Working: Ted Benner, Jr.

By Patrisha McLean | Feb 08, 2011
Photo by: Patrisha McLean Ted Benner, Jr.

Camden — Asked if he’s related to an elderly veteran in the area with the same last name, Ted Benner, Jr., said, “No, but I used to sell him potato chips for their beano [bingo] games at the legion in 1972.”

By then, Ted had already been delivering things sweet and salty for three years.  “My father and I have a total of 80 years in the snack food business.”

Growing up in Rockland, Ted spent summers helping his dad deliver popcorn and bbq potato chips for Maine-based King Cole. When Ted returned after two tours of duty in Vietnam he thought he would be a state police officer. But his mother was driving one of his father’s two King Cole routes, and his parents, “kind of wanted me to take over.”

He took on the Midcoast route, and has driven in this area ever since. In 1982, King Cole shut down after the founder decamped to Humpty Dumpty.  “Frito Lay approached me, my answer was yes and the rest is history.”

Ted’s alarm clock is set for 2 a.m. “I make my coffee, get in my Frito Lay truck, go to the warehouse, put product in my truck and start my day.”  His Frito-Lay-issued clothing is a jacket, gloves to protect his hands from the blade of his box cutter, and skid-resistant shoes. Starting with Hannaford’s in Camden he pulls up to a dozen stores, including Rite-Aid, French and Brawn, Megunticook Market and the Bagel Café.  He wheels in a stack of eight or 10 large boxes and refills the Frito Lay section with “a complete line of snack foods,” including chips, dip, salsa, cookies and pretzels.

When Ted first worked for Frito-Lay his was the only truck in the Midcoast. Now there are seven. “More space in the stores is allocated to snack food,” he said. “Used to be summer was the only time you sold your products. Now you have Halloween, Christmas, New Years. Super Bowl is big.”

His route currently takes him to a number of early-morning gathering places, including Fraternity Village in Searsmont, Maritime Farms on Route 3 and Drake’s in Lincolnville. “I used to have a lot of supermarkets and I kind of missed the personal touch, people asking how the family is doing. I tell them I miss my grandchildren.”

He sees his five grandchildren about twice a year and acknowledged that on those trips to Florida and California, “If I’m in the store I do go visit the snack section, to see what products they have that we don’t have.”

 


Patrisha McLean is a nationally-exhibited photographer specializing in black and white portraits of children, and the author of "Maine Street," published by Down East Books in 2009. Her website is www.patrishamclean.com and she can be reached at patrishamclean@aol.com
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