People News: June 2020
Geiger (PPAI 105182, D12)
—Vicky Kinasz, managing director of UK-based subsidiary GeigerBTC
Crystal D (PPAI 112326, S8)
—Matt Boyles, purchasing coordinator; Linda Chang, production team lead; Justin Heizer, customer service manager; Evan Lodin, production manager, and Devin Martin, national and key accounts manager
John Bennis, president of multi-line rep firm, Sequel, Inc., in Virginia Beach, Virginia, passed away on April 12. He was 71 years old.
Few promotional products multi-line reps have a background as broad in scope and as rich in diversity as Bennis. By the time he founded his own rep firm in 1981, Bennis’s career was in full-throttle. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he was hired to teach scuba diving at the Playboy Club in Jamaica but was wooed away by his father’s best friend to become a premium rep. Over the next few years, he was a national sales manager for apparel lines Swingster and Modern Jacket. Before launching his rep firm, he opened a hat manufacturing business and later, a clothing firm that manufactured NASCAR apparel. The latter began his long sales relationship with the racing industry, where he learned the ins and outs of NASCAR sponsorships and product licensing.
His interest in the track waned in 1992 when his son, Max, was born. He decided to call it quits with his NASCAR clients because he didn’t want to spend 20 weeks on the road and every weekend at the races. Bennis went back to his roots selling for Klouda-Lenz, the national sales division for what was then the clothing manufacturer Munsingwear. The company later became Premiumwear and eventually was acquired by River’s End Trading Company.
Bennis also lectured at the University of Georgia business school in the areas of sports marketing and events, and he held two patents acquired in the 1980s for a handheld credit card transcriber used by Mary Kay, Tupperware and Avon. He was honored as a PPB Best Multi-Line Rep in 2016.
“Our industry has lost an icon, someone who has mentored hundreds of people—distributors, suppliers and other multi line reps,” says friend and colleague Harvey Mackler, president of Gempire. “He was loved by so many in our industry. He leaves a void that cannot be filled.”
Bennis is predeceased by his beloved son Max and is survived by his wife Gina and daughter Dana. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Bryan Sask, founder of Surrey, British Columbia, distributor Key Innovations passed away on March 30 following a battle with cancer. He was 69.
Sask ran several businesses, including Key Innovations. Active in the promotional products industry and an advocate for it, he was a member of Promotional Products Professionals of Canada for more than 30 years. His son Bryson, who worked with his father for almost 20 years, now leads the distributorship.
Outside of the office, Sask was passionate about hockey and actively involved in softball. He coached players for nearly 50 years and as a Master Coach Developer, he trained softball coaches across Canada.
Sask is survived by his wife Judith, son Bryson and his wife Hayley, son Aaron and his wife Jennifer, daughter Jillian, granddaughter Ellie and step-granddaughter Audrina, and loving relatives.
A service for Sask, limited to immediate family only, was held on April 6 at St. Matthew’s RC Parish. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the BC Cancer Foundation listed under Bryan Sask Memorial.
Sidney Siegel, a pioneer in the promotional products industry and founder of distributor Industrial Contacts in Westbury, New York, passed away on March 29 from complications due to coronavirus. He passed just days before his 93rd birthday.
Siegel started Industrial Contacts more than 60 years ago in New York City, even though he lacked funding and experience at the time, and quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most creative minds in the promotional products industry.
“His ingenious and clever thinking was one of the reasons for his great success, but it was his charismatic personality combined with his sense of humor that truly made a lasting impression,” says his son, company president Steve Siegel, who has managed the day-to-day company operations for nearly 20 years. His sister, Mindy Siegel-Mevorah, senior vice president, is active in sales, and Steve’s son, Daniel, joined the company five years ago.
Siegel’s decades-long journey in the promo industry began in emblematic jewelry and segued into promotional products and custom manufacturing, accomplishing many firsts along the way. His company was one of the first to work with suppliers in Japan, before China became a player, where he produced custom-shaped radios depicting NFL football helmets, top-shelf liquor bottles, Brut cologne bottles and Pepsi vending machines.
The liquor industry soon became Siegel’s niche and some of his most prominent work included ceramic figurines, metal signs, Lucite bottle embedments and the ubiquitous metal restaurant table crumber. He was also responsible for creating and producing the trophy for the Clio Award, the highest honor for TV commercials. His design is still awarded today. Siegel was also one of the first to start the concept of company store catalogs and he produced them for mega brands including Pepsi and Met Life. His creativity, along with his out-of-the-box thinking, earned him prominent coverage in a 1974 issue of Counselor magazine.
Although Siegel officially retired around age 75, he never stopped working in the business or sharing his advice. “Up until his death my dad would go on his iPad and connect to my business email every evening. Then, he would call me to discuss the day’s activities. My dad would give his opinion but mostly listen proudly to what we were accomplishing,” Steve remembers fondly.
Today, the company continues to thrive on the foundation Siegel built with a focus on serving clients in the beverage industry.
Although Siegel cherished his business, his family came first. He and his late wife, Joyce, who worked for many years in customer service at Industrial Contacts, were married for 65 years. They enjoyed traveling and spending time with their four grandchildren. Siegel was also an avid tennis player and golfer for many years.
“Nothing brought him more joy than spending time with family and watching the successes and achievements of his kids and grandchildren,” says Steve. “He will be missed, not only by his family and friends, but by anyone who had the pleasure to meet him.”
James Khattak is news editor of PPB.