Some say that genius borders insanity. Verbally professing to me that he is “nuts,” John M. Bonforte, Sr. definitely doesn’t fall into the category of “what if I tried this?”
Looking for a home that he felt would appreciate in value over the years, Bonforte moved from Long Branch to Oceanport in 1965. He informed me that this section of town was known as Horseneck Point, because the horses would land there for what is now known as Monmouth Park in the 1800’s.
A member of the Oceanport Lions Club, Bonforte won the Lion Of The Year Award in 2006. Using his own equipment, Bonforte joined forces with other Lion members to create a clearing at Blackberry Bay to build a swimming pool for the town of Oceanport in 1973.
Bonforte has served two terms as President of the Long Branch Chamber Of Commerce.
In June of 2006, Bonforte was appointed Borough Commissioner for the Oceanport Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority.
On January 1st, 2010, John M. Bonforte, Sr. was presented with the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award and that day became known as John Bonforte, Sr. Day in Oceanport.
Having attended Monmouth University (then known as Monmouth College), New York University and the Exxon Technical Center, Bonforte eventually began working for Rubatex, the largest closed cell (sponge rubber and plastic foam) manufacturer in the world. In 1963, Bonforte developed Bondtex.
Leaving Rubatex in 1968 to operate his own Monmouth Rubber and Plastics, currently located at 75 Long Branch Ave. in Long Branch, Bonforte bought the building at this location in 1969. Having had to buy the rubber and cut it, he decided to make his own rubber in 1971. All of his children worked here at a young age.
“97 percent of what we manufacture is recycled,” stated Bonforte. This fact is due to the creation of Bondaflex in 1988. A visionary, Bonforte created a product that made business sense and showed his concern for the environment at the same time. An extensive explanation of this process can be found at www.rubberplastics.com.
Monmouth Rubber and Plastics also manufacture Durafoam (closed cell sponge rubber and plastic foam), Airaflex (open cell rubber and plastic foam) and Duraflex (solid rubber and plastic sheeting). Their product can be found behind automobile lights or even can be seen in the form of a wetsuit.
“We are the same company we were 50 years ago,” added Bonforte. “We can compete. Our company has always been small and lean. We are now in style. Meanwhile, Rubatex went out of business six months ago.”
With his success in the rubber and plastics business, it only made sense that Bonforte would open up a bagel shop in 1992. “I have to be nuts,” quipped Bonforte. His motto in business is to “dance with the girl that nobody wanted to dance with.” Before opening Fa Nagle The Bagel, located at 444 Ocean Blvd. in Long Branch, Bonforte convinced Jack Caputo to allow him to work in the bakery from 3 a.m. until 9 a.m. to learn the business. “We had overhead TVs,” added Bonforte. “In ’92, no one had these.”
“Being poor, I always admired those who had more than me,” stated Bonforte. “But, I was never jealous.”
“If you care about your business,” continued Bonforte, “you would want it to run whether you’re around or not. As a parent, I believe your main responsibility is to teach your children to get along on their own.”
His wife Barbara must have felt this way also, as John M. Bonforte, Jr. was trained to be the current President of Monmouth Rubber and Plastics. In the wings is John M. Bonforte, III (aka Jack), who just finished a paper shredding job for his grandpa when I arrived at the plant.
In addition, Bonforte’s son Scott now owns Fa Nagle The Bagel, with Bonforte’s daughter Kristin acting as manager.
Recently celebrating his 70th birthday, Bonforte preaches “faith, family and friends.” By example, Bonforte has taught his children the importance of giving back to their community, as well.
“Emotionally, the best thing that ever happened to me was my mother Carmela,” stated Bonforte. “She raised 5 kids. She loved everyone! The more I learned about the world, the more I realized how wise she was. You definitely can get more flies with honey than vinegar. I wish I would have spent more time with my mother in a loving way.”
“If I had to do it over, I would have started investing money in a retirement program earlier,” continued Bonforte. “I also wished I had been more sensitive to the feelings of others, which is a lesson I learned later in life. I’m still working on that!”
Just walking around the plant, you could see how each employee is treated as family. That includes those employees that aren’t his blood family. The closeness of his family and friends make John M. Bonforte, Sr. a very rich man.