In 1930 when Ben Cohen set out to establish a business in Pennsylvania, he traveled by train, delivering supplies his dental customers needed to improve the health of their patients. He realized that continued growth of his solo venture depended on enlisting the talents and dedication of others and he selected those trusted few with care.
Tony Minichowski, who started at Benco in 1941, was one of them.
Last week at a Remembrance Day ceremony at Benco’s home office, Larry Cohen, who built the company alongside his father Ben, paid tribute to Tony, and to four other longtime associates who have died.
“Tony began his career making deliveries, working his way up to Branch Manager and later Vice President and General Manager. He was my right- hand man and probably one of the main reasons we survived those tumultuous early years.”Larry Cohen, Benco Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate
As a young boy on summer breaks from school, Larry visited customers on the road by Ben’s side and learned firsthand the importance of relationships. Larry also worked at the first Benco office, alongside those associates, Tony among them. They delivered a unique customer experience. They established trust — and in many cases lifelong friendships. This was the birth of the Benco Difference.
“Tony loved his colleagues and truly enjoyed going to work every day, which was apparent as he did not retire until he was 80,” said Larry, recalling Tony’s 64 years with the company.
“I have often said Tony was the best thing my father, Ben, left me and that comment is true today. I am not sure Benco would be where we are today without Tony. He was the key ingredient in Benco’s history and growth; he will be remembered with affection and appreciation.”Larry Cohen, speaking about 64-year Benco associate Tony Minichowski
A 15-minute conversation led to 32 years of technical mastery
“I hired Jim Thiel within 15 minutes of meeting him and never regretted it,” said Larry, of the late master technician who dedicated 32 years to Benco Dental.
Larry shared the story of the day he interviewed Thiel for a position at Benco and the years that followed.
“A dental assistant for one of our Scranton customers kept telling us we should hire her husband, who was working as a muffler installer. That was Jim. At that time we were expanding into Philly and soon after his training he moved there to become our first technician in that market. He became so popular that we won customers because of his mechanical and technical skills.”
The late Steve Zang joined the Benco family in August, 1997 as a Friendly Benco Rep and shared 30 years of dental industry knowledge in the company’s Ohio Valley region. Steve honorably served in the U.S. Army and Reserves for 27 years, including tours in Vietnam and Desert Storm.
Eric Cooney, Regional Manager describes Steve as “very proud of his family, military service and being part of the Benco Dental sales force…. All of Ohio Valley misses Steve’s quirky sense of humor and warm heart.”
In 2005, Bill Macintosh joined the Benco family as an Equipment Support Technician in the Blue Ridge region. Chuck Puckett, Blue Ridge Equipment Support Manager in the region shared his team’s sentiments about his late colleague:
“Bill was a good friend, an excellent technician and a teammate who you could count on. Always willing to lend a hand, he was also there with a kind word to pick you up when you needed it. He will be missed.”
The late Andrew Fant was a member of the Benco family for more than 10 years.
“Andrew was a loving stepfather, a musically-gifted pianist and talented woodworker. He was a thoughtful man who always looked out for his team,” said Carolinas region Equipment Support Manager Mike Whitlock.