instructions
  1. Prepare crust and flute edges.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Beat eggs slightly.
  4. Stir in half and half, bacon, cheese, parsley and paprika.
  5. Pour into prepared pie crust.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until eggs are cooked.
  7. Serve Warm.

 

Kevin
Coborn’s, Inc Director of Deli

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Wild Rice… More than just Soup

Wild Rice... More than just Soup - www.cobornsblog.com

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

When I was asked to write a blog post about wild rice, I thought it would be wonderful to share the Wild Rice Soup recipe that we often use over Labor Day weekend when we close up the cabin for the season. As I was preparing my shopping list, my ever-wise husband asked, “No one has ever blogged about Wild Rice Soup at Coborn’s?” I rolled my eyes, then searched our blog and realized he’s right. It was time to branch out and try a few different ways to use wild rice. Here are two new recipes that are keepers, just like my hubby.

Wild Rice Celebration Salad Recipe - www.cobornsblog.com

Wild Rice Celebration Salad

Wild Rice Celebration Salad
 
Ingredients
  • Dressing
  • 8 oz. Container Lemon Yogurt
  • 1 T. Honey
  • ½ t. Vanilla
  • Salad
  • 2 Cups Wild Rice, cooked
  • 1 Cup Brown rice, cooked
  • 1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, diced
  • ½ Cup Seedless Green Grapes, cut in half
  • 1 Kiwi, peeled and diced
  • 1 Seedless Orange, cut into ½-inch chunks
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, honey and vanilla.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and toss.

 

Wild Rice Salad Poppers - www.cobornsblog.com

Wild Rice Salad Poppers

Wild Rice Salad Poppers
 
Ingredients
  • Dressing
  • ¼ Cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 T. Balsamic Vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Black Pepper
  • Salad
  • 2 Cups Wild Rice, cooked
  • 1 Cup Brown Rice, cooked
  • 2 Cups Chicken, cooked and chopped
  • ½ Cup Celery, chopped
  • ½ Red Bell Pepper, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Green Onions, diced
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix dressing ingredients.
  2. Add in rice, chicken, celery, bell pepper and onions and stir gently.
  3. Remove stems from tomatoes, then turn tomatoes upside down, to help them keep their balance.
  4. With the tomatoes upside down, cut thin slices from the end of the tomatoes that are facing up.
  5. Using a spoon, hollow out the inside, leaving a ¼-inch shell.
  6. Drain tomatoes upside down on a napkin for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Just before serving, spoon salad into tomato shells.

I brought these salads into the office to take pictures and caught the attention of many of my colleagues. We sampled and enjoyed these fresh and tasty wild rice salads. I don’t regret giving up on the soup idea in the least. It’s not cold enough outside for soups yet anyway.

Rebecca
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager

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www.cobornsblog.com - Fun with Family with Rebecca

12 Days of Local Christmas

www.cobornsblog.com - 12 Days of Local Christmas

www.cobornsblog.com Naturally Close to Home with Rhonda
Rhonda

Happy Holidays!  I would like to welcome you along on my twelve days of discovering all our great products that have a local connection. The Midwest is home to many great brands! Some with thousands of employees and some with just a few.

There’s been a lot of buzz on local the last few years.  You may find yourself wondering  what it’s all about and what difference it makes to you.  Supporting local products keeps our local economy strong.  When we buy these brands, we support so many people, from the ones who actually make the product to sales people and delivery people.  These folks in turn spend their earnings locally, allowing companies like Coborn’s to grow and prosper and support our local communities through charitable giving.

Speaking of giving, locally produced items make great holiday gifts for friends and family who have moved out of the area.  You can put together some great gift baskets and they’ll appreciate it far more than a Vikings jersey!  Here are some great ideas……

www.cobornsblog.com - 12 Days of Local ChristmasOn the first day of Christmas, I will start my day with a hot cup of Cameron’s Coffee with a little Truvia to sweeten it up.  After I have some toast with delicious Pan o’ Gold Bread I will freshen up with a bar of Purple Prairie Frankincense and Myrrh Soap.  Look!  This soap is made less than 20 miles from my house!  And it has me in the holiday spirit!

On the second day of Christmas, it’s Chicken Schwarma Pizza Night!  First, it’s a Bisquick Pizza Crust.  I will top that with Massad’s Schwarma Sauce,  some cooked Gold’n Plump Chicken, chopped Gedney Pickles (try it!) and a little cheese.  Gourmet Minnesota!

