Last updated on June 29th, 2015 at 01:54 pm
Growing up in a family-owned independent grocery business gives a unique perspective and sense of pride for the work of the independent grocer.
Emily Coborn, who is now a district manager for Coborn’s Inc., grew up in the grocery industry, watching her dad and grandfather work in the business. Her dad, Chris Coborn is now president and CEO of Coborn’s Inc. Her grandfather and his brothers took over the only store back in 1960.
Today, Coborn’s Inc. employs more than 8,000 people. Coborn is proud of the fact that the same family values that were at the core when the company began in 1921 still are in place today.
Emily Coborn says she was never pressured to stay with the company, but quite the opposite, as her parents encouraged her to pursue her own passions. And that’s just what she did, as she worked at Supervalu for a period of time after she finished her undergraduate studies.
“I was fortunate to experience the industry from a different perspective. I learned a lot, and more than anything I was able to develop my personal and professional confidence,” says Coburn. “It was such a rich experience to have before returning to the family business.”
With growing up in the industry and now continuing her own career, she has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the independent grocers in the industry. And she has that same admiration for the employees at Coborn’s.
“As an employee-owned organization, our employees act and feel like owners,” Coborn says.
She says that dedication to not only their company, but also to the customers and communities they serve is exactly what makes Coborn’s so successful.
“It’s their deep-rooted commitment to our company’s success that makes me want to make even greater contributions to the company, ” says Coborn.
Coborn says the exponential growth of the company over the years has created new career opportunities for employees. And it’s exciting for her to feed off their excitement and passion for the business.
“It’s also exciting to partner with our team to shape our future shopping experience, whether our store design, merchandising techniques, promotions, natural/organic and on-the-go choices, or beyond, to meet the next generation’s evolving needs,” says Coborn.
While the rewards and benefits outweigh them, there are indeed challenges that independents like Coborn’s face on a day-to-day basis. The most noted issue is summed up in one word by Coborn: competition.
The number of players in the grocery retail channel continues to grow each year, and those unconventional players, who may only have limited assortment grocery, continue to chip away at the basket size for the independent.
“It’s forcing us to give ourselves a good look in the mirror, to make sure we’re on top of our game with store design, pricing and promotions,” Coborn says. “It keeps us on our toes.”
With unlimited competition, Coborn feels fortunate to be part of a company that continues to grow and prosper. She says there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything they would like, but it keeps her and her team motivated and hungry for the next day.
Coborn says she also feels fortunate for the long list of mentors that have taken her under their wing and helped guide her to where she is today.
“The list is long, but the short list includes my parents, of course,” says Coborn.
She says her dad has pushed and empowered her to take on roles and responsibilities far beyond what she would have dared to on her own.
“I’m very grateful to them and pay it forward by partnering up with aspiring employees at Coborn’s, who I can help along the way,” she says.
The Women Grocers of America is the sole organization representing women grocers and those affiliated with the independent food industry. WGA’s mission is to ensure long-term prosperity in the evolving grocery industry by recruiting and retaining the next generation of successful individuals with an emphasis on young women through scholarships, awards and professional development opportunities. For more information, visit nationalgrocers.org.