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St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc. is a 102-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer with nearly 10,000 employees and 77 grocery stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.

Coborn’s to acquire Sullivan’s Foods in Illinois

This is the company’s first entry into the state of Illinois

St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc., has announced it has signed a purchase agreement to acquire the Sullivan’s Foods grocery stores (and several other retail business units), in northern and central Illinois, the company’s first expansion into that state. The stores are operated by the Sullivan family and operate under the Sullivan’s Foods banner.

“The Sullivan family has run their family of stores with great care and is a respected retailer,” said Chris Coborn, chairman and CEO of Coborn’s, Inc. “We look forward to extending the same operating philosophies in these locations that have made us successful for 102 years.

“This is our first entry into the state of Illinois, so we have some things to learn, some added distance to figure out and to onboard their team into our organization,” Chris Coborn added. Approximately 800 people work in the organization, which includes 11 grocery stores, a convenience store/fuel center, three Ace Hardware stores, a central office and a limited-assortment warehouse. All employees will be hired by Coborn’s, Inc. The stores will continue to operate under the Sullivan’s Foods name.

Sullivan’s Foods is a family owned and operated grocery retail business that was started in 1967 by John and June Sullivan. While serving in the Army, John took a part-time job as a meat cutter. After his military service, John and June returned for a short time to John's hometown, Stockton, Ill., where he became a full-time meat cutter. Then they moved to Platteville, Wis., where John worked for another grocery store.

During his seven years in Platteville, he learned more about the meat-cutting trade and other valuable tools for success. In September 1967, John and June moved to Savanna, Ill., and purchased their own grocery store. For a short time, he had a business partner, eventually buying his partner out and building a new store. With the success of this location, they expanded their business in 1973 with an additional store located in John's hometown of Stockton. To keep up with the ever-growing market, John and June ventured out and purchased two more locations in 1978, and then in 1980, purchased another two locations. 

Sullivan’s Foods is supplied by Associated WholesaleGrocers (AWG) as their lead wholesaler. They will continue this relationship with AWG.

“This sale makes perfect sense for our family and for our employees,” said Susie Dauphin, secretary and property manager of Sullivan’s Foods. “Coborn’s has long been a respected company and our family felt perfectly aligned with their values, operational standards, support of the communities they operate in, and most importantly the company culture and commitment to their employees,” she added. 

The transaction is currently expected to close in early May, subject to customary closing conditions. With this acquisition, Coborn’s, Inc.’s, portfolio of grocery stores will expand to 77 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan and Illinois. The company operates approximately 135 business units, including grocery stores, retail liquor stores, fuel centers, pharmacies, and franchised restaurant businesses.


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