On the third day of Christmas, I am back to breakfast.  Today I can enjoy a bowl of Crapola Granola and Organic Valley Milk.  I like Crapola’s  slogan “Makes Even Weird People Regular.”  Looks like a great stocking stuffer for the relatives!

On the fourth day of Christmas, it’s BBQ night.  Time to grab that Ken Davis BBQ Sauce, some Jimmy’s Cole Slaw Dressing and Betty Crocker Specialty Potatoes.  With a few fresh additions, I am ready to go!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me……..five salty snacks!  It’s Christmas Movie Night!  Let’s have Drew’s Caramel Corn, Chex Snack Mix, Vic’s Cinnamon Kettle Style Popcorn , Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls and Angie’s Holidrizzle Popcorn.  We’d better have some friends over!

On the sixth day of Christmas, I’d better eat something healthy!  How about a nice salad with S&W Black Beans and Butter Kernel Corn?  Yum!

On the seventh day of Christmas, what better than Seven Sundays Museli to start my day?!  After a long day of Christmas decorating, I relax with a nice plate of pasta with Buon Giorno Pasta Sauce.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I think I will hit some local stores to do Christmas shopping.  While I am out, I will use my CleanSmart Hand Sanitizer to keep the germs at bay!   And for dinner, there is a crock pot of ribs awaiting me, smothered in Famous Dave’s BBQ Sauce.

On the ninth day of Christmas,  I will grab a bowl of Chex Cereal with just a little Crystal Sugar.  My son wants waffles, so I will pass the Hamel Maple Syrup.

On the tenth day of Christmas, it’s time for a quick lunch before more shopping!  Green Mill Pasta Sauce and spaghetti will help me fight the crowds.  I like it zesty so I will add some Watkin’s Pepper.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I think I will stay in my pajamas all day!  I will sleep late and have Malt O Meal Frosted Mini Spooners for a late breakfast.  I’d better grab the Kemps Milk, too

On the twelfth day of Christmas, it’s time for a party!  I will throw some meatballs into a pan of Old West BBQ Sauce and make a great holiday salad with Canoe Wild Rice.  Easy, and dazzling!

Thanks for hanging out with me for twelve days!  Remember to support local products and businesses this holiday season, and all year long!  Happy Holidays!

-Rhonda
Natural Foods Category Manager
Coborn’s, Inc.

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Naturally Close to Home with Rhonda - www.cobornsblog.com

 

The Wonder of Watkins

www.cobornsblog.com Naturally Close to Home with Rhonda
Rhonda

One of my favorite Minnesota brands is J.R. Watkins. They started out in Plainview, Minnesota, back in 1868 selling their pain relieving liniment. It is rare that a product is so effective and popular that it is still for sale 145 years later!

They built the business through door to door sales and independent distributors. I am sure many of you recall seeing Waktins Distributor signs in the yards of your neighbors. You can still spot a few today and I saw a nice couple selling them at a booth at the county fair recently.

www.cobornsblog.com The wonder of WatkinsOf course, some things need to change, at least a little, and in 2003 Watkins began selling in retail stores. Coborn’s was thrilled to be a part of this expansion. We consider Watkins to be a true partner in business. They support our community activities, providing many samples for our customers to try.  They continue to innovate, adding a Natural Home Care line of cleaning products, which are some of the best you will find. They smell wonderful, without being overwhelming, and are just the ticket for some cleaning inspiration. We could all use that, right?  And the Body Care line is amazing! The lemon scent is my favorite. It smells like a sweet treat but without the calories.

www.cobornsblog.com The wonder of WatkinsWhen you shop at your local Coborn’s, you can buy Watkins Spices & Extracts, as well as their Home Care and Body Care at stores with Natural Foods Departments. But there are still certain items that you can’t buy from us, as Watkins has kept certain items only available through their independent distributors. To me, that shows their commitment to the people that helped build their company from their humble beginnings in 1868.

If you find yourself in Winona, stop by their headquarters for a tour. They are open to the public, but feel free to tell them I sent you!

-Rhonda
Natural Foods Category Manager
Coborn’s, Inc.

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Naturally Close to Home with Rhonda - www.cobornsblog.com