The chief operating officer of Coborn's, who came aboard nearly a half-century ago as a grocery bagger and who has stuck around to see the central Minnesota company's remarkable growth, is retiring.

Bob Thueringer's departure will take effect on June 30, the St. Cloud-based company announced Tuesday. He will continue to serve on its board of directors.

Thueringer joined Coborn's in 1967, bagging groceries in the Sauk Rapids store as a way to work his way through St. Cloud State University.

It turned out to be the last employer he would ever need, and by 2006 he was promoted to chief operating officer.

Over those years, Coborn's expanded from three grocery stores to 120 retail locations, including 48 grocery stores. Its employee ranks surged from 240 to its current 7,100 throughout the Midwest.

Its greatest visibility in the Twin Cities area are those Coborn's grocery delivery trucks, which started rolling when the company took over in 2008 for the pioneering but struggling Simon Delivers.

Coborn's said that Thueringer's key contributions included the areas of bringing groceries to consumers in various ways, optical scanning, labor relations, in-store pharmacies, and natural and organic offerings.

"I am grateful for the tremendous experience I have had at Coborn's," Thueringer said in a statement released by the company. "My career was filled with countless opportunities to learn, grow and spread my wings. I was empowered to be entrepreneurial and to take risks."

Company President and CEO Chris Coborn, in the same release, called Thueringer "an iconic leader … and one of the best in the business."

Coborn's has tapped its chief financial officer, Pam Osborn, as Thueringer's successor.

Coborn's has stores throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Along with the company namesake, some operate under the Coborn's, Cash Wise Foods and Save-A-Lot banners.

It also has its own central bakery, grocery distribution facility and dry cleaning operation.