In 1947, Angelo Bonafiglia came to Seneca Falls for a wedding. “I never returned home to Philadelphia,” he said. “I loved it here.”
Over the next 72 years, four generations of the Bonafiglia family have written a family business story worthy of the spotlight. BonaDent Dental Laboratories is one of the most highly regarded companies in the dental lab industry.
Today, BonaDent is led by Angelo’s son, Bruce Bonafiglia, the company’s president and CEO.
“If you live in the Finger Lakes region, and have a dental restoration in your mouth, chances are, BonaDent helped in making your smile,” said Bruce.
Bruce took over ownership of the company in 1987 when his dad retired. He has steered the company to over three decades of steady growth, including the opening of satellite labs in South Carolina, Florida, and soon, Tennessee. Today, BonaDent is among the top five largest privately-owned laboratories in the U.S.
A fourth-generation, family-owned company
Bruce spent time in the lab from the age of 5, when he earned 10 cents an hour to clean denture flasks for his dental technician father. At the age of 8, he was making teeth with his dad. “It was our quality time,” Bruce said.
As he grew up, he worked summers and holidays at the company, becoming an apprentice dental technician and learning the skills of the trade. Bruce officially joined his dad’s five-person dental lab in 1975, immediately after graduating from Mynderse Academy.
“As a young kid I loved spending time in the lab with dad,” said Bruce. “He taught me about hard work, commitment to a team, and the importance of delivering what you promise to customers. He always wanted me to go to college for dentistry, but I really wanted to work with my dad.”
In 1954, the business was growing steadily, and Angelo opened a larger lab in nearby Auburn. In 2000, Bruce moved the business back to his hometown of Seneca Falls. It was a decision reminiscent of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Angelo, 93, remains an important personal presence at the Seneca Falls facility, strolling the hallways and speaking with team members. “He enjoys sharing his words of wisdom and his eye for detail,” said Bruce.
Bruce’s daughters, Daniele Bonafiglia-Wirth and Erin Bonafiglia, joined the company after graduating college. Daniele is the company’s vice president and CFO. Erin is lead technical contact. Both are part of BonaDent’s leadership team. Daniele’s 14-year-old daughter, Gabriella Wirth, began working at BonaDent over the summer as a CAD designer. She is the fourth-generation family member in the business.
“I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to play a part in my family’s company,” said Daniele. “Both my grandfather and father have impressed upon me and my sister the importance of taking care of our employees. The culture they have cultivated within our organization is truly something special. Our team members care about their work, and work hard to please our dentists and their patients. I’m filled with tremendous pride to be a part of that.”
Centered on the employee and customer experience
Daniele, who has a degree in child psychology, opened BonaDent’s on-site child care facility, The Learning Tree. It is just one of the benefits of the employee-centric company.
“We built the first laboratory of its kind with an on-site educational facility, fitness center and day care center for our employees,” said Bruce. “It was designed specifically to attract and retain the greatest dental technicians and industry professionals from across the country, as well as from our own backyard.”
BonaDent has 200 employees in Seneca Falls and is one of Seneca County’s largest employers.
The Seneca Falls headquarters is also one of the nation’s most technologically-advanced labs, working directly with general dentists to custom design and manufacture a variety of dental restorations, from crowns, veneers and bridges, to dentures and dental implants.
“While there are many dental labs to choose from, few laboratories bear a resemblance to BonaDent,” said Bruce.
Bruce and Daniele credit their employees for the company’s solid reputation in the industry.
“Our family has assembled the best team in the dental lab industry,” said Bruce. “We think it’s a direct result of realizing very early on that our people make the difference, not technology.”
He continued, “Our business model was developed with a deep-rooted respect for technicians and a commitment to providing as many opportunities as possible to our valued employees. The BonaDent team is passionate about our craft, and our customers experience this passion through the products and services that we provide for their patients.”
Helping the community respond to COVID-19
From its earliest days, BonaDent has demonstrated tremendous community spirit. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. BonaDent pivoted its operations to make protective face shields for the region’s health care workers, using its 3D printers. Daniele said the company adapted quickly, going from design to manufacturing within two weeks.
“The COVID-19 crisis by far has been the biggest challenge to our business,” said Bruce. “When the pandemic first shut down dentistry back in March, we quickly pivoted our CAD/CAM department to manufacture PPE, specifically face shields. It filled our team with a great sense of pride and purpose to be able to provide frontline workers with PPE that was so desperately needed at the time.”
The Bonafiglia family also contributed $50,000 to Finger Lakes Health Foundation to support hospitals and frontline workers. In addition to PPE, BonaDent coordinated donations of masks and gloves from the company’s inventory and from dentist offices throughout the region.
The company also committed $25,000 to the Seneca County House of Concern to meet increased demand for food donations for area families. And most recently, the family donated $15,000 to the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum to fill its funding gap.
Investing in the growth of their company and community
Longtime supporters of their community, the Bonafiglia family has been instrumental in advancing Seneca Falls’ economic growth and quality of life. They have contributed significantly to downtown revitalization and community development projects, including most notably the transformation of the Seneca Knitting Mill into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
At BonaDent, the company will soon complete a 15,000-square-foot expansion of its sister lab, Danaren Dental Laboratory, and create 35 new jobs.
“Our Danaren division was established from our family’s foundational commitment to our employees,” said Daniele. “While other dental laboratories across the U.S. have chosen to outsource and invest in laboratories in other countries, we feel it’s important to identify ways to stay competitive while keeping our own community members employed, right here in the U.S.”
“The Finger Lakes is a great place to grow a business because of the inherent work ethic that comes with people from this area,” said Bruce. “Hard work is in the local DNA. It’s also a beautiful place to raise a family with great schools and a low cost of home ownership.”
It is a wonderful life in Seneca Falls, thanks in large part to the Bonafiglia family and BonaDent. This holiday season, when we could all use a little hope, LOCATE FINGER LAKES is grateful to BonaDent for giving us something to smile about.
– by Krista Gleason, Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal
Note from LOCATE Finger Lakes Chairman:
LOCATE Finger Lakes is proud to profile BonaDent and the Bonafiglia family. Now in its fourth generation of operation, the family has continually been involved in many aspects of life in Seneca Falls and across our region. Angelo, Bruce, Daniele, Erin and many other BonaDent team members have made significant contributions to the community and played an outstanding role in making Seneca Falls and the entire Finger Lakes region a better place to live, work and raise a family. – Michael F. Nozzolio, Chairman, LOCATE Finger Lakes
BonaDent Dental Laboratories
2495 BonaDent Drive
P.O. Box 499
Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Toll-free 800-732-6222 or 315-539-8875
This article posted in partnership with Locate Finger Lakes, a Finger Lakes economic development initiative designed to assist and foster collaboration among the established Finger Lakes economic development efforts with targeted, proactive, marketing communications and networking.