Television - Local Programs - Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal

Season Two Citizens 

Nicholas DeBenedictis

Nicholas DeBenedictis joined WVIA President Bill Kelly for the season premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 on WVIA-TV.

Nicholas_DeBenedictsNicholas DeBenedictis was elected Chairman of Aqua America, Inc. in May 1993. Prior to joining Aqua America, DeBenedictis was senior vice president of corporate and public affairs for PECO Energy, a $4 billion nuclear utility and was president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. DeBenedictis served in two cabinet positions in Pennsylvania government: Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources (1983-1986) and Director of the Office of Economic Development (1981-1983).

Prior to joining the cabinet in the Thornburg Administration, he spent eight years (1973-1981) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DeBenedictis received a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Drexel University in 1968, and a Master’s degree in environmental engineering and science from his alma mater in 1969. He serves on the Board of directors for many regional businesses and economic and environmental organizations. These include Drexel University, Exelon Corporation, PNC Bank, Glatfelter, Independence Blue Cross, and Met-Pro Corporation. DeBenedictis has received numerous awards for public service and civic leadership as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from Widener University and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from Drexel University.

Bill Gruver and Bob & Shirley Fortinsky & Jill Fortinsky Schwartz

Premiered Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 on WVIA-TV

Citizen Gruver is a retired Goldman Sachs Wall Street executive who re-located to Eagles Mere (Sullivan County). He continues to consult for financial firms in the US, the UK, Italy and Switzerland and these days is a Distinguished Clinical Professor of Management at Bucknell University.


Citizens Bob and Shirley Fortinsky and their daughter Jill Fortinsky Schwartz are the owners of Fortune Fabrics, Inc./Wyoming Weavers in Luzerne County. Theirs is a wonderful story of humble beginnings, hard work, generosity and family succession.

Tom Twardzik and Peter Bohlin

Premiered Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizen Bohlin is an internationally recognized architect who was hired by Bill Gates of Microsoft to design his Seattle mansion overlooking Lake Washington and Steve Jobs to design an amazing new Apple store on Fifth Avenue. Gates and Jobs may not agree on much, but they both hired Peter Bohlin of Lackawanna County.

Citizen Twardzik's grandmother, Mary "Mrs. T" Twardzik had a homemade pierogies recipe her son and grandsons turned into a business. Everyone knows the colorful blue & yellow box in the frozen foods aisle, “Mrs. T’s Pierogies.” Mrs. T made them by the dozen in her Shenandoah home; now 200 employees make more than eleven million a week.

Eric Lee and Ruth K. Smith

Premiered Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 on WVIA-TV

Citizen Lee, owner of Peking Chef Restaurants of Wilkes Barre and Dallas in Luzerne County was born in Malaysia and educated in the United States. What he has to say can change the way all of us think about America. Get ready to be inspired.


Citizen Smith was raised poor and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, but remained disciplined enough to years later create a nationally recognized real estate business. She saved her money, made a lot of sacrifices along the way and needed to be relentless. Today she’s an investor, a mentor and regional leader.

Dick & Ron Knoebel

Premiered Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizens Dick and Ron Knoebel's family started in lumber but are known for their family amusement park, Knoebel's Amusement Resort, which is unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. Here there are no fences to keep you out, or an admission price to pay; there are plenty of benches to rest on and fun everywhere you look. For the Knoebel family, preserving the land in Elysburg PA. they’ve loved for generations, is the most important gift they can give YOU.

Bill & Gus Genetti and Pete & Carol Sides

Premiered Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009 on WVIA-TV

Between them, Citizen Gus Genetti and Bill Genetti own hotels in Wilkes Barre, Scranton, Williamsport and Hazleton. Gus unexpectedly opens up about family and his painful struggles on the road to his Father’s approval, and Bill agrees.

Citizens Pete and Carol Sides own Robert M. Sides Music Company, with stores in Williamsport, State College and Wilkes Barre. Pete and his staff became artists at restoring magnificent grand pianos. Their kids are running the stores now and the transition has not always been easy for Pete, a lifelong entrepreneur and former race car driver. Wife Carol is one of Lycoming County’s most active women, in politics, music, education and business.

Len Cornish and Chuck Parente

Premiered Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 on WVIA-TV

Citizen Len Cornish is a remarkable Wilkes Barre African-American business owner and civic activist. He is a quiet man who gets emotional about five generations of his family who’ve lived here, and three generations who started businesses. This is one conversation you’ll remember for a long time.


