John Ende takes over as CEO at Great Lakes Dental Technologies

From Buffalo Business First -

Aug 22, 2022, 6:00am EDT

It wasn’t just his resume that led John Ende to become CEO of Great Lakes Dental Technologies in Tonawanda.

While he has experience running a company and building startups, his commitment to Western New York was just as important in the transition.

“I’ve always had aspirations to be a CEO, but they weren’t as important as living and retiring in Buffalo, New York,” Ende said. “When I looked at this role here I thought, ‘My goodness, my whole career has prepared me for this.’”

Ende took over as CEO on July 1, when Jim Kunkemoeller retired after 36 years with the company. Kunkemoeller will remain on the board for the company, which designs, develops and manufactures orthodontic, dental and sleep and airway products.

“I’m only the fourth CEO since the company’s founding in 1965,” Ende said. “That’s pretty impressive stability.”

Ende is from Meadville, Pennsylvania, but moved to Buffalo in 1996 when he was in the military with the Corps of Engineers. He went on to work for Johnson & Johnson selling medical products in the Buffalo and Rochester area.

“My whole career since then has been in medical technologies,” Ende said.

After he got his MBA from Canisius College, he worked for Mentholatum Co. Inc. in Orchard Park for 11 years.

For the last decade, Ende has worked for companies all over the globe from his Kenmore home. He was the fourth employee in the toothpaste startup company called Hello based in New York City. He was the head of North America sales there for two years, before he was recruited to be president of a company called Nelsons just outside Boston.

Nelsons, which is headquartered in London, is known for its Rescue Remedy, a calming treatment or liquid mixture that can be added to tea or water. Ende was president of Nelsons’ North American business for six years.

Just before the pandemic hit, he changed jobs again to participate in another startup, Rhinomed, headquartered in Australia. Rhinomed makes internal nasal dilators to help reduce snoring.

“It was challenging to build a new business during the pandemic, but we already had the infrastructure to be a remote business,” Ende said.

When a friend told him about the CEO position at Great Lakes Dental, just 10 minutes from his home, he realized how his series of career experiences fit perfectly into the needs and applications of Great Lakes. He was also impressed by the employee-owned company, which employs 220 locally.

“This company is so special,” Ende said. “People have worked here so long. It’s a family atmosphere with such a respectful culture, and I think being employee-owned has a lot to do with that.”
He doesn’t want that to change.

“We’re really excited about the strength of the company,” he said. “What I’m seeing is an unbelievably resilient work team.”

During a January interview about his pending retirement, Kunkemoeller said 2021 was a record revenue year for Great Lakes Dental, with a shift in marketing techniques and an investment in 3D technologies. Ende said 2022 is on track to be another record year.

“I’m focusing on five years from now,” he said. “How much telehealth will there be? Will there be more people at home sending images of their teeth to their dentist or orthodontist? How do we help the medical professionals prepare for that future?”

He’s also preparing for a recession, and how slower consumer spending will impact their customers and business.

“I’m trying to anticipate shifts in consumer and medical professional behaviors related to shifts in how people get health care,” he said.

John Ende, of Kenmore, is the new CEO of Great Lakes Dental Technologies in Tonawanda.

Katie Anderson
Buffalo Business First