Core values guide servant leadership for new Walnut Creek Foods President

File Under: Outcomes

For some business professionals, leadership is just a matter of decision-making. But for Julian Coblentz ’00, who was recently promoted to President and CEO of Walnut Creek Foods, service is the foundation upon which leadership is built.

Coblentz and his three siblings were first generation college students who all attended Malone and commuted from their home in Holmes County. He studied commercial music technology and minored in finance.

“My oldest brother Tim enrolled at Malone first, and through him we all became acquainted with the campus community. Malone was a natural fit for us, each for our own reasons,” Coblentz said.  

He not only studied music for the love of it, but because he wanted to expand his knowledge and skills.

“Some of my greatest Malone memories are centered on the music department,” he said. “I sang in the Chorale and had a life-changing opportunity to go on a European tour with my fellow singers during my senior year. I also studied composition with Dr. Jesse Ayers, who supported me in writing an acapella choral piece, ‘Those Who Wait Upon the Lord,’ based on text from Isaiah 40, that we sang at Commencement the year I graduated.”

While he thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a collegiate music student, Coblentz also knew deep down that he would likely take on a business role in his home community after graduation.

“I worked at a bank for a couple of years, then came to work for my Uncle Mark in his family business. He has been very good to me, and I’m honored to give my working hours to a locally owned business that serves our community well.”

As a young business professional, Coblentz applied the lessons he learned at Malone to his daily work.

“I didn’t choose to go to college just to earn a better living, but also to prepare myself for a better life. Malone broadened my world beyond my cultural bubble. It was there I learned time and priority management, working with excellence, and about the importance of going the extra mile to serve those around me. Malone taught me leadership principles with Christ as our example.”

Founded in 1977, Walnut Creek Foods continues to thrive in the grocery industry, serving more than 2,500 wholesale customers in 27 states and the local population with two retail stores in Berlin and Walnut Creek.  Since their early days a trio of core values – respect, stewardship, and growth— have guided their business decisions and desire to make life better for those who are less fortunate.

“Service to the greater community starts with our own people,” said Coblentz. “We want to know when our employees and their families are going through hardships (like terminal illness or surgical recoveries) so that our ‘Cares Team’ can serve as the practical hands of Jesus by setting up Meal Trains or addressing other needs. Additionally, all team members who’ve been with us at least five years can choose a non-profit to receive a percentage of company profits as a donation. We encourage them to choose local or regional organizations because you don’t need to look as far as developing nations to meet the needs of others. I think these are meaningful perks to being a member of the Walnut Creek Foods family that extend beyond a typical benefits package.”

Coblentz recognizes that a challenge for business leaders is to inspire their employees to embody company values so that customers experience them with every interaction.   

“In order to be the hands and feet of Christ to our customers and in our communities, our core values need to be lived and breathed by everyone in the company,” he said. “From executive leadership to the fingertips of the organization, it’s one of our biggest goals to ensure that our values are evident in every piece of the customer experience.”

In hindsight, Coblentz can see how Malone impressed upon him the importance of holistic growth and development.

“The four years I spent at Malone were the ones when I grew the most,” he said. “Not only did I learn new head knowledge, but I matured in many ways, learned the Bible, and developed friendships. This kind of growth is what we’d like to see from our younger employees; I hope that they’ll gain similar kinds of experiences as a result of working with us.”  

Now as president and CEO, demonstrating “Christ’s Kingdom First” is more important to Coblentz than ever.

“It doesn’t matter what position I hold in the company, I know that I’m called to serve because Christ came to serve. I may have a greater platform now, and I think that a leader’s wide reach is how God’s kingdom grows and expands. One of the things that made Jesus so effective in His leadership was the will of the Father: the Kingdom is first. There is a greater calling and higher purpose. My goal is to serve a greater purpose than myself.”