Citizen Chuck Parente is one of Northeast Pennsylvania’s quiet but highly influential investors. He owns or is a partner in TV stations, construction companies, coal mining and real estate. His success and generosity have benefited many of us, but in almost all cases, you’d never know it. Chuck Parente is mentoring the next generation.

Andrew Cornell and Joe Nardone

Premiered Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 on WVIA-TV


Citizen Andrew Cornell's family-owned company made gun turrets for the Civil War; five generations later Cornell Iron Works today employs 600 people in three states. You’ll be captivated as you see how Andrew Cornell sees life differently than most entrepreneurs.


Citizen Joe Nardone knows more than how to play a mean saxophone. He befriended rock stars like Billy Joel, Chicago, Jethro Tull, Barry Manilow, Daniel O’Donnell, Neil Diamond and the Four Seasons, opened a chain of stores called Gallery of Sound, and now, there’s a Joe Junior leading the band.

Noble "Bud" Quandel and John R. Lenahan, Jr., Esq.

Premiered Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizen Noble “Bud” Quandel earned his success the hard way. What began as a horse-and-buggy limekiln operation in Minersville in 1882 is today one of the tri-state’s largest construction companies, the Quandel Group.

Today Citizen John R. Lenahan, Jr., Esq. is the President of Lenahan and Dempsey of Scranton. A generation ago his father set the scene and now if your last name is Lenahan and you live in Scranton, there is a good chance you’re a lawyer. And your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews are lawyers, too.

Ed Carr and Roger Haddon

Premiered Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizen Ed Carr was a small-time, struggling entrepreneur at his fledgling Scranton Label when the US Hostage Crisis with Iran occurred and he printed those bumper stickers that said “Free The Hostages.” He thought his patriotic offer to make them for free would require a couple thousand. Eighty million later he was almost bankrupt, but he kept his promise and was invited to the White House. That’s only the beginning of Ed Carr’s story of generosity and success.

Citizen Roger Haddon of WKOK Sunbury Broadcasting in Pennsylvania’s Central Susquehanna Valley is a third-generation operator of community radio. There aren't many left like him.

Larry Sarno and Ed Deets

Premiered Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizen Larry Sarno is not alone when he says it was not easy working side by side with his father. Two “independent men” is how Larry describes it. But things are easier now; Sarno and Son is in the imaginative hands of his son and daughter. The very competitive business of renting and selling formal wear is thriving.

Citizen Ed Deets could not wait to start building businesses and eventually a fortune. Shortly after graduating high school, he became the 3rd generation of the family to get involved with transportation by founding his own trucking business in 1947. His is one of those remarkable stories of loving hard work, having a dream and having it all.

Larry Cohen and Quentin, Ruth & Greg Heller

Premiered Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizen Larry Cohen’s father Benjamin sold dental supplies from a 100 pound bag he lugged by train from Philadelphia to clients throughout the Northeast. From those modest beginnings grew Benco Dental, now located in Wilkes Barre and servicing customers in 30 states.

Heller’s Orchards in Luzerne County, owned by Citizens Quentin, Ruth and Greg Heller, is a charming country destination for thousands of regional residents. It’s a year-round business that doesn’t always have a great relationship with Mother Nature, and a big responsibility, but it’s still “all in the family.”

Mario & Tom Nardone and Cliff Melberger

Premiered Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Citizens Mario and Tom Nardone own a 100,000 square foot manufacturing plant that makes pizza all day long. They ship it across the country where kids in schools from California to here have it for lunch. Mario’s the dad, Tom’s one of the sons, and although the business changes and grows, tradition continues.

Citizen Cliff Melberger created a company in Scranton named Diversified Information Technologies in the early 1980s. Twenty-seven years later there are 18 American locations and three across the world. His idea was as simple as the security of paper, of ideas, deals, business records, and more.

Kris Jones

Premiered Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 at 7pm on WVIA-TV

Until 1999, Citizen Kris Jones considered the word “Pepperjam” a reference to his Grandmother’s recipe for one of his favorite dishes. Not long after, and still in his twenties, he created an internet marketing firm that today is one of Inc. Magazine's Fastest Growing Privately-Held Companies in the United States. Not bad for a guy who once had sixty-thousand dollars in credit card debt and no idea of what he wanted to be.

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